Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Busy Time of the Year

Falling, Fighting Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers. Sumi Brush Pen and Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

April is such an extraordinary time of year, and currently my favorite month of the year. The warmth of spring and summer is there but most mornings start off cool, brisk and invigorating. Bird, butterflies, insects and flowers, among others are arriving, departing, flowering or in some other way being fascinating to observe.

Because of this time spent indoors seems wasted and it's difficult to get much artwork done. I have done a few field sketches, but very few and very brief. A couple of an Osprey eating a fish are further down the page.

Often this time of year I take photos but they can also be a distraction where time spent fiddling with the camera means any chance of actually seeing something has disappeared. Such was the case with the blue, gray, black and white mass falling from the trees like a mis-colored Sycamore leaf along the Wissahickon a week or so ago. It floated like a large leaf, slowly twisting in the wind, until that is it hit the ground in a flurry of activity and dust. It was two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers fighting. The experience lasted just a second or two, from drifting drop to dusty departure. I did grab for my camera as they landed but they were gone instantly.

Still such an experience is unique, or certainly rare and I wanted to portray it. Eventually I did so, working almost solely from my imagination in the sumi brush pen and watercolor sketch above. Eventually I may make a print based on it.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Photo by Ken Januski.

A few days earlier I decided to try to do a watercolor which captures the subtle colors and shapes of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The occasion for this was one of the best photos I've ever taken of these hyperactive birds. But subtlety can easily turn to mud, especially with watercolors, and I came close to that here. Only some coloristic touchups a day later I think salvaged it.

Osprey Eating Fish at Morris Arboretum. Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

The two images at top show two different ways of making art out of birds and bird experiences. Immediately above these quick sumi brush pen sketches done from life show another. I like them but think I need to start using a bigger sketchbook and more time. Hopefully this will lead to more developed work in the field.

First of Year Louisiana Waterthrush Along Wissahickon. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

Finally another way to celebrate/illustrate a bird or bird experience. This really is more typical of me: a quick watercolor and pencil sketch done soon after seeing a bird, in this case the first Louisiana Waterthrush of the year, and based on a photo I took. Though the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was also based on a photo it was a larger, more finished work and fairly unusual for me.

These have been the main artworks I've done over the last few weeks, since the end of the last woodcut, and excluding some abysmal failures.  But there has been plenty to see outside. Below you can see some of the many photos I've taken of birds seen recently, the ones that are currently distracting me from doing much actual artwork.

Diving American Kestrel. Photo by Ken Januski.

First of year American Redstart. Photo by Ken Januski.

Bald Eagle over Walnut Lane Golf Course. Photo by Ken Januski.

Eastern Towhee at Andorra Natural Area. Photo by Ken Januski.

Palm Warbler at Morris Arboretum. Photo by Ken Januski.

Yellow-rumped Warbler at Morris Arboretum. Photo by Ken Januski.