Friday, November 11, 2016

Some Tiny Watercolors

White-rumped Sandpiper in Cape May, NJ. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

It seems that a few times a year I'm at a loss as to what to do next and so, in a manner somewhat similar to practicing on a musical instrument I'd guess, I do either sketches or small paintings based on photos that I've taken.

As I've said forever I don't like working from photos, mine or anyone else's. In fact I don't believe I've worked from anyone else's since I was a child. If I'm going to work from a photo I want it at least to be one where I have a personal recollection of the experience.

All of the small 5x7 watercolors in this post, with the exception of the Cattle Egret below, were done over the last few days.

Sometimes when I do work from a photo it's because I've seen a bird, perhaps done a field sketch of it, but want to get to know it better, both in my mind's eye and on paper or canvas. That's the case with the White-rumped Sandpiper above. I both wanted to understand it better and also do a successful watercolor of it. With their generally subtle colors shorebirds lend themselves to plumage detail I think. If you don't get the plumage subtlety, they all you have to work with is the shape, which in the case of shorebirds is actually quite a lot. But who wants to paint a feather map? Not me. So this type of watercolor allows me to see what I can do in getting some sense of plumage complexity and subtlety while still having the watercolor retain some spontaneity and fluidity.

Cattle Egret at Cape May Point State Park. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

The watercolor above was actually painted as a gift for the people who rented us their house recently while on vacation. So the motivation is somewhat different. But it was also exciting to see a Cattle Egret, actually two, so I wanted to get the experience down on paper. It is based on field sketches and on looking at a photo on my camera, about 1x1 at most I'd guess. So it is not particularly detailed. More importantly though I think it gets a good sense of Cattle Egrets and their fascinating movement.

Ruddy Turnstone at Reed's Beach. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

I'll rarely try to paint a bird in flight. Almost always they have the deadly quality of a bird painted from a photo. But in this case I liked the photo and decided it was time to give a try to a bird in flight. I guess that is one of the appeals of such small watercolors. You can't try out something new without worrying too much about a possible disaster.

Warbling Vireo at Morris Arboretum. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

Finally a Warbling Vireo from Morris Arboretum. I've always wanted to do a painting based on these photos. It's still not completely satisfactory but I'm not unhappy with it either.

One virtue of these small watercolors is that I learn more about the structure of the bird, well some of the time anyway. The end result might appear in a more finished, more detailed work or just as well, it might give me the confidence to take much greater liberties and do something abstract.

No comments: