The weather is playing tricks with us here in Paducah, warming to the 50’s one day and then dipping into the 30’s the next. We had a warm spell over the weekend and so I let the feeder stand empty, knowing that the birds would have enough seeds in the dry grasses and barren flower beds to sustain them. But the past couple days have turned bitter again and so I had Dave fill up the feeder again. The sparrows crowd around around in mad confrontation, and I noticed that the male cardinal has finally learned to muscle his way in with them and stand in cool contrast on the edge of the feeder getting a seed or three while his less refined cousins squabble to get their share. I even had a purple finch (at least I’m calling it that since they’re so close to House Finches) and his mate this morning visit for a while.
With all this activity outside to inspire me, I took one last look at my painting, which had been resting on my drafting table for several day, and added a bit of burnt sienna and french ultramarine in a few places on the three sparrows with their backs to us. They needed a little more definition and color I decided.
So here they are finished, four sparrows on a sycamore limb, waiting out the cold and their turn at the feeder.
Snow forecast for tomorrow. I’ll have to restock their supply.
The little fluffy sparrows are filling out on their limb. I’ve created a composite composition from a couple of the photos I took when they were all feeding during the cold snap from a week or so ago. The two at opposite ends create a nice pair of bookends of action for the two still sparrows in the center. There’s less detail in those two, creating small ovals of quiet that want to fade into the grays and browns of the bare tree and the solitude of winter. The detail in their fellow sparrows creates a nice counter weight.
I’ll post the final outcome tomorrow of this winter scene in miniature. In the final stretch I’ll do the tree branches and add a little more color and details to the birds to bring the composition together.
The days have been cold, really cold, for over a week and have just today climbed above 40 F. I’m a sucker for the birds who are here during the winter, especially if I’m suffering from the extremes. So I’ve been religiously adding food to their feeder almost daily from the beginning of the cold snap. The sparrows are the most frequent visitors, with cardinals, juncos, and a few titmice and black capped chickadees every now and then gracing my presence. The feeder is just outside my studio window so it’s a constant distraction, source of entertainment, and for today, inspiration.
I took pictures last week of the sparrows sitting on a distal limb to the side of the feeder, waiting their turn. They line up in a plump row, little balls of fluff. I’m not particularly a sparrow fan, but everybody’s got to eat. And they’re kind of endearing at this time of year, so round and fit so well with the browns, grays, and sepias of winter.
I sketched out a composition and am in the middle of putting in the sparrows. The only one facing forward has come to life today. The background is a very direct wet-on-wet wash of French Ultramarine Blue, Indigo, Sap Green and Windsor Blue with a tiny touch of Permanent Rose. While it was drying I added a strategic sprinkle of sea salt for effect. Look for the little sparkley circular flares as the taletell sign. Come back tomorrow for another progress report.
A happy belated New Year, and new decade, to everyone! I feel a little like I’ve been hibernating with the bears and other animals that go into that torporous state every winter. It’s hard to stay active and productive during the dark days and cold of winter. The squirrels and winter birds make a continued stream to the hanging birdfeeder suspended from the sycamore tree outside my studio window. Their busyness nags at me to get going to earn my keep and stay vital during this down time of shortened days.
Hey, Mr. Squirrel! You’re eatin’ up all my birdseed! He doesn’t care, even when I actually go out and say that to him in person. He just juts his little face out, pauses for a moment to see if there’s any real danger, and then goes on munching when I obviously appear to be no threat.
I’ve been working for some time on developing images for a children’s story with friends of mine. This is a study for one of the first paintings that will become the book. I’ve not painted a lot of night scenes before so this was a bit of a challenge to get that atmosphere while illuminating the field in the foreground.
In the coming days I’ll give you a peek at my first painting of the year as it progresses. A tribute to my visitors of the birdfeeder. I have them sketched in today and will begin the actual painting tomorrow, as long as I’m not distracted in other directions.