In The Studio: Three New Bird Paintings

piliated-woodpecker
Piliated Woodpecker  oil  6×6″- observed and photographed in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

The juried show season is under way! I keep a long rectangular white board hanging on the wall next to my desk, divided into squares for each month, on which I list the shows I plan, to or am thinking about, entering.  Sometimes I enter work I already have on hand and sometimes I do new work just for that exhibition. In this case, these have been submitted for the Spring Auction at the Salmagundi Club. Entry in their shows, for which all but one are members only, is free and it’s a chance to get my work seen in New York. Not easy when you live in northern California. Notification will be later this month. I’ll let you know what happens. But, in or out, I had fun doing them and will be painting more small pieces like these in the future, which I plan to list on eBay.

Except for a stint in September, I’ve gotten very little oil painting time in since May of last year. So these pieces served two goals.. One, to get back in the groove, and two, to create some small works that will be easy to ship and, with luck, attract buyers.

I chose for my subjects three east coast species of birds. Two I saw on my trip to Georgia and New York State last March and the other a few years ago when I and two artist friends went to Assateague and Chincoteague Islands on a very fun road trip.

I wanted the emphasis to be on the birds with just a suggestion of location and habitat. So simple shapes and planning positive and negative shapes. I started with graphite drawings. I don’t do a lot of birds so I needed to make sure I understood what I was seeing in my reference photos and that I had the value pattern I wanted.

woodpecker

For this male piliated woodpecker I planned the composition to have the darkest dark  behind the bird’s head to pop out the black and white head pattern and also the red. It’s a warmer dark than the black of the bird, so there’s also a temperature shift. There are three shapes: the bird, the tree trunk and the background. I used  green because it’s the complement of red. In my reference photo, it being March, none of the trees had leaves and everything was brown. But so what? I’m the artist and can do anything I want.

nuthatch

This is a white-breasted nuthatch that came to a bird feeder outside the window of an artist friend’s home I was staying at in the Hudson River Valley. I’d heard of them but had never seen one, so was happy to get some good reference. I didn’t want to include the feeder so I put the bird on a tree trunk instead, using a photo I shot of the trees that surround the home of famous Hudson Valley artist Thomas Cole, not far from my friend’s home, so I knew it would be correct.

white-breasted-nuthatch-2
White-breated Nuthatch   oil   6×6″

For the background I wanted the suggestion of foliage with some sky showing through, which are called “sky holes”. I did the them quickly over the green. And pulled a little of the latter over the tree trunk to connect the foreground and background. Once again, three elements…the bird, tree trunk and background. No fussing.

gull

This laughing gull was perched on a post between a parking lot and the beach on Chincoteague Island. He was quite a good model and I had an excellent choice of reference to choose from. I’ll probably paint him again sometime. For this composition I went with one shape, the bird on his perch, against a plain background. No beach, surf or cars like were in the reference photo. Didn’t need or want them.

laughing-gull
Laughing Gull  oil  6×6″

As you can see, the gull’s proportions changed some from the drawing as I made corrections as needed on the painting while I consulted my reference photo. The blue sky alone didn’t seem like quite enough, so I added a soft band of warm white behind the bird. Notice also that I didn’t paint a single feather, but just treated each area as a shape that has a specific value and color. I had to get out a fine-tipped round synthetic brush to do the eye and bill, but I generally use Grand Prix Silver Brushes. I always use the biggest brush I can that will still get the job done.

Wildlife Sightings In Georgia and New York State, March 2016

Eastern cottontail
Eastern cottontail, Egan’s Creek Greenway, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

This is a wildlife wrap-up of my trip back east since my next trip to Mongolia is coming up in three weeks and I’ve got posts coming about that. I was going to do a short post about the wildlife that I saw in Georgia, a bit of Florida and New York state. Instead it took me almost all of yesterday to pick out one of each of as many critters as I had decent photos of and make any adjustments necessary. Turns out I saw a LOT. I’m going to start with mammals, then birds, reptiles and finally insects. It’s a long post, but I wanted everything in one place for future reference. Hope you enjoy this wildlife trip!

MAMMALS

White-tailed deer
White-tailed deer, Okefenokee NWR. Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia
Eastern grey squirrel
Eastern grey squirrel, Okefenokee NWR, Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia
Eastern grey squirrel, red squirrel
Eastern grey squirrel and red squirrel, Hudson River Valley, New York State (red squirrel was a new species for me)
Eastern chipmunk
Eastern chipmunk, Hudson River Valley, New York State
Muskrat
Muskrat, pond in the Hudson River Valley, New York (seen while out painting on location with Jim Coe; first muskrat I had ever seen, so had to post a photo even though it’s not a good one; for the record)

BIRDS

Wood stork
Wood stork, Harris Neck NWR
White ibis
White ibis, Okefenokee NWR, Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis, Savannah NWR, South Carolina
Anhinga
Anhinga, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Tricolor heron
Tricolor heron, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Great blue heron
Great blue heron Egan’s Creek Greeway, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida (notice the turtles off to the right)
Great egret
Great egret, Egan’s Creek Greenway, Fernandina Beach,  Amelia Island, Florida
Little blue heron
Little blue heron, Turtle River area, Georgia
Green heron
Green heron, Harris Neck NWR, Georgia
Ring-necked ducks
Ring-necked ducks, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Blue-winged teal; American alligator
Blue-winged teal; American alligator, Savannah NWR
Common moorhen
Common moorhen (juvenile), Harris Neck NWR
Turkey vultures
Turkey vultures, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Turkey
Turkey, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Pileated woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker, Okefenokee NWR
Hairy woodpecker
Hairy woodpecker, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpecker, Hudson River Valley, New York state
White-breasted nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatch, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Blue jay
Blue jay, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Purple finch
Purple finch and goldfinches, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Tufted titmouse
Tufted titmouse, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Cardinal
Cardinal, near Harris Neck NWR
Mourning dove
Mourning dove, near Turtle River, Georgia
Mockingbird
Mockingbird, near Turtle River, Georgia
Blur-grey gnatcatcher
Blue-grey gnatcatcher, near Turtle River, Georgia
Warbler
Warbler, Okefenokee NWR, Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia
-Palm warbler
Palm warbler, Egan’s Creek Greemway, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida
Slate-colored junco
Slate-colored junco, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Boat-tailed grackle
Boat-tailed grackle, Savannah NWR

Birds I saw but did not get photos of or don’t have good ones include: swallowtail kite (no photo), cormorants, various ducks, a belted kingfisher, cowbird, snowy egret, and gallinule.

REPTILES

American alligator
American alligator, Okefenokee NWR, Okefenokee Swamp Park ( The park people named him”Crazy” because he is very aggressive and is the current dominant bull gator; 12′ long, 800-900 lbs.)
American alligator
American alligator, Okefenokee NWR
River cooters
River cooters, Egan’s Creek Greenway, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida
Soft-shelled turtle
Soft-shelled turtle, Okefenokee NWR
Banded water snakes
Banded water snakes, Okefenokee NWR
Midland water snakes
Midland water snake, Okefenokee NWR
Midland water snake
Midland water snake, Okefenokee NWR
Penninsula ribbon snake
Penninsula ribbon snake, Okefenokee NWR
Water moccasin
Water moccasin/cottonmouth, Okefenokee NWR
Water moccasin
Water moccasin/cottonmouth (I was told by a local who works in the woods, so has to know snakes, that this was the biggest one he’d ever seen and, from the bulge, it looked like the snake had a “belly full of frogs). This species is extremely venomous)
Green anole
Green anole, Okefenokee NWR

INSECTS

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly
Spicebush swallowtail butterfly, Okefenokee NWR
Spicebush swallowtail butterfly
Spicebush swallowtail butterfly, Okefenokee NWR
Dragonfly
Dragonfly, Okefenokee NWR