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Old Sunday 29th August 2010, 06:38   #26
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Magical. The heron walking off the page is a cracker; beautifully drawn (legs especially) and bags of character and humour. Keep it up, King Solomon would be wringing his hands.
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Old Sunday 29th August 2010, 10:32   #27
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Another belated welcome to BF and keep the good work coming
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Old Sunday 29th August 2010, 13:48   #28
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Magical. The heron walking off the page is a cracker; beautifully drawn (legs especially) and bags of character and humour. Keep it up, King Solomon would be wringing his hands.
As usual Tim says it well. But Mike also says something about being fearless in another thread. And it looks to me like you're doing so yourself, going out with a group and drawing what you see, and with pen no less. I think you're doing just great and my guess is that over the next 6-12 months we'll see tremendous improvement.
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Old Monday 30th August 2010, 02:28   #29
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Lovely to see the visceral "bare bones" of sketching fom life!

I look forward to the continuation of your SPECIAL thread!

Excellent!
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Old Monday 30th August 2010, 02:39   #30
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Hello again, everyone!

Thanks Ken, Phil and Arthur (the latter for yet another warm welcome on this great forum)!

This one is a sketch, but from a reference photo, not life, and has a couple hours in it. It is in a Moleskine sketchbook, about 5.5 x 8.5 inches, done using Polychromos pencils. This is a Redhead, a fairly common duck in the eastern part of Washington state where I live, but uncommon to rare on my side (the wet side!) of the mountains. A few are usually seen in the annual Christmas Bird Counts done by Puget Sound area Audubon societies. The reference photo was used with permission of a friend of mine who is an outstanding bird photographer - Gregg Thompson.

And yes, I didn't plan ahead too well, and so the poor subject here got an unwanted haircut at the crease of the sketchbook.

Comments, critiques and suggestions always appreciated.

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Old Tuesday 31st August 2010, 05:13   #31
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good to see you jumping in with such enthusiasm and great sketches...re the redhead, many including the great LJ, let the sketches cross the spine to the next page...of course this works better w/o a spiral binding...but it's an idea I've used with the moleskins.
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Old Tuesday 31st August 2010, 12:59   #32
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Hello again, everyone!



And yes, I didn't plan ahead too well, and so the poor subject here got an unwanted haircut at the crease of the sketchbook.
I used to always admire a Degas that I saw frequently at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was composed of two pieces of paper because he'd run out of room, or planned badly. This is a common mistake of beginners, and yet for all their experience it also happens to the most developed artists.

But other than that a nice lively painting, and very full of color. I like the fact that you're not being shy about using color. I think being able to use it can really make the whole process more exciting and rewarding.
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Old Tuesday 31st August 2010, 14:55   #33
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With this drawing it's obvious that you're seeing and appreciating the effect that light has on an object, the heavy shadow area on the back accentuates the light on the head and neck and the areas of highlight show more intensity of sun. Great stuff and don't worry about the crease thing, unless you were planning to frame the picture then it doesn't matter a bit really. Better that you get the proportions of the drawing right than worry about the spine of the sketchbook.

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Old Tuesday 31st August 2010, 16:06   #34
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Merlin Sketches

Thanks Colleen, Ken and Mike! The sketchbook the Redhead was done in is definitely not intended for finished pieces, so I was ok with how this turned out.

I'm hoping now that because I'm so focused on learning how to sketch from life there will be more opportunities to sketch good birds because I'm 'tuned in' to looking for them even more than normal. And yesterday provided a data point on that. I had seen a Merlin (a once or twice per year visitor to areas visible from our yard, so always a treat) a couple days ago make a strafing run through our and our neighbors' yards. Hoping it wasn't a 'one-day-wonder' situation, I glanced out yesterday and saw a raptor shape in the snag tree about 150 yards from our house. We are fortunate to have it because a number of raptors perch hunt from it during the year. I ran in and grabbed the scope and it was the Merlin. So I quickly set up for sketching and did a page in my 14 x 11 inch sketchbook, and one sketch on a second page before the bird flew off. Visibility was tough in that it was late afternoon and the bird was almost backlit.

Oh, and the upper left bird on the first page is a goldfinch that spilled over from the previous page.

Thanks to the supportive folks on the forum, I'll post these even though some are rather awful - but to be expected at this point. This is the first time I've sketched any raptor from life.

Sorry about the poor quality of the images - it's raining outside, so these were taken inside in poor light with a flash.

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Old Tuesday 31st August 2010, 22:29   #35
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Now you've been thoroughly bitten by the working from life bug, John. It will get better and worse, better in the sense that the drawings will just keep getting better, worse in that it will become more of an addiction.

I was going through my sketchbook that covered most of the last year. I ran into a drawing I did on the bayshore side of Cape May last fall of a merlin. It was my first from life as well. It reminded me of just how much of a beginner you can feel when faced with a new bird. It may take me about 10 more merlins before I can feel comfortable with sketching them from life, at least I hope 10 will be enough!!
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Old Thursday 2nd September 2010, 21:55   #36
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Western Wood-Pewee and Ruddy Duck

Hi again all,

Here are two more sketches from photos. Being so new to sketching from life, I feel that mixing in some sketches from photos will still be helpful to me learning to draw and paint birds in general until my life drawing skills improve a bit (or a lot, hopefully!). Or do the masters on this forum think it's best to forget the photos almost entirely, except perhaps as supplemental references to life drawings when turning them into a finished piece? I suspect this topic has been hashed through thoroughly before, so my apologies for the repeat question. I know Busby is completely anti-photo except for using in-flight fast shots to get a better handle on the mechanics of flight. Input appreciated as always...!

In any event, these were done quickly. The Western Wood-Pewee probably was fifteen minutes, done with an initial graphite sketch, then watercolor pencils followed by a water wash. The Ruddy Duck (one of my favorite waterfowl species because of the drake's rather comical breeding plumage) was done in Polychromos colored pencils and took probably 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The Wood-Pewee was done from a photo of mine, and the Ruddy Duck was a friend's photo used with permission.

Thanks!

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Old Friday 3rd September 2010, 09:10   #37
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Some beautifully done work here, rich in tones, colours and with a genuine feel of energy - the ruddy is a fine piece, they're not the most popular species over here as a potentially damaging non-native, but however people view that situation, nobody can deny how brilliant they are to paint!
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Old Friday 3rd September 2010, 18:10   #38
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love that blue bill....

I'm no master, and since it takes years to do that I think and I'm starting so late in life, I still use photos and mix with my sketches....here are some tips and ideas I use that I came across last year when I started the same place you are.

when out in the field always sketch from life no matter how bad

when I get home, I check my photos for details I couldn't see or didnt get right , next time out I really look for those parts

At home put the photos in slide show on the computer with 15 seconds time between....simulates the wild situation, go thorough the same show several times, you can add to the sketch each time, or draw again, this too is like field sketching where the bird returns to the same pose again...this really helped me sketch

Try to wean yourself off the dependency of a photo to do a work... you can tell if you are, draw the bird from memory if you can do a workman like job, you are not dependent any more and can use the photo to supplement. For me that was the big change.

Learn to value the truth of the honest response line, at least as much, maybe more than some human xerox copy of what the camera sees. And learn when the use of each is useful for the work of art.

Sometimes don't take the camera out so you won't be tempted and will be reliant only on your eye....this is bound to be a time when some instant unique moment happens you will never see again, and you'll say I wish I had my camera

Hope some of that is useful....I expect I will always use photos in my work, but sure can tell a difference now when I do, my work even from photos is no longer frozen stiff....
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Old Friday 3rd September 2010, 19:28   #39
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Just looking at a number of Eastern Wood Pewees while out today John. At least they sometimes sit still long enough, and come back to the same perch so often, that you actually stand a reasonably good chance to sketch them from life, unlike the wood warblers.

I know the subject of working from photos has been brought up many times here and there are varying positions and feelings. I think what Colleen says makes a lot of sense. And I'll confess that I've never been good at developing a good enough mental image of anything to draw it well. My wife who's not an artist is actually much more skilled at this. I seem to need something in front of me.

The one thing that has struck me most about working from life is that it shows me what I don't know, and what I didn't even know I didn't know. So if I do then look at photos later I'm looking with a purpose, to figure out how the bird fits together. But it's working from life that is what gets me interested in how if fits together to begin with. And then of course they're is the 'jizz', the feeling of the bird, that you can only get in the field.

For instance Cedar Waxwings always seem very sleek to me so my most recent drawing of them tries to keep that feeling of sleekness, even though I'm mainly working from photos. The whole drawing though was prompted by a field sketch.

The other thing for me in working from photos is that it's hard to have an emotional connection to them unless I remember seeing the bird when I took the photo or have seen the bird in the field often enough that I feel like I'm still seeing the real bird even when I look at the photo.

The one thing I can't bring myself to do is work from photos of a bird I don't know, even if I took the photo. I have some photos of a lifer duck for me from last May, a Harlequin. But between some badly focused photos and my otherwise complete unfamiliarity with them I just can't bring myself to try to do something with them, handsome though they are.

To sum up, and this is just for me, if I can still feel an emotional reaction to a photo I took then I'm not averse to using it, especially if I've done some field sketches already.

But as someone who avoided getting out and doing field sketches for a couple of years I'd also add that it was very easy to find excuses for just using my own photos. But the work always seemed a bit lacking. Once I made a point of doing field sketches it got much more comforatble working from photos when that was all I had.

So I'd just say work with what you have but get out and work from life as much as you can. I think you'll be pleased with the results.
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Old Friday 3rd September 2010, 23:32   #40
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Thanks, plus House Finch and Pileated Woodpecker

HI guys!

Thanks Nick, Colleen and Ken for sharing your experience and advice. I definitely will wean myself off of photos as much as possible, but as with Colleen and Ken, they do have a practical purpose, especially for folks who are new at the game.

Nick - I didn't realize Ruddy Ducks were an invasive species over there. They have been declining in our area, and although not rare, they are not that easy to find. I see one or a couple each year, and that's about it.

Here are some more from life that I did yesterday evening and this morning. The first page contains three quick line sketches of House Finches near our feeders. They are in Pigma pen and the only one I had was a 1.0, so the lines are on the too-strong side. I feel I got the basic shapes sort of ok, but to me the birds look too generic. I'll have a lot of chances to practice on this species, as they are one of the daily species that is quite heavily represented around our feeders during fall and winter.

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The second drawing was done this morning on a quick birding walk through a natural area near my place. Right by the parking lot, a Pileated Woodpecker was hammering away on a dead tree within about 50 feet of the car. I dug out the camcorder and shot for a few minutes while he worked away. Later, a half mile away, I sat down to wait for some fall migrants to hopefully show up and TWO Pileateds landed in a nearby snag and started working. I decided to concentrate on the head and did this sketch quickly in Pigma 0.1 sepia pen and had only a couple minutes before they flew off. I think this came out a bit better overall than the House Finches, but it was another lesson in not knowing what you don't know as Ken mentioned. The dark stripe through and above the eye I got more or less correctly positioned in the field. However, even with binocs, it appeared to me that the dark malar stripe went from front to back across the chin. But when I got back and looked at the field book, it curves down along the neck and to the shoulder. Oh yes, in the field the eye appeared dark and so I drew it that way. In reality, the eye has an orange iris and a black pupil, different than what is shown here.

At that point I decided to put some watercolor washes on the bird using watercolor pencils. So here is the Pileated drawing/painting.

All comments and advice are very welcome.

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Old Saturday 4th September 2010, 01:21   #41
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John,

Love it all.

Keep going out and sketching is all I can say. The more you do the more you learn, and the better you will get.

Experience distilled to essence makes a fine fine end-product!

ps. A bit jealous over the Pileated Woodpecker! GRRRR!
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Old Saturday 4th September 2010, 06:23   #42
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woodpecker has so much character...strong pattern in it...
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Old Saturday 4th September 2010, 19:37   #43
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John,

Love it all.

Keep going out and sketching is all I can say. The more you do the more you learn, and the better you will get.

Experience distilled to essence makes a fine fine end-product!

ps. A bit jealous over the Pileated Woodpecker! GRRRR!

I'm jealous of the Pileated as well. We have one or two or three in the forested area a mile from where I live. But that area is a narrow strip of land that goes on for about 5 miles with little offshoots here and there. You never know when and if you'll see any of them. I think I heard one a few weeks ago but never saw it. So they're always a real treat to see.

And good work on those House Finches. They are surprisingly difficult birds to draw I find. Especially in the winter they and House/English Sparrows constitute 90% of our feeder birds. But I always prefer to draw the House Sparrows. They seem to have distinct heads. The head of the House Finch just seems to sneak into the body. And then there are those non-descript lines on the female that also don't add up to much. Just a tough bird all in all. But I'll be back to trying to portray them soon enough. I just wish some more interesting feeder birds would show up as well!
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Old Saturday 4th September 2010, 20:43   #44
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Thanks Phil, Colleen and Ken!

Sorry about creating the bird envy.... Not to make it any worse, but I got around to checking the video I shot yesterday, and it turned out really well - several minutes of the Pileated easily knocking big chips of wood out of the dead tree it was working on. I'm brand new to doing any video - have been a still photography in the past - but when/if I get an edited video that's of sufficient interest up on YouTube, I'll post a link for those interested.

Ken - you'll appreciate this regarding the Pileated. Two years ago on our annual trip back to PA to visit my sister, my wife and I went to Tinicum to do a couple hours of birding and lucked into a guided field trip and tagged along with them. We were near the water and I happened to look up and be the first one to see a Pileated winging its way directly toward the group over the water. I casually said 'Here comes a Pileated...' not thinking it was any big deal, and all the locals in the group looked up, saw it and went nutso. Apparently it's quite rare at Tinicum, in good part due to the immaturity of most of the forest - just not many mature and dead trees for them to work on. Plus, the total size of the forest there might be a little on the small side, as they have big territories.

Don't worry - I've got the sketching bug big time and will be out as often as possible.
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Old Monday 6th September 2010, 02:54   #45
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John: Regarding sketching with pen ala Mr. Busby--I have used a plain old Bic black ballpoint pen for field sketching for many years now. First got the idea when I read that Robert Bateman does all this sketches that way. The Bics draw smoothly and with different amounts of pressure you can do a surprising amount of shading various values. I also like ink drawings painted with watercolor. Very nice sketches. You are already progressing!
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Old Monday 6th September 2010, 22:43   #46
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Green Heron Sketches

Hi folks,

This morning the rain that was in the forecast held off for the time being, and so I headed out to an oxbow slough nearby where I knew there were two juvenile Green Herons that have been pretty active near a potential sketching spot. Sure enough, I got there and found them both, though one promptly disappeared into some vegetation. The second one periodically perch-hunted in a relatively close and visible location, and stayed still long enough to get a reasonable start at least. Again I sketched in pen to eliminate the eraser temptation and just 'went for it'. This produced a couple of not-so-great sketches (but just fine in the spirit of learning) and a couple that I felt pretty good about. After sketching for some time, I walked around some nearby fields and woodlots and found a big mixed flock of migrants, which was a nice added bonus. (No, I didn't attempt to sketch the warblers from life quite yet....)

A wonderful side benefit of the sketching was seeing behavior that I would likely not have seen but for the focus required for drawing. One of the herons caught a good-sized frog while I watched and quite quickly the unlucky frog was down the hatch and the heron's food needs were met for some time.

These sketches are in my 9x9 inch sketchbook.

All critiques and input welcome and appreciated...!

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Old Tuesday 7th September 2010, 14:54   #47
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Coming along nicely John. You've done a good job getting some of those typical hunched Green Heron poses. They are fun to draw aren't they?
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Old Tuesday 7th September 2010, 21:51   #48
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Glaucous-winged Gull Sketches

Thanks, Ken. I've always liked the wading birds as a family, so it has been fun to sketch them.

I've decided to do at least one sketch from life per day (no doubt I'll have to miss a day or two) to see if the volume of work can to some degree compensate for my very late start in art and bird life drawing. Hopefully I'll have enough good years left to progress decently, though I'm having enough fun as is that I'm not going to be too concerned if I don't get 'there'. Wherever 'there' is on the open-ended scale...!

So today I packed my 14-year-old Yellow Lab into the back of the car, and off we went to a parking lot on Puget Sound that is right off the beach. I figured there would at least be a few gulls around, and there were - not many, but enough to provide some subjects. None were close enough to avoid the 'look through the binocs, sketch a few lines, look through the binocs again, sketch a few lines...' routine, but it worked out ok. They are reasonably cooperative subjects.

Our gulls in this area are mostly what some colloquially call 'Puget Sound Gulls'. The reason for the non-standard nomenclature is that we are in a major hybridization zone between Glaucous-winged and Western Gulls. Some ornithologists argue that in our area there are very few pure examples of either one, though I still think that there are a lot of Glaucous-winged's out there. They are kind of boring gulls in that the mantle color is fairly light, and the primary tips don't contrast with the mantle (theoretically, in a pure GWGU). Westerns have relatively darker primary tips, so a bird where the primaries are slightly darker than the mantle is usually judged a hybrid.

Anyway, here are the two pages I did in pen today in my roughly A3 sketchbook (14 x 11"). The very quick (and poor) heron sketches were of a bird that showed up briefly as I was packing up to leave.

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Old Wednesday 8th September 2010, 22:33   #49
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Looks good John. It looks like you're starting to get a bit of individual character in them.

As you say it's good to remember that you don't have to get 'there', wherever 'there' is. I was really frustrated when I started. Things seem to fail in so many ways. But over time I found the medium that was best for me, the paper, a scope, etc. Finally it just got to be fun and I could stop worrying about doing something horrible. They may still be horrible but now I just don't worry about that!!
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Old Thursday 9th September 2010, 02:14   #50
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Northern Flicker Sketches

Thanks for the encouragement, Ken, although I think any personality I'm giving them at this point might be a warped personality - .

Today's life sketching was Northern Flickers - one of the birds we have in the yard every day (thanks to two suet feeders). I was going to wait to start sketching them until winter sets in, but the weather was pretty soggy today to go anywhere else, and there they were. So...a' sketching we went.

These are Pigma Micron black ink in my 14x11" sketchbook. I feel ok about a couple of them, for where I am on the learning curve. Plus, I'm pretty familiar with these guys. We have had as many as 8 in the yard at once, probably a family group, as those types of numbers usually happen in the summer.

Any critiques and advice are much appreciated...!

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