Monday, March 16, 2015

First Field Sketches of 2015

Long-eared Owl and Drake Canvasback. Field Sketches by Ken Januskil

Ken Januski Sketching Hooded Mergansers at Morris Arboretum.

I officially declared 'Spring Is Here' I believe in my last post so I suppose I really ought to prove it by doing some field sketching. That wasn't the main intent in going to Morris Arboretum today but I did want to try out a new Tripak Tripod Pack that I bought recently. You can barely see it here but basically it is a very small backpack whose main function is to carry your tripod and scope on your back leaving your hands free for using your binoculars, sketching, drinking coffee or whatever.

I'm not a big gear person but I've often lamented the pain of carrying around a tripod and scope when I'm out sketching, especially when I'm at a place where I don't know if there'll be much call for a scope. So I often end up carrying it on one hand, tripod legs fully open, or folding the tripod legs and carrying over my shoulder. The problem with that is you can almost never see a bird that appears and disappears quickly. By the time you set the scope down and put up the binoculars the bird is gone. So I decided to gamble on this.

Here's my verdict. It almost paid for itself on the first day today. Even though I have an older, and thus heavier, tripod I hardly noticed I was carrying it. The only thing that did make me notice it is that the tripod legs tended to spread out behind me, something I hadn't thought about. I suppose a small bungee cord might fix that, or further experimentation.  The main thing though is that I was free to bird and sketch as though I didn't have a tripod and scope. Until I needed one. Then there it was conveniently on my back. The only adjustment needed is to lengthen the legs. But for birds seen with a scope you often have time to do that. In any case I have to say I'm really happy I bought this and expect that I'll be taking my scope with me on far more sketching outings.

Early on in our trip we saw eight Hooded Mergansers at the far end of the wetlands pond. But what was that big white shape? Detritus? That seemed unlikely given that the wetland is not public water and thus very clean. I'd forgotten that a Canvasback had been seen there yesterday. So I put the scope to its very first use and saw a handsome drake Canvasback. What a beautiful bird. One of our guides calls it 'The Aristocrat of Ducks.' It's hard to argue with that. Though I also took photos I really wanted to spend some time sketching him. So the photos at top took place over 15-30 minutes as he kept drifting all so slowly but still changing his position every few seconds. So it took awhile of continuing to draw him in various positions before any of the sketches above started to look like much.

Behind him were numerous Hooded Mergansers and I wouldn't be surprised if that combination ends up in a new print or painting. I've been thinking about my favorite prints recently, my own prints I mean, and almost always they stem from a real experience such as this. My background is an abstract artist, or more accurately a non-objective artist, where everything comes out of the artists own imagination, more or less. That's fine and I enjoyed it for years. But now I really enjoy making art based on something that actually happened in the external, especially the natural world.

And that woodcut? I believe that the carving is finished. Each day I continue to proof the black block on good paper, all that I've got left at this point, and I'm unhappy with the ink itself. Tomorrow I'll try one more time. Once I get a good inking the edition should be printed quickly.

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