Friday, January 28, 2011

Downy Woodpecker in Watercolor

My second painting for the month of January is a little downy woodpecker painted in watercolor and gouache. This one would be a male which you can tell by the small spot of red on the back of his head. In doing my research I discovered that the reason they are called "downy" woodpeckers comes from the fact that they have a small tuft of feathers at the base of their bill. Hairy woodpeckers look very similar except they are larger with a longer bill. They also have a tuft of feathers at the base of their bill, but they get to be "hairy" instead of just "downy". Kind of makes you wonder how they come up with some of these names, doesn't it?

Anyway, I saw several of these little woodpeckers flitting around from tree to tree and they were calling. I actually heard them first and since it was an unfamiliar sound I listened closely to locate the bird making the noise. I was surprised that it was coming from the downy as I have never heard them make any noise before except the familiar "tap-tap-tap" as they work along a tree looking for insects. I was also surprised by the fact that I saw three of them working on tree trunks near each other. I've normally only seen one at a time and these seemed to be following each other around. I recall reading that downy woodpeckers may mate for life and locate their mates by tapping on the trees as early as January so perhaps that's what I was witnessing and maybe it's an indicator that spring isn't too far off!

I created this painting for a special lady in my life.... my mother in law. She has been a great supporter of my art and also shares my love of nature, gardening and birds. My husband shared with me that she always liked seeing the little woodpeckers come to their feeders when they were kids and because her birthday is coming up this was a no-brainer.

Though the original is gone, if you love downy woodpeckers an art card/ACEO is available through my Etsy store at Take a look and see what else is new!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Barn Owl in Acrylic

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took an early morning walk to a nearby habitat area. I wanted to show him something I had discovered there which I believed to be owl pellets (those are the undigested parts like fur and bones that the owls regurgitate.) I was hoping to discover the bird that had left these behind . While I was pondering the type of owl it might be, there was a commotion above us and something shot out of the tops of the evergreens and careened into a nearby tree. Landing off balance with wings askew and a bewildered look about him was this barn owl.

Now a barn owl was not one of the choices that came to mind when I was thinking owls. I expected a screech owl, great horned owl or perhaps a saw whet owl, but not this one. I was quite surprised to see him. And I'm pretty sure we disturbed his slumber so I'm betting he was just as surprised to see us, too.

Eventually, he composed himself and looked around to figure out what had happened, but he either decided we weren't a threat or was too dazed to fly off because he sat there while I snapped numerous photos.

When I returned home and viewed the photos, I was struck by the subtle beauty of this bird. Dressed in shades of brown, black and white he was nearly camouflaged in the tree where he landed. I was drawn to those soft shades and thought it would make a striking picture of him in the bare tree against a winter background.

This painting is the first for 2011. It was done in acrylic in a more contemporary format measuring 10" x 10" and will be listed for sale in a few weeks. Inquiries may come to me at