|Wood Duck, Mink, Louisiana Waterthrush. Watercolor by Ken Januski|
I apologize for the bad pun in the title of this post. I hadn't planned on it but was thinking about how what is portrayed here happened in the blink of an eye, my eye: I noticed a sleek black animal scurry along the Wissahickon in and out of the rocks at its edge. At the same time it scared up a first of year Louisana Waterthrush which was only about 6-12 feet away. It flew up and sang its song, the first time I've heard it in 2013. A bit further down the stream two Wood Ducks perched high in a sycamore, I'm sure having found a hole to nest in there.
And of course when I thought about blink of an eye, I immediately thought of the mink. This is the third time I've seen this type of mammal slinking along the edge of the Wissahickon. My investigations made me think it was a mink but I just wasn't sure that they were in Philadelphia. A little online questioning convinced me that they were and that this is what I had seen.
I always like seeing Wood Ducks in trees, or flying through trees. Though this is where they nest I see them at least 90 percent of the time on water. So it's nice to be surprised by them up high.
Though I like the idea of combining things seen into a paintng it often seems to daunting. How in the world do I show the Wood Duck high in the tree, the Mink and the Waterthrush without it seeming horribly contrived?
Well that is where the arrival today of a box of Stillman and Birn sketchbooks to try out for a demonstration later this month comes in. In this case it was the 8.5 x 11 inch hardbound Alpha sketchbook that caught me eye. I knew that many people are in the habit of opening up a double spread and just working across the page division. I've wanted to try that myself. It also gave me an idea as to how to show the Wood Ducks and the other two subjects all at the same time. A tall vertical format seemed perfect for that.
As usual this is more of an exploration than anything else. I've used far more water on the paper than is probably reasonable. But it held up just fine and allowed me to experiment with this somewhat complex composition. I'm very happy with this and assume that one of these days it will find its way into either a more developed painting or a print.