Saturday, July 26, 2014

Crouching Green Heron in Many Media

Crouching Green Heron. Woodcut First Proof by Ken Januski.

I started this small 4x6 inch woodcut today. This is a very early proof. At this point I don't even know if I'll use more than one block each in a different color, turn it into a reduction woodcut in numerous colors, or just leave it as one black woodcut.

It's based on the field sketch below. Hard to believe perhaps? I was walking along the Manayunk Canal on one of the recent refreshingly cool early mornings. I was greeted by a rabbit. A bit later I saw a Green Heron crouched down looking for food. I was struck by the way he lifted his feet while in this crouching position. Of course he didn't hold the pose long and the sketch below gets the feet somewhat correct but drastically misplaces the head.  Still if I hadn't done it I probably wouldn't have pursued any artwork based on it. At the bottomis  a Great Blue Heron. In it I was trying to study his bill more than anything else.

Rabbit, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

I had my trusty Panasonic Lumix FZ28 camera with me. It has a video function that I didn't even notice until after I'd had the camera three or four years. I still rarely remember to use it and I'd hate to come to rely on it. But in this case I thought it might be good for capturing how the heron lifted his feet. Me and Eadweard_Muybridge together again! My guess is that I wouldn't be so fond of the videos I occasionally take if they were taken by anybody than myself, that is there is probably nothing special about them. But I do still get the biggest kick out of seeing birds, especially herons and shorebirds as they pursue food. I sometimes wonder if it's not like a child seeing his first cartoon.

The sketch below combines what I saw in the video with my original field sketch and with a couple of other photos I took. It was meant as a template for the woodcut at top. After I'd scanned it into the computer and reversed it so that I could copy it on to the wood block I realized that the bill was too short. So I modified the drawing on the woodblock to account for that.

Crouching Green Heron. Pencil Sketch by Ken Januski.

I also saw a Killdeer, well actually two, in the same area as the Green Heron. I was happy with this field sketch. It's probably the best field sketch I've ever done of a Killdeer. And I was also somewhat happy with the Gray Catbird below. On the same trip I noticed the curve of the lower bill and tried to capture that. Nice sketches I thought! But then as I sat in the backyard yesterday afternoon a Ruby-throated Hummingbird visited our Monarda. I used my new extreme close focus binoculars to watch him and try to sketch him. I particularly noticed the big eye with white area behind, and also the surprising thickness and darkness of the bill. I think I captured most of that. But then I tried to portray the humming wings. Oh well. That part is pretty unsuccessful.

As I was doing this a Northern Cardinal was just about to land in an Arbor Vitae 5 feet away from me. So there he was stretched out, his landing gear, i.e. feet, dropped and in position to land when he saw me. Gone! I tried to capture this and did a very bad job. It's at moments like this that I realize that I don't know enough about birds to capture them in surprising but momentary positions. Still if I didn't try I'd never pursue it. And then I'd never learn how to do it. So that's really why I sometimes show these field sketches that look so bad - as an impetus to others to give it a try, and to me to pursue it.

Killdeer, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinal. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
I'll probably do no more work on the woodcut today but I'm hoping it will move along quickly over the next couple of days.

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