Monday, October 21, 2013

How Can It Be So Hard?!

Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

I began the sketch above soon after completing the recent watercolor sketch of Golden-crowned Kinglets. It's based on more photos and I was quite dissatisfied with it when I was done. I realized that even though we had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet overwinter two different years in our backyard I didn't really have good photos. And I certainly didn't have good sketches.

So wouldn't you know that the very next day one arrived in our yard. Either he or different birds have been here each of the last three days. I've also seen them while out birding over the weekend and took numerous photos. The watercolor below is based  on one of them.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Watercolor by Ken Januski.


Today when I and Jerene chased him down our small side yard from crabapple, to dogwood, to aronia, ninebark and finally viburnum I decided not to go back in to get my binoculars or camera. I just wanted to see the bird with my naked eye as he picked insects off of all those plants. Perhaps one day I'll do a painting of him picking them off of some of the remaining Yellow Pear tomatoes.

When I came back in I was determined to do a definitive sketch of him, one that really captured both his shape and proportions as well as his markings. Would you believe I spent at least two hours just sketching the watercolor above before adding any color? The undeveloped state of the watercolor may reflect the fact that I'd worn myself out just trying to get the drawing right.

It's been awhile since I've posted something that's been such a struggle. But struggle is a true part of an artist's life. You can't be successful without it. I do actually like the drawing here. It's too bad the background leaves something to be desired.

One thing that has always puzzled me on kinglets is that when briefly seen their wing bars make no sense. Half of my field sketches have them going the wrong direction. Others have different problems. One thing I've learned over the last week or so is that their scapulars often cover the median coverts(i.e. the upper wingbar). You can see here how just a hint of the white of the upper wingbar peaks out. Additionally they have dark-based primary feathers.

Normally when you see a wingbar on a bird the tips might be light or white with the upper part being darker. That is true with kinglets as well. What's surprising and confusing though is that the base of the primaries, the area beneath the greater covert(or lower wingbar) is also dark. So at first glance, and that's often all you get with kinglets, the wingbar looks backward with the dark on the bottom rather than the top.

Many people I'm sure won't have the slightest interest in this. But for me it's exciting to have finally understood this.

Kinglets truly are the most endearing of birds. We're fortunate to have them in the yard right now, and just about everywhere else. I feel like I'm getting closer to doing them justice. But it has been a struggle.

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