Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Next Step in Bird Portrait Painting

Here's the drawing table, supplies, set-up as I prepared to use the photos & tiny sketches in putting the images on the square canvases.

Because I haven't painted in acrylics on canvas in SO long (except for "Birds on a Wire" in 2013), I've chosen to work on "bargain" canvas. These are available at Michael's - see here; and at JoAnn Fabrics see here:. Each store offers coupons for 40-50% off every other week or so - which I save & use for the pricey purchases I need. Normally, these are sold in packages of 7 for $25.00 or so. They frequently offer them at $19.99 for the sets of 7 12" square canvases. Or you can use their coupons & get a really GREAT price!

Below are 11 of the 14 canvases ready for painting.

Blue Jay in vine charcoal
Above, you can see the really quick layout done in vine charcoal. I gently wipe the charcoal off and then do the pencil study directly over the hinted layout on the canvas, correcting proportions as I go. See below.
Blue Jan in pencil

Blue Tit


Carolina Wren - 1

Carolina Wren - 2 These wrens are quite petite and this drawing makes the bird seem HUGE. However, I wanted it up-close-and-personal, and it is!

European Robin

European Robin upside-down - this view helps me recognize any problems in proportions, etc.

Fairy Wren (Australia)

Yellow-shafted Flicker

Pine Warbler - one hit our window this summer, so I learned what it was after some research! Warblers are really hard to spot in the wild...


Rose-breasted Woodpecker

White-throated Sparrow

Acrylic Paints readied on the table

I have 2 easles (thank you, Polly Miller, for the wooden one!)

Here's a view of my studio - from the doorway. It's in the basement so I need an oil-radiator style heater to warm up the room in the winter. The window faces NorthEast thus never gets direct sunlight. But natural light is available all day long, thankfully. I need lots of light, especially in winter!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pencil Studies for a Series of Bird Portraits

As of today, I have completed 29 small pencil drawings in preparation for painting a series of bird portraits. Each square is roughly 2 1/2" square - allowing for a quick study of each bird, noting shapes, values, angles, etc.

Most of the birds are quite common, at least in the places I have lived over the years.

Note: the common name for each bird is noted below the drawing. I've begun to plan the actual layouts on the stretched canvases and consider the type and color backgrounds for each as I go along.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Tufted Titmouse

Today, I was able to catch another frequent visitor to our feeders, a Tufted Titmouse. While I couldn't really catch a super close-up, I was able to catch a full frontal view. They are frequent winter birds here, along with the Junco's.

Also managed to do a few more bird portrait drawings for my upcoming series - in between loads of laundry, cooking dinner, dealing with the chimney sweep, and watching the girls. Someday soon I'll start sharing the pencil studies.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Birds, Birds, BIRDS!

Downy Woodpecker (male)

I like to watch the birds, summer/winter/spring & fall. Winter bird watching is definitely one of my favorite winter pastimes. I keep a point-and-shoot camera in my pocket all the time with the fond hopes of catching a great photo-op. With the twins, photo ops happen all the time. With birds, photo ops are rare & treasured.


White-throated Sparrow

Here are a few of my recent photo ops of winter birds that make me happy to be alive, aware, and carrying my camera. These are taken from our kitchen windows.

Male Cardinal

Carolina Wren

Male Cardinal

Carolina Wren


Mourning Dove

Dark-eyed Junco

The one below is a recent acrylic painting of a group of Goldfinch on a wire. It measures 40" square and hangs above my bed.

I'm planning an entire series of bird portraits paintings in acrylics on 12" x 12" canvas as my 2014 art project of the year. Watch for more in the coming weeks/months.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Life Changes - Changing Life - Remembering...

Now that I'm 70-something, I find it's easier to look backward rather than forward. Life takes on new meanings and there are new ways of seeing what has been. And it's easy to be grateful for the new perceptions as they bring understanding that was missing when I was younger.

For instance, when I was just 3 years old, my family moved in with my grandparents for an extended stay of 7 years. I'm sure my parents never wanted or planned to stay that long, but that's the way things worked out. As for my grandparents, they were in their mid-60's when we arrived and in their 70's when we moved two blocks west of their home. I have an sister five years older than I, and while we were living with our grandparents, my younger sister was born when I was 5 and my older sister was 10. It was another 5 years before the family moved to our own home.

My grandparents had a lovely home, built in 1929 - white stucco with deep red trim. There were two bedrooms on the main floor along with the kitchen, living and dining rooms. There were two large rooms on the 2nd floor. One was a large bedroom with a huge walk-in closet - rare in the 1940's. There was a clothes chute that we used for sending laundry to the basement. And the basement was huge - at least to my child-self. Pop Pop had a workroom that he used as a dark room for his photography. There was a large laundry room, where the laundry fell from the clothes chute into a tall, wheeled, wooded lattice cart. That laundry cart occasionally became a jail cell for one of the younger ones - if the older ones could talk us into getting into the cart. The bribe was generally a "ride" in the cart - and that bribe worked remarkably often! On laundry day, the laundry was removed via the cart door, sorted, and washed with a ringer-washer, then hung in the cellar to dry, unless it was warm enough. Then the laundry was carried out back and hung on the clothes lines outside. And those clothes always always smelled SO clean and SO good. I still love to hang my sheets outside in decent weather. Funny how my spouse doesn't especially care for the smell of laundry hung outdoors...

There was more to the basement - a fruit cellar, a small toilet room (the 2nd in the house - also rare in the 1940's). And there was one large room that we used as a play room. It had a full sized ping pong table at one end, Gam's ancient pedal Singer sewing machine, tables, chairs, and a book case. On the walls hung maps from the Minnesota Highway Department, where my grandfather worked after his first retirement. Pop and I used to play "Find It" with the maps - of course, he knew the state very well, but he pretended not to know where every Minnesota lake, city, town, river, and more were located. And I learned where many of the cities, towns, rivers, lakes and more were located. I learned how to read maps, something I have loved doing ever since - whether or not I need to figure out how to get somewhere shown on the map. Maps are works of art, things of beauty, as well as useful tools, in my opinion.

Enough remembering for now... in fact, I wrote this in September, and now it's January 2014!

Happy New Year!

Our Christmas photo from a few years ago, when Spunky was just a pup!

Our New Year begins with Christmas Eve & Christmas, followed by our wedding anniversary, our grandson's birthday, New Year's Eve, the New Year & finally, my husband's birthday. After all that celebrating, it was time to remove the Christmas decor and return to a simpler style. So during the twins nap time yesterday, the ornaments were removed, the lights taken down, the celebratory items that had been scattered around the house all were rounded up and put away in appropriate boxes.

I'm always saddest when I remove the Christmas music from the current style electrical player and put it away for another year. Christmas music, of all the different genres, brings back so many memories - most of which are very good. In high school, I was a member of Freshman Choristers & then the celebrated St. Joseph's Academy Glee Club. Each year we sang the Messiah in the school auditorium, and we sang with many other singing groups at the St. Paul, MN Auditorium annual Christmas concert. Our family loved music and music was always a large part of our holiday celebrations. Dad played the concertina/accordian and everyone sang along.

Or mom played the old upright piano while everyone sang along.

Above is the family Christmas Angel tree topper - in the family for as long as I can remember! Below, our Christmas Village, which began in 1937, the year our parents married. I have a larger version of the village now - but rarely set it up, since it's SO large, takes So much time to set up (& pack away) and we now have 17+ month old twins in our home!

The village church, which I've since donated to my younger sister's village collection.

This is a shot of my village - just the open fence in the front. Can't find the full photo of the whole village, complete with ice rink, skiing mountain, singers, trees, etc. all in the 1940-50's vintage, with a few newer items

And a quick shot of our 2013 Christmas tree, the smallest tree ever for our family! The twins are primarily responsible for the size of the tree, and just maybe our aging bodies!!!

And every January 6th or so, Feast of the Epiphany, our holiday decorations disappeared to the attic for 11 long months only to return, bit by bit, at the beginning of Advent. So, too, this year, our decorations have disappeared into the closet, our little tree graduated to the front porch, the vacuum has absorbed most of the pine needles, and all is well on Mayberry Lane.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy & Healthy New Year, 2014!