Saturday, August 30, 2014

More Migrating Warblers and my Favorite Watercolorists

Northern Parula. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski

I might as well say right off that the watercolor sketch above is pretty horrible. I recently saw this first year/fall female Northern Parula at Houston Meadows in Philadelphia. It was a beautiful little bird flitting around too quickly for me even to identify it with any certainty let alone do a sketch.

I did take a number of photos and two turned out. So I thought I'd use the best as the source of this watercolor sketch in the pages of a small Stillman and Birn Zeta sketchbook.  As usual it shows the dangers of basing anything on photos. When you do so you often copy what's in the photo rather than follow an idea in your mind, one that firmly understands the structure of the bird, and has thought about the placement of the other objects in the painting.

Often with sketches I'll just start with the photo and improvise as I go. Since it's just a sketch, unlike the watercolor of the Least Sandpipers. I have a lot of leeway. But really I don't. Even though this is sketchier it still shows a lack of conviction and sureness that just adds up to a dull little watercolor, in spite of its striking subject.

So I'm not at all pleased with it. Later I'll get to the work of watercolorists I am very pleased with. Since I feel free to criticize so much work in watercolor it's only fair to show what I consider good examples of watercolor.

But first I just wanted to mention the slow but steady flood of warblers that are migrating through. Recently I've seen Blackburnian, Tennessee, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided Warblers, along with American Redstarts, the Northern Parula above and of course the locally breeding Common Yellowthroats. Today I was also treated to two Great Horned Owls, and yesterday an early morning Common Nighthawk doing blazingly fast acrobatics across the sky. It is a good time to be able to be out and about. I'd love to capture that nighthawk but it seems almost too impossible to even try.

While taking a break from birding and artwork today I was skimming through Treasures of the Forgotten Forest, published by the Artists for Nature foundation about the Tumbesian region of Peru and Ecuador. As I leafed through it I realized how many examples of the artists who took part in it were in watercolor. Almost all have a freedom, freshness, creativity and boldness that accentuate the boldness of watercolor itself rather than deny it its soul, more or less, by painting within tight little contour lines, never a brushmark out of place.

The more I've done wildlife art, and looked at wildlife art shows, particularly bird art shows the sadder I get. So much of it just so lifeless. There is no other way to say it: it is lifeless. Quite an irony given the vitality of the subject matter. But looking at this book you see the opposite: examples of artists whose work complements nature's vitality. I can't really show the illustrations from the book so I'll just name some of the artists in it. I'm familiar with almost all of them and have seen their work elsewhere, but this book seems almost by accident I think to show a lot of watercolor.

So if you get a chance look online for examples of, or perhaps buy a book by, the following artists: Barry Van Dusen, Lars Jonsson, Kim Atkinson, Darren Woodhead, Vadim Gorbatov, Bruce Pearson, Juan Varela Simo, Michael Warren, Wolfgang Weber. There are also other artists in the book but I've named just the ones whose watercolor work is so striking. If you perhaps are able to see the book itself I think you'll also see how varied their work is.

Before I accidentally picked up that book I had planned to choose some of my favorite watercolor paintings by Winslow Homer, perhaps America's best watercolorist. But before I did I looked through my book of John Singer Sargent's watercolors. Maybe HE's America's best watercolorist. Who knows? Both show how exciting watercolor can be and how it can be just as ambitious and powerful as oil painting. So here's a small list of some of my favorite watercolors by each:

Winslow Homer:
1.The Blue Boat
2.Saguenay River, Lower Rapids
3.In the Jungle, Florida
4.Shooting the Rapids
5.Under the Falls, the Grand Discharge
6.The Adirondack Guide
7.A Garden in Nassau
8."For to be a Farmer's Boy", the last not because it's my favorite but because of the loose way that he handled the pumpkin vines and field. It's a great example of how to paint with watercolor rather than use watercolor washes to fill in a drawing.

John Singer Sargent:
1.A Tent in the Rockies
2.Lake Louise, Canadian Rockies, an incredibly bold painting, esp. for  its time.
3.Derelicts, boats not people
4.The Bathers
5.Muddy Alligators
7.La Biancheria
8.Carrarra: Quarry II
9.Mountain Stream
10.Bus Horses in Jerusalem.

These are just a few. As I've flipped through my Homer and Sargent watercolor books as I've written this I keep coming across new ones that I'd like to add. But this should give you a taste. I've included Homer's In the Jungle and Sargent's Muddy Alligators because both have wildlife, non-bird wildlife as subject. And yet you can bet you will never, ever see work of this quality in a wildlife art show. Sad but true.

All in all I think what's struck me about their work is that they truly do use watercolor to paint, not to color in lines. That is probably the main reason that I think so highly of them and so little of watercolors that just color in the lines, a method by the way with which Homer began his career.

When I say how disappointed I am with my own watercolors, especially the sketches, it's because I want to some day do work like the artists I've mentioned here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Another Return - Watercolor

Three Least Sandpipers at Morris Arboretum. Watercolor by Ken Januski. Last version.
Three Least Sandpipers at Morris Arboretum. Watercolor by Ken Januski. First version.

I have no idea when the last time I did a watercolor was, probably more than a year. I have done numerous watercolor sketches, the most recent just yesterday. But they are different. They're just sketches and they're not done on good watercolor paper. Though the paper I use is great for sketches it doesn't have the brightness and more importantly the robustness of true watercolor paper. I can only make so many changes before the color gets muddy and the paper no longer accepts the paint.

There are many reasons for my not doing watercolors but the main reason is fear of failure, abysmal failure. I've quoted before the great, perhaps greatest American watercolorist Winslow Homer, on watercolor: it is making the best of an emergency.

What in the world does this mean? It makes perfect sense to me so I'll say what I think it means. Watercolor dies a horrible death if it doesn't retain both spontaneity and freshness. It's greatest strength is the vibrancy that it can create through its basic property of transparency. Winslow Homer knew this. But it also doesn't want to be held by boundaries. Neither does oil painting.

Though there are some great oil painters, David comes to my for instance, who tended to paint within the lines many great painters didn't, for instance Rembrandt. For them painting is, I think, an orchestration and weaving of marks across the entire canvas. The heavy impasto of Rembrandt doesn't stay within any boundaries. By painting in such a way the viewer himself is able to put together all those marks and see what is probably a more realistic portrayal than that of paintings that stay within the lines. Of course the Impressionists also tried to get away from line and outlines, saying that's not really the way we see. Look out the window and I'm sure you'll agree. Where is the line that defines the edge of that tree?

In any case there are some watercolor painters, Homer for instance, who try to paint like Rembrandt but in transparent watercolor. The problem? In watercolor you can't successfully paint white or any lighter color over a darker color. That's the nature of transparency. Transparency both makes watercolor the vibrant medium that it can be and also makes it just about the most difficult medium that there is to use, at least as a painting medium.

I think it's that knowledge that you might be putting down an irreversibly bad color or mark that Homer was talking about. When you do you either give up, or try to think of some way to salvage it. Thus watercolor is always an emergency.

I can't stand paint within the line watercolors, though I'm sure someone could point out some exception to that rule, perhaps Charles Demuth, who vaguely stayed within the lines. But for me painstaking dabs of watercolor, kept within the lines is just of no interest. It almost makes my skin crawl because it seems such a betrayal of the beauty of watercolor. It demands skill no doubt. But the end result is deadly. I should add that there are some contemporary bird artists that I know of who use watercolor in a fresh way. They stay close to the lines but still manage not to be inhibited by them. The watercolors still are fresh and lively.

But these artists are masters of the medium. I'm not, not by a very, very long shot. So I know that when I choose to do a watercolor I'll soon have an emergency. And yet the beauty of watercolor, when used as a transparent, painterly medium is irresistible. So I finally gave it a try with the Least Sandpipers above.

My watercolors have never been as well received as my prints. I'm not surprised because I know how far I have to go to master the medium in a way that I'm happy with. But still I can't help but try it again, every once in a while.

Most likely the painting is done. It is painted on 9x12 inch 300# Arches watercolor paper.

Well perhaps the painting SHOULD have been done. I couldn't resist a few changes. The newest version is at top.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Warbler Return

Blackburnian Warbler at Papermill Run. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

Blackburnian Warblers breed in Pennsylvania, not unfortunately where I live in Phialdelphia, but farther north. So they are not all that uncommon as they migrate through in fall and spring. Still they do tend so stop most people in their tracks if seen closely. The one I saw today along Papermill Run at Morris Arboretum no longer had the fire engine orange/red of the spring in his throat but he was still orange enough to make me take notice.

If they were a bit more common I suppose I might have tried some field sketches today. But this one was 50-60 feet up and I couldn't really see him well even in my binoculars. So I reached for my camera and took about 10 photos hoping that at least a few would be worth keeping. One of the best became the origin of the sketch above in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook.

With warblers, especially if you use photos, it's the easiest thing in the world to get precious, to try to get every little nuance of color and pattern, letting composition and everything else that makes a picture fall by the wayside. I tried to not lose sight of the other elements of painting here. Hopefully I'll eventually become a master of this, knowing how to paint the most beautiful and striking of warblers without letting them dominate the scene.

The Blackburnian has been the most exciting fall warbler so far. A few days ago I saw two Blue-winged Warblers and that was pretty nice. Chestnut-sided Warblers have given me great looks at their undersides twice during the last week and Black and White Warblers have given us some good looks. The breeding Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats and American Redstarts have also been around. It's great to be seeing them but sad to realize that once they're gone it will be at least another 6 months before they appear again in Philadelphia.

Least Sandpiper. Ballpoint pen studies by Ken Januski.

The watercolor at top and these ballpoint pen sketches from photos I've taken over the last year of Least Sandpipers both show my tendency to try to do studies of birds I've recently seen and sketched. I was recently engaged in an online conversation about what gear to take with you if you want to sketch birds. Video cameras and still cameras topped the list, but not my list. I really don't believe either are of much use until you've tried to sketch birds live. It's only when you do, and fail, that you realize how complex it is.

But more importantly you learn to make decisions, to choose this line over that line, in the brief time the bird is there. You learn ALL that you don't know, but also what questions to ask, what to find out when you look at photos or videos. For instance only if you've sketched shorebirds live do you realize how hard it is to properly place their head and neck when they're bent over feeding. Is the head above or below the back and how much?

I think my ultimate goal in sketching, outside of just liking the finished product, is to be able to know birds so well that if I'm sketching them facing one direction and then they face the other direction  I can effortlessly continue drawing. I'd like to know their structure so well that I can place them convincingly in any pose. And then of course I can abstract that since that's the way I like to portray them.

I think artists who work mainly from photos probably have much less of a chance of getting to understand the structure of birds. It's definitely a skill to be able to render what you see in a photo. Unfortunately it is far more common than you might think and my guess will never lead to a successful career in art. We watched a wonderful show on the Cuban musician Cachao recently. He said more or less the same thing about music as I recall. Rendering skills and technical music skills can only go so far. Then you need to do more.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Failure, Followed by a Mistake, Then Failure

Painted Skimmer. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

I'm of the philosophy that the quicker you make your first 1,000 mistakes in art, or anything, the quicker you'll make progress. I also have the impression that in many areas this type of thinking is considered old school, or just plain bad. Oh well. I have no doubt of its truth. Any endeavor involves more failures than successes. But if you build on failure it really isn't a problem. And it's the quickest way to success. I only thought of this because it's been 36 hours more or less of failures and mistakes.

Let's deal with the mistake first. Back in June I wrote a post that included a photo of a beautiful Halloween Pennant dragonfly. It reminded me of ones we'd seen last year and when I read in a guide of its fluttery butterfly like flight I confirmed it as just that. But recently I've been looking at my photos of birds and dragonflies from June and July as well as reading through my dragonfly guides. Uh oh, I thought. That may not be a Halloween Pennant.  Well today I finally investigated and discovered that it is in fact a Painted Skimmer. As reparation for my misdeed I did the quick ballpoint pen and watercolor sketch above.

That covers the mistake of the title. But it also covers one of the failures. The above drawing is somewhat off. The abdomen is longer and thinner than I've portrayed it. I do like the colors and I think it captures some of the beauty of a Painted Skimmer, but I also know it could be better. So in a way it's a failure, the most recent failure of the last 36 hours.

Least Sandpipers, Hairy Woodpecker, et al. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Yesterday found numerous shorebirds at the Manayunk Canal. The page on right above includes three sketches of Least Sandpipers from yesterday along with a quick sketch of a Great Blue Heron. I partially did them to illustrate my working method elsewhere. In that explanation I said that I liked to start with field sketches, then perhaps do a more developed drawing or watercolor, probably incorporating details from photos that I'd taken, to reinforce what I learned about the bird drawn in the sketch.

So I spent an hour doing the pencil sketch below based largely on a photo from yesterday. I then added watercolor.

Least Sandpiper. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski

The second failure, or actually the first, of the last 36 hours. Normally I wouldn't have shown it here or on the other site. But it did illustrate my working method and here it fits in with the theme of failure.

Of course failure is completely relative. Some of my successes would seem like failures to others and some of my failures like successes. The point is that every artist, or actually any person who strives to accomplish something, will meet with failure and disappointment at times. I've managed to put a number together in just 36 hours. But they're a part of growing. And hopefully I'll remember what I've learned, including being more cautious about what I ID publicly.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another Woodcut Finished

Crouching Green Heron. Two-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

It's taken a while but I've finally finished the multi-block Crouching Green Heron woodcut above. It is an edition of 10, printed with Daniel Smith water-based inks on Rives Heavyweight paper. The entire print is 7x10 inches and the image alone is 4x6 inches.

It really isn't all that much different from when I last showed it. But I wanted to do something more with the background, especially in the top half of print. I also toyed with the idea of cleaning up some of the chisel marks in front of the heron that picked up various bits of ink.

Then I had a bright idea, something I should know to be wary of. I decided to cut the backside of one of the blocks as a third block. I would cut out the heron and the two horizontal stripes and then print one color over all that was left and then perhaps another on the upper area. Below you see the wo results.

Crouching Green Heron. Abandoned Proof of Two-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

Crouching Green Heron. Abandoned Proof of Two-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

As a test I showed one of them to Jerene without telling her that in fact I wasn't going to use this version. I wanted to see if her opinion was similar to mine. I DON'T LIKE IT!, she said. Well neither did I. I suppose with a lot of work it would be possible to get something usable out of it. But I much preferred the earlier version.

So I gave up on the idea of cleaning up the area in front of heron and opted to just concentrate on adding some vibrancy to the top half.  I was able to do that and give just a hint of detail as well. So as far as I'm concerned it worked out well, but not without a very scary detour!

It's not often I complete two woodcuts in a week and my guess is that it will be a long time before it happens again. I'll enjoy it while I can.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hummer on Yew Two-block Woodcut

Juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Yew. Two block woodcut by Ken Januski.
I was really taken by my memory sketch of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched on a bouncing Yew twig from the last post, the one that included him doing a BIG back stretch. So I decided to use some of the cutoffs from a grab bag of Shina Plywood from McClain's Printmaking Supplies to make a very small print.

Since I wanted to concentrate on the pose of the hummer and not much else a very small block seemed the right way to go. On the other hand I really don't want what you might call 'illusionism.' I see so, so much of this, much of it helped along, if you want to call it that, by Photoshop. What I prefer is something that is still recognizable but that will never be mistaken for a photo, even one with all sorts of PS filters and special effects applied.

So after I'd made a template of the field sketch of the hummer, modified it, copied it onto the woodblock, carved and proofed it I decided that I'd use the other side of the block to print some abstract shapes. This procedure is all very hit or miss. I printed the two greens over the last three days and then printed the black on top today. Unfortunately much of the dark green doesn't show up in the photo.

You might ask why I'd ruin a good drawing, or at least one I was happy with, by adding all these distracting abstract shapes. I can only say that it relates to my dislike of illusionism and also I think to a desire to be a bit more modern, a bit more of my time. I realize that this is a slippery slope. Hula hoops were of my time way back when but they're not much remembered now. So it's easy to be so much of your time that your work is not striking except for the briefest of times. On the other hand there is Beethoven, for instance, or many, many others, who created a new view of art, one that has held sway for hundreds of years afterwards.

I think art always tries to find a way to be fresh. And the reason it does so is that for some artists that's the only way to be expressive. Anything else, for these artists, may look like art to others but to them just seems clich├ęd and empty. I don't think everyone does or should work this way. And I can't say that it's always successful. But sometimes it really is the only fulfilling way to work.

I should add that I also have tried to stay true to the Ruby-throated Hummingbird in his portrayal here. I like being able to do that but also add some abstraction, or what some might call decoration, as I have done.

I think that this is done but there's a chance that I'll add one more color in the abstract areas. The print is about 7x7 inches and the image itself about 4x4. So far it is in an edition of nine. Printed with Daniel Smith water-based inks on Rives Heavyweight paper.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hummers, Facebook, Nature Blog Network

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Eastern Towhee, et al. Field Sketches by Ken Januski.
I'm not sure how much longer Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will continue to visit our backyard so I'm taking every opportunity to sketch them. At bottom right above is a sketch from memory of one seen earlier today on a small branch of our Yew. I looked at him on first floor, tried to memorize what I saw, then went upstairs to my studio and did this sketch. Later I decided to go back down and try to get a quick video. The quality of this is not great. But if you do watch all of it you'll be treated so seeing him/her crack his back.

For years I've been part of the Nature Blog Network a collection of blogs based on nature, in one form or another. When I first started I tended to read a variety of blogs. But once you needed to choose a category, e.g. Art, I found that I really only looked at those blogs. Over time it has grown and grown, and then over the last few days seemed to go kaput.

I couldn't find any information on this until I looked on Facebook, on the assumption that maybe they'd move there and just let  the old site collapse. I did find a site on Facebook and from what I gather the database of site has been so hacked that they can't even get into it.

That really has been the impetus for me to do something I've avoided for years: join Facebook. There are myriad reasons for avoiding it but I think one of the main ones is that I don't need another Time Drain. Nonetheless it seems that so much of the world only accesses the online world via Facebook. So today, or perhaps yesterday, I joined.

After a bit of experimenting I decided that it was best so have a separate page, rather than just an account. It can be found at Oh do I hesitate to say it, but feel free to like it, if you really do. Even if you don't like it you may find it interesting. My guess is that it will have more pictures and fewer words than my blog.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hungry Goldfinches, Hummers and Others

American Goldfinch Eating Thistle. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski. 

Ever since I started that new Moleskine sketchbook I've been pretty busy with sketching. I hope that I'll be able to continue this pace. In ways it's like exercise. At first it is work, and then it becomes something that you miss if you don't do it with some regularity.

Below are numerous pages of field sketches. Immediately below are two pages from today, except for that hummingbird at top right. Just about the first bird I saw at Morris Arboretum today was the Eastern Phoebe at bottom left. It's been months since I've seen one there. The last bird I saw as an American Golfinch tearing apart a thistle for seed. He's at the bottom of page.

Goldfinches are so common, and so cute, that I generally avoid sketching or photographing them. But it's not their fault that they're cute, or common. In any case today I was struck by the vigorous pose he took, feet rooted to the plant so that he could go at the seeds. He was oblivious to me, standing just a few feet away. The watercolor sketch above, in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook, is base on the field sketch and some photos that I took. After I'd posted this I was a bothered a bit by the lemon yellow color I'd used. I liked the sense of light but the color was wrong. So I experimented with a deeper yellow. It's now more accurate but less lively I think. This reminds me once again that my watercolor palette is extremely deficient in yellows, more than in any other color. I notice this almost every time I paint a watercolor using yellows.

I've had a hankering to do a bit of watercolor again so this was a good excuse.

Eastern Phoebe, American Goldfinch, et al. Field Sketches by Ken Januski

A day or two ago I walked along the Manayunk Canal and did the sketches below: Gray Catbird, immature Green Heron with immature Great Blue Heron behind him, another Great Blue Heron up in a Sycamore, and one of our many Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, done when I got home as he sat on our clothesline.

Trying to get at least some semblance of the Sycamore convinced me to start reading The Artistic Anatomy of Trees by Rex Vicat Cole, first published I believe 99 years ago. Many years ago I realized that I needed to portray trees, or at least understand the structure of trees, better if I was going to continue to work in a somewhat realistic vein. So I bought this book. But I really couldn't convince myself to read it.

Now that has changed and I'm about a third of the way through. The odd thing is that both I and Jerene love trees and can identify quite a few. We've actually taken weekend workshops on tree identification. But I just haven't pursued it artistically. I think that now is the time. Though of course you wouldn't know it from my sycamore below. I look forward to having the opportunity to do more sketches of them, eventually incorporating them in my paintings and prints. I would thoroughly recommend the Vicat Cole book by the way. It is old, written in an old style. But the author's love of both trees and art is evident throughout.

Gray Catbird, Herons and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Field Sketches by Ken Januski

Each year I say I'm going to do more sketches of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that visit our backyard each summer. We're lucky to have them and it seems criminal not to try to portray them. But each year I fail, getting just one or two tiny sketches or perhaps a number of photos. This year that has changed and I'm drawing them almost daily. Today one stayed in the same spot, and more or less same position, for at least 10 minutes. So I got out my extreme close focus binoculars and did the drawing below. As I said I feel quite fortunate to have this opportunity and I'm glad I'm finally taking advantage of it.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Clothesline. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Oh yes. I haven't given up on that two-block woodcut of the crouching Green Heron. I'm just ruminating on how to finish it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Two Block Woodcut Coming Along

Crouching Green Heron. Woodcut Proof by Ken Januski.

Many distractions along the way but the multi-block woodcut of the Green Heron seen in a crouching fishing position a week or two ago along the Manayunk Canal is nearing completion.

I printed three colors on the second block over the past week or so: an ochrish yellow, deep blue and deep maroon. Then today I recut the first block to get just the amount of black that I wanted, though I had to make a couple of proofs to decide exactly what I did want.

It doesn't really show here but that large yellow background was also printed in black. But the first proof showed that it wasn't going to work. So in the remaining prints I just wiped it clean before printing. As a result there are small bits of washed out black in all of the ten prints.

I'm still hoping to do something more with the background, perhaps just another similar color, so that it vibrates a la. Josef Albers.

 When I start a print, either woodblock or linocut, I'm rarely sure whether I want any gouge/chisel marks to show. They are an integral part of many prints.  After the fact I realize that I would have been better off to completely clear out the white area surrounding the green heron. The bits of ink and color that show through occasionally I think are more of a distraction than an element that adds anything. There may still be time to remedy that a bit when I add the next background color. But most likely I'll just have to live with it.

I began my linocuts about 4 years ago  I think it was leaving much of the carving showing. And I'm happy with those prints. But now I often find that I prefer not to have them in many cases as in the last green heron print.

Barring some catastrophe along the way this will be an edition of ten. The image is 4x6 inches and the paper itself 7x10 inches, printed with Daniel Smith water-soluble inks on Rives Heavyweight paper.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hummers, Flycatchers and Lazy Birding

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow Warbler, Wetlands of Morris Arboretum. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Jerene and I have often found that lazy, sit-down birding can be some of the best birding of the day. That proved to be the case today at Morris Arboretum. Though there were heavy rains last night and it was cloudy today, presaging both wet and probably poor birding conditions, I decided to take advantage of Morris Arboretum's early 8 a.m. opening. You just never know what you might see at this time of year.

Well it turned out to be pretty quiet. That explains the sketch of clouds and wetlands at lower left above. I was sitting down waiting for something to fly by and sketched it in the meantime. A few minutes later the bird above it flew in - a nice Yellow Warbler. This one stayed still for a bit longer than usual so I got a chance to sketch it.

When I got home a Ruby-throated Hummingbird rested on some telephone wires. So I looked at him until he flew with my extreme close focus binoculars, tried to memorize what I saw and then came up to the studio and  did sketches at right. I'm happy to be able to pursue sketching them. Who knows?Perhaps eventually a painting or print.

Indigo Bunting at Morris Arboretum. Photo by Ken Januski.

Soon after the Yellow Warbler appeared another small very dark bird landed even closer to where I was sitting. Though there wasn't a hint of blue my immediate thought was Indigo Bunting. Experience has told me that a small dark sparrow-sized bird is often an Indigo Bunting, even though I rarely see them at Morris. Sure enough that's what he was and he was close enough for me to take some of the closest photos of them that I've ever taken. Next time, if there is one, I'll have to try to sketch instead. But the main reason I include this photo is just to prove how good birding can be when you just sit down. Birds forget you are there, or get used to you, and resume their normal behavior, allowing you a much better chance of observing them closely.

Possible Olive-sided Flycatcher, Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer, et al. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

A couple of dsys ago I started off the day at the Manayunk Canal and soon saw a flycatcher that didn't seem quite right. For one thing I rarely see flycatchers there. I got three glimpses of this one, two from a 3/4 view, i.e. partially from the back and partially from the side. He looked like a large Eastern Wood Pewee, but more the size of an Eastern Kingbird. The last look was from the front. I was so struck by the very dark mottled gray vest that I immediately thought Olive-sided Flycatcher and reached for my camera. And then he flew not to appear again.

I should have known better than to reach for my camera but I did because Olive-sideds aren't that common here, especially in late July. Once he was gone I did my best to put down what I'd seen in the sketchbook. But the only thing I really remembered was the length of the bird, when seen from 3/4 view, and the dark vest when seen from the front. I also noticed a large bill, with the lower mandible yellow-orange. But I really didn't notice the head. When I sketched it in I only made the top half dark, more like an Eastern Kingbird. But after checking photos of Olive-sideds I realized that their head is mainly dark. I didn't see the head in either case, at least not from the front so I figured it was okay to change it to an all dark head. When I did so it  looked more like an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

It's hard to say for sure. It would be early for them and  he was much lower than they normally are. Still it was a large flycatcher and had a very dark vest. I still think it was an early Olive-sided. I have seen them at Morris in mid-August so he was on my wanted list for today. Unfortunately though no flycatchers were to be seen.

Along with him are more cooperative birds that I was able to view for longer periods of time: a young Green Heron and another Yellow Warbler on the left and a Solitary Sandpiper and young Killdeer on the right.

Crouching Green Heron. First color of second block of two-block woodcut by Ken Januski.

Yesterday I decided to experiment with a second block for the Crouching Green Heron woodcut. The first color on good paper is above. Next I'll add a blue and perhaps a maroon and then most likely print the black of the first block. And then seen what it looks like and what to do next. It will probably surprise me as much as you.