Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More Ruddy Turnstones

Apparently I have not yet got the ruddy turnstones out of my system! This one was a very quick watercolor study, the challenge being to paint as loose as possible while still keeping important features such as the eye and beak from becoming abstract. To all you birders out there, does this convey essence of turnstone? Could you hazard a pretty good guess as to what bird was being painted (if you hadn't seen my spoiler title)?

I want to say thanks to everyone who left comments on my post about my painting inner dialog. It is reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who has such a harsh inner critic, but at the same time it is a shame so many of us have to deal with one.

Meanwhile, we've been enjoying above-freezing temperatures lately that will hopefully melt away all the ice so that we can safely go bird-watching again. It is very hard to spot birds up in the trees when your eyes are glued to the ground in front of you! I hope things are warming up for you in your favorite outdoor spots.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ugly Painting, Cute Cat

Madeleine keeps me company while I work. The painting was going well at this point.

The watercolor study in my last post was in preparation for an acrylic painting I did this past weekend. Everything was going quite well with the painting. I was especially excited because it was looking painterly rather than just representational. But then I got a little too enthusiastic and went too far. In my reference photos, there was a beautiful reflection in the wet sand that I really wanted to include but I pushed the wet sand value too dark. It is amazing how quickly a painting can go from success to disaster. But I am embracing the fact that for quite a while, I felt that the painting was successful. I don't often feel that way while painting. Usually when I am painting, my inner conversation goes something like this:

- This painting is coming along nicely. Ooo, I think a dab of paint right there would be just right!

- OMG, now look what you've done! That looks nothing like the reference. What the h*** were you thinking???

- I know I know, I screwed up. But hang on, I think I can fix it. Wait - if I just do this and then add that... There! See, it's fine now.

- Geez, you've GOT to be more careful. You were lucky you could fix it that time. Next time you might not be able to... Aaahhh! Ahhh! What are you doing now??? That looks terrible! You might as well just quit now. That's only going to end up in the trash anyway, so why waste more time on it?

- Could you please just shut up? I can't paint with you yelling.

- Well, why bother painting anyway? You'll never be a real artist. People will laugh at your stuff. Do you honestly think you have any talent? HA! I've seen 12 year olds who can paint better than you.

- Please shut up. Go away. You aren't helping. So I messed up this painting, but I can paint well.

- You are only as good as your last painting and this IS your last painting, Sister. You're getting worse at this, not better. You used to paint better 15 years ago. What the h*** happened?

- Okay, fine. That's enough. I've got to take a break. I can't paint with you yelling at me like this.

- Quitter. You'll never amount to anything if you just give up like that.

*Sigh*. Anyway, as I said, this conversation did NOT play out in my head this time, despite the big disaster. I take that as a very good sign. This is something I have noticed over the past seven months with the 100 Paintings Challenge - those kind of inner conversations happen less often when I paint on a regular basis. Note to self: keeping painting on a regular basis. And practice painting wet sand!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Watercolor Study #?

I need to sit down and count up all my paintings from the Challenge again. When I stopped posting every single thing I painted, I lost count of what I'm actually up to. I vaguely knew when I'd reached 50, the halfway point, but since then I keep painting without counting. So here's #? of a ruddy turnstone, a beautiful shorebird that is much easier to identify than the groups of sandpipers that are so hard to tell apart that birders collectively call them "peeps". Ruddy turnstones are found along the East, West and Gulf coasts in winter. However, I took this picture in Florida one June. Apparently the flock of turnstones that my subject was a part of had decided not to bother with the long migration to the Arctic for the summer and opted to stay in Florida year-round. Given everything that birds have to cope with during their migrations, I can't say I blame them.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

White-tailed Trogon - Acrylic 12" x 16"

Nothing like starting the new year with an old friend! I can't remember the last time I broke out the acrylic paints and did a complete painting. Probably when I did the sea gull painting that's featured in the header of my blog, which would have been about two years ago.

This painting was inspired by a great book by John Agnew - "Painting the Secret World of Nature" and the trogon I photographed at the Seattle Zoo. Mr. Agnew does a lot of murals and diorama paintings for museums and zoos. (Give you three guesses what I'd like to do someday...) The book has demonstrations about painting backgrounds and atmosphere to suggest the environment, without painting every little intricate detail - perfect for a recovering hyper-detail painter like me. However, I'm still struggling with adding scientifically accurate elements such as epiphytes and types of leaves found in the rainforest where the white-tailed trogon lives. Sure I can google-image the stuff but I find it so hard to then realistically incorporate those things into a painting. For example, what size would the leaves be in comparison to the bird? (Any artists out there - please leave your thoughts on and experiences with this in the comments section!) Maybe I should just stick to subjects in environments that I have an in-depth familiarity with. *Sigh* But it still felt really good to paint with an old friend.

Hope everyone had a wonderful New Years Eve (I was asleep by 10 pm).