Two of my dearest friends recently commissioned watercolors, which I have put the finishing touches on this week.
American Kestrel Overseeing His Meadow
The first, an American Kestrel, was my friend’s spark bird–the species that inspired her love of birds. Twenty-five years later, kestrels still thrill her. When she asked me to do this painting she was very specific about the bird’s position, the habitat, and the background. Her preview of the near-completed work, bordered on elation. For me it was a relief to learn that the painting was exactly what she wanted.
The American Kestrel is the smallest member of the falcon family in the United States and Canada. Once a common sight across most of North America, this colorful bird of prey is now in serious decline, as shown by this 2009 map posted by the Peregrine Fund. In some areas, their disappearance has been precipitous, and I join legions of birders who hope that we can help them regain some ground.
It was equally uplifting when the husband of one of my best friends asked me to do another bird painting to commemorate a landmark birthday that she was about to celebrate. While spending the winter in Ecuador, she selected the subject species. Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan is a gorgeous bird found only in the humid tropical forests of Colombia and Ecuador. For visiting birders, it is high on the list of must-see local specialties. Good reference material is essential when I am painting a bird like this, so my friend’s husband provided several photos of the mountain-toucan that he took while in Ecuador. Fortunately I had explored the same areas in Ecuador several years ago, which helped get the creative juices flowing. It was indeed an honor to be asked to paint such a special birthday present.
There aren’t words to describe the exhilaration that comes from using one’s own hands to create a work of art that brings such joy to a friend.
Click on the photos to see a larger version.
Common Nighthawks in Red
This recent watercolor was inspired after spending the evening looking for owls on the east side of Mount Hood, Oregon. While waiting for darkness to fall a Common Nighthawk was heard giving its distinctly buzzy and nasal “peent” call. One of my favorite avian courtship display followed. To impress a female, male nighthawks dive at the females. As the wind rips through his flexing primaries a unique “boom” sound splits the air. Cavorting nighthawks enhanced an already splendid evening.
Watercolor on paper 9.5 in x 11.5 in
Adult male Eastern Box Turtles are dapper dudes. Last year, during an August visit back East, I got up close and personal with the adult male that frequents my best friend’s garden. Until seeing this beautiful male I had no idea they were so gorgeous. Rich oranges and yellows in incredible patterns adorned his shell. Fortunately my trusty iPhone camera was at hand and belly down in the driveway he was digitally captured. Later, Dale commissioned me to paint her turtle cozying up to blooming Prickly Pear that grows in her Cape May County, New Jersey backyard. Below is the resulting pastel that was great fun to paint.
Dale’s Box Turtle
Drawing animals began soon after my parents taught me how to draw. Horses were the initial favorite subject. During my teen years my horse portraits hung in the local tack shop that I used to frequent. Several years ago my mother gave me all her pastels and my very first drawing was of my mixed-breed, Rozi. Here is the most recent one. A larger version of Rozi in Red can be viewed in the Animal Gallery.
Rozi in Red
7.5″ x 8.25″
The book is still being penned but I am pleased to announce that the illustrations that I have been producing for the book are completed. The originals will be available for sale now that they have been scanned for publication. Several are already spoke for! For more details about the Birds of Montana see the Montana Audubon website here.
Several of my favorite new ones are this Ovenbird and American Bittern are below and can also be seen in the B&W Birds Gallery.
Every November for the past number of years it has been a distinct privilege to attend the Lower Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival as a field trip leader. It is one of the most delightful, activity packed, welcoming and biggest festival in America.
In 2012 instructing a class about drawing birds with three long-time friends was one of the highlights. Field Artistry was taught by Sophie Webb, Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis, and myself.
Michael O’Brien uses an open wing to show where feathers are located and their functions.
We selected one of the premiere birding locations in the valley, Estero Llano Grande State Park. The park provided a several great spots to watch birds coming to feeders. In addition, just off the Visitors Center viewing area is a pond where Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Least Grebes, and other waterfowl either swim or perch within feet of the class. There was also a nearby classroom for a short indoor presentation.
State Park Naturalist Kyle Haver brought out study skins which were really helpful in explaining bird topography, learning about feather placement and wing/tail structure, and drawing from.
During the day we drew live birds, specimens, and from projected photos.
Sophie Webb discusses drawing a specimen while Michael O’Brien overses from behind.
We hope to offer this course again in 2013.
The day after the Sluice Gallery opening Dale Rosselet accompanied me to Cook’s Beach in northwestern Cape May County. Just offshore was a series of old pilings covered with adult Forster’s Terns, just waiting to be sketched. Using my wonderfully small and light-weight Nikon 50mm scope to view them, sketching commenced.
It became apparent very soon thereafter that long pants would have been a wiser choice than shorts. Little and vicious biting flies plagued us as we sat on the beach. The flies emanated from the nearby marsh. There was no way to concentrate, even with a shirt draped over my legs.
Attempting to sketch Forster’s Terns before being thwarted by biting flies. PHOTO: Dale Rosselet on 7 August 2012.