Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hummingbird Series - Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummer (male) and Larkspur - 5" x 5" acrylic
It seems like this last pair has taken forever to complete! I struggled with this one because of my lack of good photo reference and familiarity with this tiny hummer. I had photos of a male in flight and a perched female, but I wanted to do one more set of a pair feeding at a flower. How hard can it be to come up with a composition? Well, apparently it can be harder than you think.

I first started with the flying pose, but then couldn't seem to find an appropriate flower to have the bird feeding on. All my photos showed the birds at my feeder, not at flowers, because when they came through eight years ago I didn't have any flowers blooming for them to feed on. Then I thought I would just do the pair perched on something, but didn't have reference for that either, so....back to idea number one.
Calliope Hummer and Larkspur (female) 5" x 5" acrylic
The next problem was finding the appropriate flower to have them feeding on. Since these little hummers are more common to mountain meadows at 4000 to 11,000 feet in elevation I didn't feel it would be correct to have them feeding on say, zinnias, so I packed up the dog and the cameras and headed for the mountains in Idaho to gather more reference and, maybe if I was lucky, find one of these hummers there, too. 
Camas flowers near Moose Creek Reservoir, Bovill, Idaho
In the past I have seen Calliope hummingbirds at Moose Creek Reservoir. That is where I decided to go and the photo shows the type of habitat that one might find a Calliope in. It was beautiful there and I found lots of wildflowers to photograph like the blue camas flowers in these photos.
Camas flower
 I set out a hummingbird feeder while having my lunch hoping to lure one in, but had no luck with that. Instead, I had to be content with photographing wildflowers and butterflies and being pollinated by thousands of pine trees releasing clouds of pollen in the breeze.

Back home I went over my photos again and finally, FINALLY, was able to come up with a composition I liked that accurately depicted our smallest hummingbird. (Did I mention that accurately depicting the size of your hummingbird next to the flower it's feeding on is another challenge when you don't have a photo that shows the size difference of the two?).

So, this hummingbird series is officially finished and with this final pair my quota of thirty paintings for my upcoming show has been reached, with over half of those paintings completely new work in the last six months. This puts me ahead of my deadline and releases me to be able to paint at a more leisurely pace and to tackle my next challenge, another state duck stamp contest due in August. As a reward and a celebration for reaching my goal I think a few days relaxing in those mountains I just visited would be just what I need to recharge the batteries and refill the well of inspiration!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hummingbird Series - Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned and Blue Salvia-5" x 5" acrylic and casein
Next up, couple number three is a pair of black-chinned hummingbirds. This species is more subtly colored than the first two being metallic green on the back with grayish-white on the belly.The male has a black gorget with a thin strip of iridescent purple that can be seen in good light. 
Black-chinned and Blue Salvia II-5" x 5" acrylic and casein
The female is colored similarly, but without the gorget. Her throat often has subtle spotting. 

Black-chinned are found in a variety of habitats, from desert to mountains. They are very adaptable and frequently found in urban habitats that have lots of flowering trees and flowers and are the species I see most often in my garden throughout the summer. I have chosen to picture them with the blue salvia that grows in my garden because I love the color and it picks up the bluish-purple shades in the males throat. 

One more species to go now, the Calliope hummer. I am still working out the composition for this one as this species is the one I see less often in my garden and have fewer reference photos for it. They are more common at higher elevations than where I live so it may require a quick trip to the mountains to see if I can find any. Sounds like a good excuse to get out of the valley!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hummingbird Series-Rufous Hummingbird

Fire in His Heart - 5" x 5" acrylic - Rufous Hummingbird male
The next hummingbird in the series is the feisty and fiery rufous hummingbird. I love these little buggers! The males are bright, rusty orange and the gorget under their throat flashes shades of yellow, orange and green fire. You can't miss them when one of these flies into your yard!
Fire in Her Heart - 5" x 5" acrylic - Rufous Hummingbird female
 The female shows subtle shades of orange with an iridescent green back. She sometimes will have a small patch of fire on her throat or maybe a series of small spots. Both of these hummers have a hot temper to go with their color and can usually be found guarding a feeder aggressively. Occasionally, I have been between a rufous and a perceived sugar water thief and have had them fly close enough to feel their wings brush my hair as they "chip, chip" furiously at the intruder and give chase. It's exciting and intimidating all at the same time! 

Well, the first four are finished with four more to go. The next pair of black-chinned hummingbirds is on the drawing table and work is in progress. With any luck I will have them done by next week. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hummer Series-Anna's Hummingbirds

"Looking for love"- 5" x 5" acrylic- Anna's Hummingbird male

As many of you know, hummingbirds are some of my favorite birds. I love their iridescent colors and feisty personalities. Since they are at the peak of spring migration right now and visiting the feeders in my yard, I thought it would be a great time to do some paintings of them.
"Looking for love, too!" - 5"x 5" acrylic - Anna's hummingbird female
I have decided to do a series of eight small format paintings featuring the male and female of the four most common species here in the Northwest. I felt I needed some smaller, more affordable pieces for my show and these will all be
5" x 5" in size. I also felt it was important to include the female of each species. Though nowhere near the brilliant colors of the males, the females are no less beautiful. Many still have iridescent colors though they are more subtle. It's an adaption as with most birds to protect them while nesting by helping them blend in to their surroundings.
The first in this series is the Anna's hummingbird. While they are more common along the coasts of California to Washington, they are beginning to move further inland and so we are starting to see them more often on the eastern sides of Washington and Oregon and into Idaho as well. These are usually the hummingbirds I see at my feeders in November and December and what a delight they are to see in those winter months!
The next in the series will be a pair of rufous hummingbirds, followed by black-chinned hummers and finishing up with Calliope. So keep a close watch on this site as you won't want to miss them!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Osprey Montage

Osprey Montage-watercolor, gouache, pencil
In spite of the fact that I haven't been very good at posting lately, painting for the October show still continues, though at a somewhat slower pace. I have had to give my back a break over the past month as sitting for hours at my drawing table has caused some old spinal problems to resurface. I haven't quite figured out how to paint while lying on the floor with your feet on the couch. That was the only way I was able to make my back stop screaming at me! Made me think of how Michelangelo ever painted the Sistine Chapel while lying on his back! Anyway, I have managed to complete another five paintings in that time and this is one of them.
Osprey nesting
 As I've been contemplating various ideas for my thirty paintings I decided I wanted to try some mixed media compositions. I also wanted to do a few pieces that just featured a bird in more detail and with different poses to better capture the character of that species. About this time the osprey started to return to the valley to nest, giving me some good opportunities to study them in a little more depth.
Osprey diving
There were so many possibilities of pose combinations to include in this montage that I had a hard time settling on a composition, but eventually I had to make a decision and chose to do a head study to show that incredible raptor eye, a perched bird to show how they wait and watch for fish and a bird hovering in mid-air just before that cannon-ball dive when they spot their prey in the waters below.

I completed the piece in watercolor and gouache along with a pencil study with a watercolor wash. I did the pencil study in part because I could sit on my couch with my feet up to work on it while giving my back a break and not have to worry about getting paint all over my good furniture. I also did it just because I wanted to do a little pencil work for a change and like the look with a little watercolor on it.

I like the way it turned out, but as I said, there were so many possibilities with this subject that there may be another piece in the future. You'll just have to wait and see!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Saw-whet Expressions

Saw-whet Expressions-pencil and watercolor-9" x 12"
Northern saw-whet owls are one of North Americas smallest owls. They are not much larger in size than a robin and have huge yellow eyes making them look cute. They are anything but that! Though this tiny owl can go through a myriad of cute facial expressions they are fierce nocturnal hunters, preying primarily on mice and voles. They are primarily forest dwellers, preferring conifers, but I have found many urban parks and cemeteries hosting these birds tucked in the branches of the conifers there.
Northern saw-whet in yew tree
I decided to capture some of the many expressions these tiny owls can have in a simple pencil sketch. Just for fun I also included a little watercolor wash in places. I enjoy creating these types of pieces as they can generally be executed quickly, are relaxing to do and elegant in their simplicity. Once in a while it's just nice to take a break from the more complicated pieces and have a little fun!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Feel Free to Hunt

Feel Free to Hunt-acrylic 14" x 18"
The month of March is nearly over and I have been working diligently to complete my three paintings for the month. I have two done, but I had to pull off for one week to complete several remarques for the Delaware duck stamp prints. This last week isn't done yet so I may still get something quick and easy in before it's over.

The painting I'm featuring today is called "Feel Free to Hunt" and my subject is a coyote. There is a story behind this painting, of course! 
Coyote watching me
A few years back I had a day where I just needed to get away, clear my head, talk to God. I went for a drive and came across a field with a sign that said "Feel Free to Hunt" so I knew the landowner allowed access to their property. I stopped and walked into the field, sat down and talked to God for a while. It was late afternoon on a beautiful early fall day. The sun was low and the field of tall grasses glowed in it's warm light. As I sat there quietly I noticed a pair of ears coming towards me through the grass. The ears belonged to a coyote that was on the prowl for an afternoon snack. It stopped several yards from me and we sat watching each other for a little while. Apparently, deciding I was no threat, it continued on it's quest. A few moments later I saw it leap into the air and disappear. When it resurfaced it had a small rodent in it's mouth. It then turned and trotted off with it's prize.
Reference sketch 
I had no camera with me that day, but the experience was imprinted on my mind. When I came home I immediately made a sketch along with notes about what I had seen, the colors and late afternoon light. I knew that at some point I would paint our encounter. Working from my reference sketch and various other sources I set about recreating that moment in this recent painting. I wanted to capture the moment that the coyote leaped into the air pouncing on it's unseen prey. I wanted to portray the warm light. I also thought it would be fun to hide the sign "feel free to hunt" somewhere in the painting as it was significant to both the coyote and me. I was hunting for answers and the coyote was hunting for food. I think we found both in that field. As always God provides.