Saturday, October 27, 2012

Season of Pumpkin and Amaranth

A surprising pleasure of birding around Cape May in the fall is the foliage, not just the tree leaves but that of shrubs, even weeds. Many of the fields at Higbee Beach have been sown with plants and shrubs that birds use as food. In particular the amaranths and polygonums stand out. And then you have the pumpkin fields at Rea Farm.

In various stages of ripeness they range from deep green to brightest orange. On one of our last days birding there we found numerous Savannah Sparrows hiding in the shadows along the pumpkin field. In the sunny field  itself, brilliant amaranth, pumpkins and the very handsome Red/Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly. I use 'Red/Carolina' designation because I'm not sure which of the two it was. In any  case it made for a striking and memorable sight.

The only field sketch I made of this scene was of the saddlebags when it finally alighted momentarily after what seemed hours of flight. The pumpkins, amaranth and sparrow were primarily based on photos I took. A few posts ago when I showed my field sketches from the trip I also included a preliminary sketch of this composition. It's repeated at the bottom of this post.

At the top is the newest version, 11x14 inches. It's nearly done. If I do much more I'll lose whatever brilliance is stiil left. I'm happy with it though I think it doesn't retain as much bare paper, and thus brilliance, as the smaller watercolor below.

In the 7x10 watercolor above I think I've captured more the sense of brilliant afternoon sunlight that was evident when we saw the saddlebags in the field. But the sparrow is not rendered as well as I'd like and there's more emptiness in the field than I'd like. The newest watercolor tried to improve upon those aspects without losing the brilliance.

My history with watercolor shows that I often overwork watercolors (of course who doesn't?) especially when I work larger. Only time will tell whether or not I come to that conclusion about this one. For the time being though I'm happy with it. It captures a beautiful fall day in Cape May, complete with actual  flora and fauna. I'll probably still do a few more tweaks but it's very nearly done. If I'm still happy with it in a week it will be in my show at Manayunk Roxborough Art Center.

The above pen and watercolor was the first in the series. I haven't used this style in awhile. But now that I have it reinfoces my thought that it's a good way to work in developing ideas and compositions, at least for me. In less than an hour I can try out what in effect are small paintings. They may look like a mess but for me they always prove quite valuable.

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