Sketching Birds

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This has been the year for sketching the birds I am photographing and spending time watching all the youngsters figure out their big new world. I started last fall doing the above types of 5 second sketches.

I like to use ink for the initial sketches because it forces me to capture their essence without overworking and overthinking it. Perfection is not the aim and ink is always full of lines that can not be erased, so that forces my letting go of the OCD side of my personality.

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This month I started spending a little more energy on the initial sketch then adding various views of the same bird in pencil.  We have had so many Downy Woodpecker babies this year that I decided to catalog them to see who sticks around. Did you know that you can tell them apart by their head stripes? It has been fun and very illuminating to learn about these individuals visiting my feeder.

Note: I have been naming them only because it is easier to talk about them with a name versus – “you know, that one with the squiggly stripe…”

Sketchbook Studies – The EYE is Key

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For $100 you can spend 10 Monday evenings with 2 well known Indiana artists, John Reynolds and Bruce Neckar, either learning to draw or honing your skills. They give you supplies, generously provided by Prizm Art Supply in Indy (a favorite art store of mine, so I am happy to give them a plug!) The classes are hosted by Nickel Plate Arts in Noblesville, IN, where John and Bruce have their studio.

If you want to see what a working artist’s studio looks like, you should check it out sometime!

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These classes (or workshops) are conducted in a laid back fashion and you get out of it what you want to put into it. The guys are very happy to coach and answer questions or help you get unstuck, if you ask.

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For 2 of the 10 weeks the guys brought in stuffed specimens to give us an as-close-to-a-real-thing in drawing wild birds as an artist can get. That was a highlight for me.

I love birds and have been painting raptors for over 30 years, so it was fantastic to get this close and to be able to study them. I spent the time doing quick sketches to “feel” the birds, as opposed to trying to do a finished piece.

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Taming the Dragon

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I am learning, as I open myself up to more spontaneous illustrations, that I never know where it will take me. It scares me sometimes, yet the time is right. There is this desire to expand that must be satisfied.

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When the business blogger sent me an article called Taming the Multitasking Dragon, it only made sense to have a busy dragon. In the end, I left him to stand on his own, no extras, but along the way I learned that researching dragons was not that easy. I mean – no one has actually seen a dragon!

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You can look up vintage dragons, you can look up current art on dragons, but in the end, you can do whatever you want with a dragon. I also reviewed bats wings, goats faces, eagle’s talons. The tail was a mix of reptile, squirrel and imagination.

Somehow he ended up pregnant looking, but that was ok. One observer really wanted to just “poke that fat belly.” Yeah – you try that! He has fire!

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Weekly Sketchbook

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The only way to get to know a subject is to study it. Over the years I have taken copious photos of hummingbird moths, but until I started doing these fast sketches, I don’t know that I really had seen them. Gorgeous little creatures about the size of the end of your thumb.

My favorite pen for fast sketches is the Micron 05. I am branching out and trying others too. It is amazing how awkward that can feel.

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I also used a Copic brush this week for the chickadees below. It has been a long time. I have some work to do with that tool to get back to some level of comfort.

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Weekly Sketchbook – Winter Birds

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An exercise in “seeing”. I call these my 5 second sketches and am challenging myself to do them daily.

In using a Micron pen, it keeps me from attempting to perfect the sketch and just move on.

I am studying Indiana backyard birds that winter over for some oil painting I am working on.

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