Sunday, July 19, 2015

May You Be Forever Sketching

Willow Flycatchers. Sumi Brush Pen Sketches by Ken Januski.

As I was completing the two pages above in a Stillman and Birn Epsilon sketchbook yesterday I was thinking about how much I've been enjoying drawing recently, especially with the sumi brush pen. Then on the radio I heard a version of Bob Dylan's 'May You Stay Forever Young,' a song I've always very much liked. It seemed to parallel my feelings about sketching: may I and anyone else who likes to draw continue to do so. It is hugely rewarding.

Cedar Waxwing, Fish Crow, et al. Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

I mentioned on another post that many of these sumi sketches have been based on my own photos. I started somewhere near the beginning of my boxes of them, all alphabetically sorted. As you can see with the Willow Flycatchers above I'm reaching the end. There are no local birds whose names start with 'Z'. That just leaves 'Y', with all those Yellow Something-or-Other birds.

I've also tried to continue using the sumi brush pen when I'm out birding. It creates a line that is a little too large for the size of the sketchbook that I carry in my back pocket. But I'm getting better at being able to use finesse and sensitivity of touch to be able to work this small. Above a Cedar Waxwing and young Green Heron, both seen along the nearby Manayunk Canal, and a Fish Crow on telephone pole and as yet unidentified wasp on the flowers of our Mountain Mint, both seen while I sat in a chair in our backyard.

Grass Spider and Wasp, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, et al. Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

I spent about 10-15 minutes watching the scene above in our backyard, just a foot away from where I sat, through my Pentax Papilio Extreme Close-Focus Binoculars. (I'm not trying to name drop in this post but when a product works well, like Stillman and Birn sketchbooks, the Kuretake Sumi Brush Pen and the Pentax extreme close focus binoculars I'm happy to mention them in case others might want to use them. In fact I only know about the binoculars due to a talk by an accomplished local birder on Birding Beyond Birds, e.g. dragonflies, butterflies, etc. where he mentioned how good they were).

For the first time ever we've noticed a not of three-dimensional spider webs in our yard. They can be as deep as they are broad. As I watched the small wasp and the spider in the web I really couldn't figure out what was going on. Both were upside down. Was the wasp trapped and desperately trying to get out? If so why did he sometimes seem to approach the spider rather than vice versa? Was the web sticky, like most are? If so why did he seem to move so freely. As I watched it through the binoculars, mainly so I could see the spider better, I decided I might as well try to get it down on paper. That is the scene in upper left.

Later when I went inside I investigated and found that the spider is most likely a 'Grass Spider', one of many funnel spiders, whose webs are not sticky. This spider is also timid and will often run from whatever is in its web. Well that pretty well explains what I saw here. It is amazing how much there is to see in nature if you take the time to look.

Also on the page one of the visiting Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, feeding on the Monarda in the yard, and a Willow Flycatcher at Morris Arboretum, the same bird portrayed from photos at the top.

Whimbrel and White Ibis. Sumi Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

There is a big juried show coming up that I'm preparing to submit work for. No it is not Birds in Art. In any case as I continue to do sumi brush pen drawings from my photos I'm always thinking about which ones could be used for something more developed. Above are two pages of Whimbrel, seen in Cape May, NJ over the last few years, and an immature White Ibis seen at Heinz NWR in Philadelphia a number of years ago. I never know until I do the drawings which resulting drawing might convince me that it is the one to develop more. Time will tell. There are only a couple of weeks before submissions are due to I'll need to decide soon.

Common Whitetail., Killdeer, Great Blue Heron in Tree, et al.  Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

And finally a couple more small sketchbook pages of sumi brush pen sketches from life. Except for the Common Whitetail at top left, all of the images are from the Manayunk Canal a few days ago: another immature Green Heron, with nearby Killdeer, and three versions of a Great Blue Heron curled in various intriguing shapes up in a tree.

I realize that in switching from pen or pencil to sumi brush pen in my field sketches I'm losing a lot of detail. But I think I'm gaining life and/or animation as well as a greater concentration on the entire scene, all of which are helpful in doing a more developed painting or print. It's well worth it to me. And it probably has something to do with why I have a renewed excitement about the possibilities of drawing.

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