Desert Sunset

Thin Red and Gold Sunset
Conte crayon and pastel pencil on grey paper, 8.5″ x 5.5″

I don’t think I posted the photo for this before, but it was taken five years ago while on a train crossing the desert. Probably somewhere in Nevada, looking back while traveling east.

Desert Sunset 1 ref

This past week I also worked on a couple of large drawings, one of which I posted on Instagram here.

Aspen Against Evergreens

Colorado Aspens
Watercolor and ink on paper, 4.5″ x 6″

A little over a month ago I was passing through the front range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains and there were lots of aspen trees at the peak of their fall colors. They were interspersed among evergreens and I got a few nice photo compositions.

However, when I started this painting a week and a half ago, all I had with me for paints were watercolors. They turned out to ill suited for this scene because of all the little yellow leaves. With watercolor you typically work from light to dark, because most of the paint isn’t opaque enough for light colors to show up well on top of dark colors. That’s why watercolorists normally try to “save their whites” by avoiding painting anything that should be light with dark colors as it would be difficult to lighten it later. With so many tiny dots of yellow surrounded by dark colors it soon became obvious that to preserve the yellow leaves I’d have to first paint a general yellow shape and then define the leaves by tediously painting around each one with dark paint and a thin brush. Instead, I opted to just draw on top of the watercolor with a couple of pens to indicate all of the leaves. It was still tedious, just not as much as it would have been. Some leaves I was able to accent with dots of an opaque bismuth yellow though, so the dark to light approach isn’t a set in stone rule.

Aspen Against Evergreens - photo

The reference photo required a lot of editing because it was taken in poor lighting and started out very dark. After brightening it I actually darkened some parts of the background again to help the center tree stand out a little better and reduce background distractions.

Morning Song

Morning Song
Acrylic on sketch paper, 9.25″ x 7.25″

Yesterday morning I went for a walk on the dirt road that goes around and through nearby agricultural fields and saw this savannah sparrow. It’s hard to get close enough for a good photo, even with a 250mm lens, so this is just a small crop of the original. The paints used are ivory black, burnt umber, transparent yellow oxide, and titanium white.

Morning Song

Hiding Sparrow

White Crowned Sparrow
Acrylic on sketch paper, 9″ x 7″

Last week I went to a state park and got a photo of this white crowned sparrow in some sort of dry bush. It’s amazing that they can dart through the tangled mass of branches so easily.

To get good detail on the bird I decided to crop the original photo, below, to just be the center of it. Actually, the branches in the full photo are starting to look like a painting themselves…

White Crowned Sparrow

Signs of Spring

Robin on a Branch
Acrylic on sketch paper, 10″ x 7.5″

I was practicing photography last week and got a photo of this American Robin in a tree with new leaves. It’s actually been spring for awhile, but in this little scene all the nearby flowering trees aren’t seen.

Paints used are ivory and carbon blacks, titanium white, burnt sienna, transparent yellow oxide, and some transparent gel medium. The green is from the yellow and black mixed.

Robin on a Branch

Draw a Bird Day – House Sparrow

Maybe a Black Throated Sparrow
Acrylic on sketch paper, 9.5″ x 6.5″

I tried looking up what this bird is, but I’m not sure. I took the photo in Denver and the closest match I could find is a black throated sparrow, but none of the photos look like this one. – Update, it’s a House Sparrow as Myr said below.

It looks like the current bird posting place for draw a bird day is here.

Maybe a Black Throated Sparrow

Butterflies

A butterfly on a flower

Today I went to the Butterfly Pavilion, which is a short distance north of Denver. It’s an interesting place with an indoor tropical forest that has lots of different butterflies flying around in it that they raise. There’s also a room with many kinds of tarantulas and other invertebrates in different terrariums, and a room with aquariums. They do conservation work with butterflies and other creatures.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis 1

Here’s a couple of photos of a praying mantis that I took several weeks ago in my garden. Lately I’ve been very busy so I haven’t posted anything or made very much, but I’ve started painting again. 🙂

Praying Mantis 4

Bees on Flowers

I took some photos of bees in my garden using a very inexpensive lens extender tube on my camera to let me focus very close. It has to be focused manually though, and every slight movement closer or farther from the bee lost the focus, so most of the photos were out of focus.

Bee on Echinacea Flower 1 small

Bee on Echinacea Flower 2 small

Bee on Cantaloupe Flower 1 small

Bee on Flower 2 small

Native Bee on Cantaloupe Flower 1 small

This last one is a species of bee native to California. Honey bees aren’t native here, and I’ve read different sources saying we have over 1000 or maybe even over 1600 species of native bees. I don’t know which one this is, but I think it’s a solitary miner bee that digs little holes. They’re very tiny and move fast so it’s hard to even see them, and especially hard to get a close photo.