Thursday, June 9, 2011

Drawing Thrushes; Testing Sketchbooks

Now that most of the migrant birds have passed through and only breeding birds remain it's time to continue to improve my skill in drawings some of our natives, old friends like the thrushes and the flycatchers.

This time of year there is a tremendous amount of foliage on the trees and shrubs. If I go out walking early in the morning I'll hear all sorts of Wood Thrushes, Veeries, Acadian Flycatchers and Eastern Wood Pewees. But seeing them is another story.

If I do see them I know that most likely it will be for a very short time. So I sometimes get the bright idea that if I also do some drawings of these species from my photos I might have an easier time with quick field sketches. I really don't know if this works in practice at all.

I had another reason for trying some drawings from photos today though. I briefly mentioned my new Gamma series sketchbook from Stillman & Birn in my last post. Michael from that company left a comment. But I really haven't used the sketchbooks as much as I'd like. So today seemed like a good time to try some pencil drawings in the sketchbook.

I also wanted to test another product that I haven't used as much as I'd like: a Caran d'Ache fixpencil. This one is the smaller 2 mm. one.

I normally don't work this way, trying to copy what I see in front of me in the photo, filtered by experience of the actual bird. An example of this is a shadow on a bird in a photo. Tim Wootton gives a good example of this in his new book. The photo shows a line on the face of a bird. But experience tells you there is no such line. It's just a shadow. Sometimes it's easy to get seduced by the trancelike copying of the photo. You always need to keep your wits about you!

In any case two of the drawings are above: a Veery seen at Shenandoah National Park 4 years ago, and a Swainson's Thrush seen at Magee Marsh just a month ago. I hope that these drawings will help me with quick field sketches of thrushes next time I see them in the field. Only time will tell.

But what about the new sketchbook? Well I have to say I'm impressed, especially for this type of drawing. I did all sorts of erasing and yet you can hardly tell. It's a pleasant surface to work on. And it's nice to be able to erase and still have a clean, almost pristine surface. My previous sketches on it have been mainly quick sketches that were then covered with watercolor washes. This isn't really what the Gamma series of paper is designed for. But it did take a good number of washes without problem, just buckling some. My guess is that I need a different series for using washes like this. But for straight pencil, especially this type, where there might be a lot of erasing I was really impressed.

And I was also impressed with the way my new fixpencil worked. It's about out of lead though so my next adventure will be seeing if I can figure out how to change it. I already broke off the eraser accidentally when trying to access the lead when I first got it. Who ever thought a pencil could be so complicated? I do like the way it makes marks though and the hefty feel can't be beat.

I've rarely spent time doing product reviews on my blog. But when I do try new products it seems only fair to both companies and readers to at least say what my experience has been.


Stillman and Birn said...

Hi Ken,

Thank you very much for your positive words about our Gamma sketchbook. I'd like to post your review on our Facebook page, along with one of your sketches, if you have no objection. Please let me know if this is ok at:



Ken Januski said...

I've sent you an email regarding using the review and sketch Michael.

I'm now trying the paper for another local thrush, the Wood Thrush, and most likely a Hermit Thrush as well. I'll post those sketches as well. I have to say I am enjoying using the paper for pencil work.

Stillman and Birn said...

Hi Ken,

I didn't get your email but since you are indicating here that it is ok, I will upload your review to our Facebook page and also include one of the thrush sketches.

Thanks again for your positive comments.