|Yellow-breasted Chat. Acrylic Painting in Progress. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski
I guess it should be no surprise given the time of year and my interest in birding that I might be tempted to do some art work based on birds, particularly migrating birds, and most particularly warblers. Oddly that's even more true than in past years because this year I and my wife have been little distracted by actual birds! We didn't bird, or do much of anything else beyond the perimeters of our yard for about 8 weeks, right at the height of migration.
But I knew the birds were out there and could see many entries in e-bird indicating that they were in the Philadelphia area. But the inability to bird safely actually made it a bit easier to concentrate on painting birds. This was made even easier, at least to some extent, by the fact that I decided to return to painting in acrylic.
As a painter most of my life it's been quite frustrating to use both watercolor and all of the relief printmaking methods I've used. Painterly handling just runs against the grain of those media, though there are probably some examples of very talented watercolorists, for example Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, for whom that wasn't the case.
I have been happy with my work in printmaking and less so in watercolor. But that doesn't mean that I didn't miss the spontaneity of acrylic and oil. So it has been quite refreshing to return to acrylic.
At top is about the fourth or fifth version of a Yellow-breasted Chat, based on field sketches, my own photos and my memories of seeing them. I keep being happy with it, then decide in the next day or two that it needs more changes. Unlike watercolor I can easily do this without ruining the painting.
Because I don't see chats all that often though I felt like I needed to so some pencil studies of them before beginning the painting, even though I knew that the painting would not be as detailed as the sketches. In the end I just did this one though I struggled over it for days. For me it seems like a good way to work. In struggling to get the bird on paper somewhat as I saw it in the photos, sketches and memory I got a better idea of how it was put together. This is one of the real benefits of sketching from life I think. And the knowledge that the bird might leave at any time makes my mental focus stronger I think. As long as it doesn't leave me frozen like a deer in headlights as sometimes happens!
In any case this drawing was the basis of the painting.
I also had the pleasure of seeing a somewhat rare Mourning Warbler recently, actually on only my second birding walk since the arrival of Covid-19. It is a bird I'm particularly unfamiliar with so it was even more important to try sketching it.
|Pencil Sketch of Mourning Warbler. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski
It wasn't visible for long so all I got from seeing it was a memory, four photos and no sketches. This drawing, also done over a number of days, is based primarily on one photo. I'm not sure I'll try a painting of it but most likely I will. Acrylic painting, at least for me, allows me to have a more carefree attitude towards a painting. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won't. But I might as well give it a try.
If I do attempt a painting I'm going to try to include a Black-throated Blue Warbler and a Carolina Wren, which were also in the vicinity. The only question is how much I'll try to work out a composition before I put paint to canvas.