Just a little 5” x 7” ink drawing of a plague bird.
There is this awesome place in Utah that I hope to visit before I die. It’s the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City. They have a FB page where they post wonderful photos of their birds. I saw a photo they posted of their Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus), Zelda. I fell in love with her and wanted to draw her very badly. I requested permission to use their photograph as a reference and they granted it. So without further ado, here’s Zelda.
I think she’s the most difficult bird I’ve attempted so far. I hope I did her justice.
Many decades ago, I bought a set of pastels at a fire sale. It was a real fire at a local store where I lived at the time. The owners sold everything in stock that was not too badly damaged. Mostly, things just smelled of smoke. I scooped up a 90 color set of Rembrandt soft pastels for a song (no dance). I recently looked up the going price for the set in today’s market and it was something over $300.
(ack! I did get a deal)
Anyway, I did of few pictures with them, teaching myself as I went along and they were okay. And then my mom died, life got way busier shuffling home, work, kids, 2 jobs, and all the rest that goes with being a single mom with no money. There was really no room (or time) for art. I did a few pastels now and then for friends but nothing worth noting.
So now with my kinda-sorta project of producing works on paper of animals that are endangered, maligned, or misunderstood, I thought I’d break out the pastels and see if I remembered how to make them work. Here’s the test, on a baby robin that I snapped a picture of while he was perching on the cable wire outside my window. Even though his mom was still feeding him, he felt quite proud of himself and his new found freedom.
I have an online friend who is an amazing artist, sculptor, and photographer. Her wildlife photography brings me to tears (literally) with it’s beauty and sensitivity. Recently, I asked if she’d allow me to use some of her photos as art reference for my work and she said yes.
When I saw her photograph of an egret, I wanted to do a minimalist, “white on white” drawing. Not sure if I pulled it off to my satisfaction but I think it’s okay for a first attempt.
For the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve been concentrating on learning to sculpt in clay. I think I’ve managed to get a handle on the medium and looking back on my sculptures, I believe I’ve progressed reasonably. I’m even rather proud of a few of my pieces, and that, for those who know me, is quite a statement.
There are issues. One is that the art center I go to has become prohibitively expensive. I would buy a kiln but there is no safe place to install it in this teeny, overpacked house. So, my plans to sculpt a series of endangered, misunderstood and maligned animals has become undoable.
Before I began sculpting, my medium was oils, but here again, I have a logistical problem with space. I am working in a tiny corner of the tiny “sunroom” which is actually just an enclosed porch with a lot of drafty windows, ugly paneling and because of its shape, is more shaded than lighted. I share this space with my parrot, Milo. The fumes from turpentine and linseed oil are not so good for parrots. Also a very steeply sloped ceiling makes setting up my easel impossible. Oils are right out.
I decided that I need to develop my ideas using not-toxic materials that can be done in a small setting without spending a fortune. My solution was to learn how to use watercolors and colored pencils. I’m already quite adept with graphite — drawing with graphite is like breathing for me. I used to use charcoal all the time when I was younger, so despite being hideously rusty with charcoal, that’s in the new mix of preferred media.
The first animal I chose to research was the wood stork. By all accounts a most ungainly bird. Ungainly appeals to me. I did some preliminaries and then a graphite portait and a small watercolor. I am proud of the portrait and not too displeased with the watercolor. Here’s the portrait… what an impressive bird!
After I worked on this guy, I decided to look for other ungainly birds (I will return to the Wood Stork, I promise). As a lark, I started sketching flamingoes without giving them any serious thought. Suddenly, while trying to figure out that incredible beak, I realized that I needed to research this magnificent bird who has become not much more than a tacky lawn ornament to most in this country.
so here’s some stuff about flamingoes
as i was drawing their beaks during research, it occurred to me that their beaks reminded me of baleen whales.
and in the United States, we have turned them into cheap, pink plastic lawn ornaments.
Wiki entry for flamingoes is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamingo for more info.
So, this is the work I started with the flamingo. The flamingo (who was once a god) is teaching me watercolor (slowly and painfully), colored pencil (slowly but not so painfully), and a revisit with my old friend, charcoal. I hope you enjoy the flamingoes, and I hope you notice that this magnificent bird is anything but tacky.
One other thing I learned…I’m not very good at taking photographs of art. I also like wolverines.
But more about her later.
I wrote a whole post, added pictures and everything and just before I was gonna hit publish, terrible things happened and I lost it. I can’t bring myself to write it all over again but I will post the pictures. So just pretend you read an informative and witty post while you look at the pictures.
Here are a couple small watercolors I did of crows.
I’ve also been obsessing over Wood Storks. They have this lovely white and black plumage topped by bald, prehistoric faces screaming for moisturizer. They make me want to do a whole series of large, gangly water birds.
Lastly, I’ve done several sculptures but these are the two that are not disappointing.
The Red Fox is finished but the Wolverine is still in progress. The sculpting part is done but he needs to dry thoroughly and will probably not get into the kiln until September.
I’ve been taking pictures for a few years now without the slightest idea as to what I’m doing. By that I mean that I have no working knowledge of how photography works. I know so little, I feel embarrassed each time I pick up my camera and point it at things.
But I’m a stubborn sort of woman and I keep pointing and shooting and agonizing and researching and at this moment in time I have amassed approximately 8,000 pictures that live in my computer.
and i really should do something with them
So I’ve been looking into the vast unknown tips and tricks inherent in Photoshop and Lightroom and looking at things like textures, borders, and all sorts of other things that a 60+ year old artist with luddite leanings feels a little weird doing.
I need to make all this shit work artwise so that I don’t feel like I’m pissing away time and money. Here’s my first attempt at making a photograph look like something remotely interesting. If anyone feels compelled to comment, I’d be interested in your thoughts.
edit: Textures by RuleByArt.com. Great stuff to be had there.
It was a very nice day out today. I managed to assess the winter damage, put the grotto to rights, turn compost, ready the container garden on the deck and even uncover the back walk. And even even take some pictures of the feats.
Daffodils!! The story goes that my maternal grandpop won prizes for his daffodils.
more elder buds. This is the artsy stuff. See the artsy shadow?
Witch Hazel needs some help. It was a hard winter.
Not everything was all that wonderful. Winter was strangely harsh this year. Not a ton of snow (except in March) but a lot of frigid temps that killed off or distressed some of my plants and unfortunately, more than a few animals.
Upstream doesn’t look so bad, but…
Downsteram was a mess.
And the catbird skull which now lives in my office.
Winter’s leftovers will be dealt with next weekend.
Having finished planting some tomatoes and peppers in the deck boxes, I was leaning on the railing, contemplating nature and stuff, when a young blue jay swooped up from the gully and landed on the railing about 4″ from my elbow. He looked at me, I looked at him, and then a big male robin bombed him and a lightning quick scuffle ensued.
Blue jay beat wings to the other side of the deck with a broken tail feather and the robin, beak full of feathers, perched on the telephone wire and pooped his displeasure.