Winter Robin

Robin in a Tree
Watercolor on printmaking paper, 5.5″ x 4″

A couple of weeks ago I saw this American robin in the aspen tree in front of my house. For some reason birds always act like they think you’ll reach up and grab them, even though my arms clearly aren’t that long (and I wouldn’t, anyways). All of the paints for this I made myself from dry pigments.

Walnut ink on printmaking paper, 3" x 4"
Walnut ink on printmaking paper, 3″ x 4″

Here’s a drawing from yesterday that was made with a fountain pen. It’s actually a copy of one of the photos I posted here about four years ago.

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African Pygmy Falcon

African Pygmy Falcon
Watercolor on 60 lb sketch paper, 3.25″ round

I painted this from a photo I took at the zoo, using the same palette as in the last post. The brush for everything was a #3 round kolinsky sable.

Rough draft with palette dish and brush.
Rough draft with palette dish and brush.

Instead of rushing into a new painting, it’s often helpful to first practice with a rough draft. When we look at something, even if we think we’ve seen it, there’s still so many details that are overlooked. A rough draft helps you become more familiar with the subject you’re painting and you’ll have a clearer idea of correct proportions and positioning while noticing previously unseen details.

Above is the previous page of the sketchbook where I was playing with the paint a little before deciding what to make. As the sketch progressed it became apparent that I had misjudged the width of the head, making it too narrow, and had also placed the beak too low. Seeing this helped me make a more focused effort in the areas that had been difficult in the first try. I hope this can show people that even if your first try has errors and isn’t what you wanted to make, you can still try again and do better.

Draw a Bird Day – Savannah Sparrow

Draw a Bird Day - Savannah Sparrow
Graphite and white pastel on tan paper, 9″ x 12″

This little sparrow had his portrait taken by me last spring, and although I’ve probably drawn this exact same bird before in another pose I wanted to do another sparrow.

I was thinking about when Jesus was reassuring that God has taken a deep interest in each of us, saying “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7 NIV)

I’m glad that Jesus chose a common sparrow for that illustration, and not something more majestic. Otherwise, there might be room for someone to think that they were too small for God to notice.

Draw a Bird Day – Immature Cooper’s Hawk

Immature Cooper's Hawk
Charcoal on gessoed paper, 8.5″ x 6.5″

On my morning walk I got some photos of a hawk that flew past me and landed nearby. My lens wasn’t suited for distance photos, but I got some good pose references and enough details to identify it.

There were several attempts made before this final one, but none were working well. When restarting an artwork it sometimes helps me to try a different medium. For this last one I wanted to try something different from normal, so this is sketch paper that’s been given one coat of white acrylic gesso to give it both a water resistant and slightly toothy surface. I then drew the hawk with charcoal and used a damp brush to blend or lighten it by pushing around or removing the charcoal. Normally I’m not a fan of charcoal at all as it’s a little messy to use, but this is worth doing again.

Cooper's Hawk ref

This is a small crop of the photo, enlarged 200%.

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
Watercolor, gouache, casein, and ink on sketch paper, 10″ x 12″

I was out of town most of last week, but got a few useable photos from the train.

Draw a Bird Day – Bald Eagle

Draw a Bird Day – Eagle
Watercolor, gouache, and ink on sketch paper, 11″ x 14″

This is referenced from yet another photo I took from the train. The photo is blurry but even these are still usable as a reference even if the real expression can’t be seen well. I just kind of drew something.

The pen was just a black Pentel Slicci. That was followed by various mixes of cerulean, cobalt teal, ivory black, van dyke brown, yellow ochre, and a couple of other yellows already on the palette that I’m not sure what they were. Some were watercolor and some gouache. The brush used for everything was a Princeton 6300 size 10 bright. It’s a very stiff synthetic brush meant for thick oil paint, just the opposite of pretty much all watercolor brushes, but the way it handles can be an advantage. The stiff bristles are robust and hold up well in a faster and more aggressive approach to a painting.

Draw a Bird Day – Young Robin

Juvenile Robin
Mixed media on sketch paper, 8″ x 9.25″

This is one of three baby American robins that came from a nest on the side of my house. For a couple of days it was hanging out around my front door, being fed by the parents.

Water soluble graphite was used for most of this, along with some red ochre conte crayon, yellow ochre dry pastel, and white casein paint. These were painted over with a mix of clear acrylic gel medium and clear acrylic gesso after they were applied to the paper, but the paint was mixed before use.

Juvenile Robin