Thursday, January 26, 2012

Short-eared Owl in Watercolor

Here it is in watercolor. Mostly loose and (hopefully) not too over-worked but I did have to redo the left eye a bit.

The outcropping behind the owl is a buffalo jump, or pishkun. Until the Spanish brought horses to North America, the native peoples would drive bison herds off of pishskuns like this one. Hunting from horse-back was much safer and easier, so pishkuns fell into disuse over the centuries. The top of this pishkun is now an expansive prairie dog town. We spotted a long-billed curlew up there. We were also hoping for a burrowing owl but no luck. Maybe we were being a bit greedy since we'd already gotten such fabulous looks at this short-eared owl.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Back on My Feet

Ugh, I came down with my first cold in a year and a half and it was not fun. Doing any art during this time was out of the question as it was dangerous to tilt my head at even the slightest descending angle. I kept the tissue people in business, let me tell you. My week was spent just getting through the essentials and resting in between. I'm not 100% yet, but I feel 100 times better. Being able to breathe is a wonderful thing.

As is usually the case when I can't do art for a while, when I can get back to it I want to dive right in. I haven't been doing much drawing lately and I miss it. I know a lot of artists hate drawing. I know a lot of artists look on drawing as a necessary evil that you have to do to get to the good stuff, like painting. Crazy person that I am, I actually love to draw. I find it so soothing, and the feel of graphite on good smooth paper is truly a pleasure. On the first day that I was breathing (mostly) normally and had decent energy, I went right for the pencils.

The result was this drawing of a short-eared owl my husband and I saw one morning outside of First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, near Great Falls, Montana a few years ago. It was sunning itself on a fence post and allowed us to watch it for quite a while. Being the high plains, it was a windy day and I tried to stay true to the wind blowing the owl's feathers and tufts around a bit. Also notice that the owl's one pupil is much smaller than the other one because of the strong morning sun.

I may turn this drawing into a full-blown painting. I am tempted to just add some light watercolor washes to it and keep it as more of a sketch. We'll see. I still have more work to do on the spoonbill and oystercatcher paintings as well, but I'm saving that for another post.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

More Works in Progress

The spoonbill painting continues to develop. I'm starting to block in the leaves, but still deciding if I'm happy with the sky. The blue seems wrong somehow. The sky in the photo this painting is based on is a deeper blue which certainly makes the bird stand out but somehow it feels like a stereotypical and boring blue, if that makes sense. Any suggestions?

I've also started another painting. I'm painting it for our living room and I wanted it to be more loose; less realistic. This is the first painting I've ever done specifically to hang in our own home. I switched to a canvas panel and I want to allow some of the canvas texture to show through. My main complaint about canvas panels is that the panels have a tendency to bow a little. I am hoping that once the painting is finished I can flatten it out somehow.

My models for the painting are from the Seattle Aquarium. The camera's flash really brought out the brown in their feathers, but I'm trying to paint the bird as you'd see it in the wild, where the natural light brings out more of the grays, blues and blacks in the feathers. These birds are called black oystercatchers, but their main diet is actually more along the lines of mussels and limpets that they find along the tideline in the Pacific. We love the Oregon coast, and look forward to spotting oystercatchers amongst the rocks on our visits so it is an appropriate subject for us. I'm still developing the background, obviously still painting the mussels, and still fussing over the bird's bill. Oystercatcher's bills are a bit unusual in shape and it is throwing me off a little. Overall I'm really enjoying the project though.