Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sketching and Beautiful Weather

Young Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers with Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Ballpoint Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

We've seen beautiful late September weather here the last few days. But wait, it's only late July! I read recently that this may presage another long and brutal winter like last year's. If so we may regret this weather then but for now there's nothing to do but revel in it. And because of that I've found that each day I tell myself I have to be outside sketching rather than in the studio working on that woodcut that I started a few days ago.

Above is the work from today. On the left an immature Hairy Woodpecker with a Downy Woodpecker beneath him. The Downy was almost all white from this perspective with just a bit of black around eye and on underside of tail. The lack of black, esp. around eye made me think he also was an immature.

I've continued to spend a lot of time watching the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that have been visiting our backyard. On the right side above are three drawings from today, the smallest of which was done from memory after he hovered two feet away from me for a few seconds. All too soon the hummingbirds will be gone so I'm really trying to take advantage of them while they're here. Oh yes, the bill of the hummingbird on lower left looks a bit odd because he's sticking out his tongue! I love being able to get such seemingly unusual behavior down in a sketchbook though I doubt that it's really all that unusual.

Eastern Kingbird, Question Mark Butterfly and Great Blue Heron in Field. Ballpoint Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

The drawings above were done at Morris Arboretum, though I think on different days. The Eastern Kingbird didn't stay for long so there's a lot of memory used in this drawing. Beneath him a Red Admiral that stayed for a few seconds, though not enough for me to get everything down. On the right one of three immature Great Blue Herons that were at Morris yesterday. I got a kick out of this one in the field. He was sketched live and some of the landscape was done at the same time. The rest of the landscape was improvised over the last 24 hours.

Before I move on to the delayed Green Heron woodcut I wanted to mention John Busby. After I posted the last post I realized that John Busby's most recent book, Looking at Birds: An Antidote to Field Guides, is the perfect book to encourage drawing encounters with birds, even if you just get the briefest of sketches. As I googled for the exact title of the book just now I ran across a video of John Busby sketching on the web site of author and artist John Muir Laws. When I posted this yesterday I hadn't yet had time to watch the full 24 minutes of the video. But today, a day later, I have. It is spectacular. About minute 15 or 16 he sits amid hundreds of gannets and mentions how he could never do a glorified portrait of one of them, in spite of their beauty. Take a look at most bird art shows and catalogs and that's all you'll see - glorified portraits, made possible only through photography. John Busby is interested in the full experience of seeing the birds and not just the birds but the birds in their environment. Towards the end he says that he thinks his goal might be for the viewer to wish he'd been there. And in that he succeeds. A far, far more lofty and worthwhile goal than all those deadly glorified portraits!!  And who knows what else you might find of interest on Laws' site.

Crouching Green Heron. Second Proof of Woodcut by Ken Januski.

Okay, back to the woodcut. I've done some minimal cleanup in the heron woodcut. I've also copied this onto a second block so that I can use at least one more color if I feel like it. Time will tell. I want to keep this pretty simple. I was really only trying to catch the striking pose. But once I printed it the pattern of the wood came out in the background and now I'm tempted to keep it, which of course is threatening to send the woodcut off in a different direction. I hope it rains soon so I can figure out what to do.

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