What do we know about creating gods? The ancient Egyptians marveled at the little curiosity of a dung beetle, rolling its portion of what it considered wealth into a perfect sphere to traverse the landscape and be placed in a more opportune local, and were reminded of the sun. They fashioned their Sun god Khepera after this lowly beetle, believing that the sun was pushed across the sky in a similar manner.
From dung sculptor to god is a mighty leap indeed. Maybe it’s no wonder since it can pull over 1,100 times it own body weight, making it the strongest insect on earth. Perhaps that should be “push” since the dung beetle pushes its ball of poo around with its hind feet, periodically stopping and clambering atop to get its bearings. I guess I can see where the Egyptians’ logic might have led them to believe that there must be something fantastically strong to move the sun from one side of the sky to the other.
I’ve taken a mighty leap myself this time around in using acrylic metalic paint to give this little guy some extra glow and invoke the sun. He’s out there searching for his life source unaware of the great import we mere mortals have bestowed upon him.
Today is a bright sunny day so I’m not sure how much of the blue I’ve added to the neck of my egret you can see. That’s the trouble with photographing a white subject in bright sun light, it tends to flatten out because the contrast goes away.
I’ve filled in the beak and the eye so he’s got some life to him for sure. Now I’ve got to give him a couple legs to stand on. The frilly feathers off his tail were once again masked out so that they remain white against the blue shadow of his left side. I want the white back and feathers to sparkle against the depth of the blue water beneath him. I’ll add more blue to his side and neck for more contrast and definition. He’ll become a three dimensional bird rather than the flat object he is right now.
Still very much a work in progress. All those little white dots sprinkled throughout the water are reflections of sunlight. They’ll get a touch of color here and there to give them definition as well. Funny how much color they have when you look at them up close. Your eye registers white, but there’s a whole lot more going on.
I’ve had my eye on this guy for a couple years to find the right moment to make him into a painting. I love Great White Egrets for their elegance and dazzle. A boy do they dazzle in full breeding plumage like he’s wearing.
The painting is toward the middle of completion. I seem to get so involved in laying in the background that I forget to take pictures as I go. But once the water is on you have to go at it fairly fast and direct. I’d need someone standing over my shoulder clicking away to get pictures of the thing in progress.
If the egret looks a little ghostly and legless that’s because I’ve covered him in masking fluid to protect his white while I painting the background. The legs I’ll re-draw once I’m satisfied with the water around him. I’m not that concerned right now that they’ve gone missing under the paint.
Once completed, I intend to include this as my new painting for my submission to the invitational for Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital. The contrast and richness should make an impression.
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.
Seeing bison in preserves like the ones at Land Between the Lakes just east of us makes you wish they still roamed wild. They appear as unlikely visions that you imagine as folklore instead of something alive and breathing. In their natural state, running to the hundreds in wide open spaces must have been spectacular to witness. Sort of like seeing herds of wildebeests in Africa.
But they’re still majestic in their brooding bulk. Their wool hangs in beards around their necks and chins with little dreadlocks as top-notches at the back of their head. When we took these pictures a couple years ago it was a warm Summer day and this fellow was doing the sensible thing. Standing in the only pool of water available. His fellow bison were just beyond munching grass. He eyed us warily as we stopped the car to take a picture of him just along the fence line at the side of the road. So tantilizingly close, and yet so far from here.
Yesterday I painted the companion piece to this one. It’s the same Carolina Wren but taken as he jumped around among the banana leaves and dry stalks looking for bugs. He’s definitely doing that here in this pose. They never stay still long, which makes me wonder how they can see something so small as a bug in such a short period of time.
Last summer we had a pair of Carolina Wrens that frequented our flower gardens, especially in back of the house. This year I never saw them. Maybe I just wasn’t alert enough, but I sure did miss them. I even hung a small bird house made especially for wrens but none ever came nor did any other bird use it, for that matter. For a brief moment I thought it might be inhabited by paper wasps but that turned out not to be true.
We have some kind of wrens in San Miguel around our house there, which we see usually early in the morning or at dusk when they make their way around the rocks and our brick fence looking for bugs in the crevices. I’ve even had them perch momentarily on my kitchen windowsill, an act I consider to be of supreme order.
This little guy (and I assume it is a guy) we saw in the tropical foliage in Florida a couple years ago on a visit to Corkscrew Swamp. I’m sure I didn’t hear him, not being reliably able to hear birds with higher pitched voices, but we managed to spot him from his flitting about the big banana tree leaves. I think I’ve made him look a bit like a robin, but tomorrow I plan to do him in another pose, so I have a second chance of making him even more true to life. Even so, I like to think of this Springtime bird as the weather turns to Fall. Something to look forward to at the other end of Winter.