Sunday, April 26, 2015

Raptors Not Warblers

Osprey with American Robin. Early Proof of Linocut by Ken Januski.

Yes, yes, yes it is the time of newly arrived warblers and other neo-tropical migrants. And though I've been out many hours and walked many miles over the last few days I have seen very few warbler or new migrants.

Yesterday we saw our first Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, and first in Philadelphia Common Yellowthroat at Morris Arboretum. We also heard our first Baltimore Oriole at Andorra Natural Area yesterday and saw our first Yellow Warbler today at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, all locations I'm happy to say that are within 5 miles of our house.

So we have seen some new migrants, just not as many as you'd expect for the time of year. The last photo in this post does include a warbler, the brilliantly golden Palm Warbler. But a problem with slowly drying ink forced me to put it on hold yesterday and start something new.

I didn't want it to be particularly complicated so I went with a linocut based on the female American Kestrel eating an American Robin at the parking lot of Morris Arboretum about a month ago. I'll most likely print it in just one color but may hand color at least some of the resulting prints. It is based on a photo I took and then a pencil drawing based on the photo. So far I like it and the fact that it pretty well captures the stance and look of the feeding kestrel.

Mature Bald Eagle Along Wissahickon Creek. Photo by Ken Januski.

So the kestrel is the start of the 'raptors' in the subject line of this post. A few days ago I also saw my first of the year Osprey in Philadelphia, just down the hill from us along the Manayunk Canal. Then today, while looking for warblers along the Wissahickon, I saw this handsome mature Bald Eagle. This is near the place that I saw our last Philadelphia Osprey, on Thanksgiving, 2014. This part of the Wissahickon is also less than a mile from our house, like the Manayunk Canal, and like the nearby church that hosts nesting Peregrines.

It remains astonishing to me that all these raptors can be seen, though not by appointment, within a mile of our highly urban home.

Black Squirrel, Palm Warbler and Mourning Cloak. Early Proof of Reduction Woodcut by Ken Januski.

When I said that I wanted to do a simple linocut I meant simple in comparison to the complexity of the reduction woodcut above. It is tiny, only 4x6 inches. But the composition is complicated and I'm sure the process as it goes along will be complicated. I showed a pencil sketch and crayon version of this recently, based on something I'd seen one day.

What I like so far about this print is that it captures exactly what a Palm Warbler looks like in the drab days of early spring. a golden yellow bird, decorated in rich Burnt Siena. I'm taking artistic liberties by using the same yellow for the light part of the wings of the distant Mourning Cloak. And the Gray Squirrel is in fact a 'Black' Gray Squirrel, one that is almost velvety black. Every time I see one of these squirrels I want to include that rich black in a painting or print. So the challenge here is to combine the black and the yellow and Burnt Siena in some plausible and I hope strong way. Even though it is a very small print it is thus far more complicated than the larger kestrel print. Time will tell how they both work out.

And very soon, perhaps tomorrow, all those neo-tropical migrants will arrive and make it so much more difficult to concentrate on these prints. But who can complain?

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