Thursday, April 7, 2011

First Warblers of 2011

Each year my belief in working from life is put to the test with Wood Warblers and Kinglets. I'm almost reduced to tears, at least to the state of rank beginner, when I try to sketch or paint them from life. And yet I do plod on. The main reason for this is that they're such beautiful birds. It's always a pleasure to see them, especially the warblers. But the temptation is always to just grab for the camera and forget about the futile attempt to sketch them. I confess I often do just this. But it always bothers me.

And when I see the work of artists who do work from life and manage to capture wood warblers I know why I pursue this. Their works seem worthy of the birds. They capture their beauty as well as their vitality and the actual experience of seeing them. I've done many drawings and watercolors of warblers based on photos I've taken. I like them. But they don't compare to how much I like the work of artists who work from life and capture warblers. I was reminded of this while rereading Darren Woodhead's 'Up River' the last few days. All of his work is in the field. And it shows. It just overflows with brightness and life. Since he's in the UK there are no wood warblers but there are similar birds there, as well as butterflies, another subject that looks best when done from life.

We had some high 70s weather here on Monday so I thought it might be worthwhile to go out and check for some migrants coming in with the warm weather. Sure enough: my first Pine and Palm Warblers of the year. As well as Golden-crowned Kinglets. They're all portrayed in the watercolor at top. This watercolor is based primarily on my field sketches, which are also at top. I also used my photos but only to check some detail that the field sketches missed. As you can see it leaves something to be desired. But I forced myself to work this way and will continue to do so. The work I admire most does not primarily rely on photos. There is an exuberance to it that I think happens precisely because it does not rely on photos.

Other birds seen the last few days have included Brown Creepers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Eastern Phoebes, Northern Flickers, etc. Still waiting to see an Osprey overhead, or maybe a Bald Eagle like last year, and of course one of my favorites, the Blue-Headed Vireo. Speaking of which it's hard to believe but soon the main song in the woods will be the Red-eyed Vireo. Spring and then summer are on their way.

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