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Old Wednesday 29th September 2010, 22:50   #101
Woody
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I reckon that's pretty good actually, it's noticable that there's a lot of observation going on which is the whole point really.

It is very easy though to get bogged down in details and forget that there's a living bird in view. Perhaps the trick is to loosen up a bit and try to capture a bit more of the impression of the bird rather than trying to make every sketch into a finished piece, not easy when there's a peregrine to be enjoyed!

I'd recommend that you find some nice, co-operative birds that don't make your hands tremble with excitement the way a peregrine does, something like pigeons in the park maybe, and concentrate on the way they move and the shapes they make, getting that down in a few marks then moving on to the next. Pretty soon you'll find that, amongst the hopelessly unrecognisable scribbles that we all produce, there will emerge one or two drawings that have that certain something that is 'pigeony' about them, and that's when the sketches are infused with the life that we all find so fascinating.

Having said all that I don't blame you for wanting to get all the details down of a bird as fabulous as a falcon! Keep up the good work!

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Old Thursday 30th September 2010, 16:27   #102
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I reckon that's pretty good actually, it's noticable that there's a lot of observation going on which is the whole point really.

It is very easy though to get bogged down in details and forget that there's a living bird in view. Perhaps the trick is to loosen up a bit and try to capture a bit more of the impression of the bird rather than trying to make every sketch into a finished piece, not easy when there's a peregrine to be enjoyed!

I'd recommend that you find some nice, co-operative birds that don't make your hands tremble with excitement the way a peregrine does, something like pigeons in the park maybe, and concentrate on the way they move and the shapes they make, getting that down in a few marks then moving on to the next. Pretty soon you'll find that, amongst the hopelessly unrecognisable scribbles that we all produce, there will emerge one or two drawings that have that certain something that is 'pigeony' about them, and that's when the sketches are infused with the life that we all find so fascinating.

Having said all that I don't blame you for wanting to get all the details down of a bird as fabulous as a falcon! Keep up the good work!

Mike
Wise advice from Mike, though since I've never run into 'cooperative birds' I've never followed that particular piece of advice.

I remember just last year trying to draw my first Merlin and Peregrine as field sketches. I thought they looked good as I did them and was just thrilled at the opportunity. Then I looked at them afterwards and found just blobs! So I understand the difficulty of doing any new bird but especially one like this peregrine.

I do think it looks very good for first field sketch. But like both you and Mike I'd be tempted to go more for more quick sketches. Did you see all the ones Mike did of the peregrine at his workplace? What great studies of live birds!

I really prefer quicker sketches like that. I think that they're better for getting the feel of the bird. On the other hand I know how often I think I don't understand a particular part of a bird and then when I finally see it I get lost in that detail and forget the rest of the bird.

All in all the best advice I can give is: Get More Peregrines in Your Backyard. If you do I'm sure you'll find your own way just fine.
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Old Thursday 30th September 2010, 16:29   #103
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Ruby-crowned Kinglet Sketches

Thanks, Ken. We cross-posted - your post came up after I posted this, so went back in to say thanks...!

To help try to loosen up my sketches a bit, I decided last night to take a couple of my photos of a species that's probably even worse than the average warbler to sketch from life due to size, activity level and foraging habitat - a Ruby-crowned Kinglet - and do some sketches from the photos. Instead of one minute sketches, they became 5-10 minute sketches and still look too tight. But it was still good practice (as everyone here has noted, it's ALL good practice-!). Maybe I'll do these again tonight with a timer on and keep them to much shorter time periods...

This is a page in an 11 x 8.5 inch sketchbook.

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Old Thursday 30th September 2010, 17:03   #104
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by all means use the timer, when you push like that you start drawing instead of thinking, another way is to put your photos on slide show with 10 -15 second intervals on your computer which mimics the rl thing, draw as much as you can then in the 10 sec when it comes by again add to it, which is also how it works in the field.

I saw one of these bought into a bird rescue...sooooo tiny, photos would be the only way I could do it, as my eyes wouldnt see much even with a scope, as though you could actually use one they move so fast.
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Old Thursday 30th September 2010, 18:01   #105
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Thanks, Colleen! Yes, they are teensy little critters, and constantly in motion. I love how they hover at the tip of a branch so they can eat tiny bugs from the underside of the leaves or needles - definitely a specialized feeding niche.

I hadn't thought of the slideshow idea - thanks. That's sort of what I've done with a couple sketches using the looped video, but with photos (since I have photos I've taken of over 250 species of birds) that opens up the range of species since I've just started with the video (and from life of course).
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Old Thursday 30th September 2010, 18:21   #106
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Thanks, Ken. We cross-posted - your post came up after I posted this, so went back in to say thanks...!

To help try to loosen up my sketches a bit, I decided last night to take a couple of my photos of a species that's probably even worse than the average warbler to sketch from life due to size, activity level and foraging habitat - a Ruby-crowned Kinglet - and do some sketches from the photos. Instead of one minute sketches, they became 5-10 minute sketches and still look too tight. But it was still good practice (as everyone here has noted, it's ALL good practice-!). Maybe I'll do these again tonight with a timer on and keep them to much shorter time periods...

This is a page in an 11 x 8.5 inch sketchbook.

Attachment 286252
Also known, at least by me, as a flying hiccup. I'm fast approaching year number three of trying to get a good field sketch of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. We were fortunate enough to have one visit our yard pretty frequently for a couple of winters, when they really should have been long gone.

But it drove me nuts trying to get a decent drawing! Just about a year ago I was still having the hardest time in the world stalking the wild kinglet. All I can say is keep at it. There really is a thrill in trying to capture it.

I'm pretty sure the European Firecrest is the same bird and a number of artists here have shown that a successful field sketch CAN be done. I'm just not sure how they do it though.
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Old Thursday 30th September 2010, 18:55   #107
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A very apt description, Ken!
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2010, 18:52   #108
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Hi John,
It's great to see you sticking at it. I look at where I am now, which is making half-decent sketches (these are in my mega-critical perspective) compared to where I was starting out three years ago, and there is a big improvement. I don't have the oppo to sketch as much as I'd like due to other commitments, but spending a fair proportion of each weekend out in the field, or hide (depending on the weather) practicing has clearly paid off.
Have you thought about trying A3 size sketchbooks? Colleen and Nick have already brushed upon this subject. It seems, like me, you like to go big, aand I think an A3 would help to get your hand going more, enabling you to get three or four efforts on a page. I haven't tried one yet but I will when the oppo arises.

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Old Sunday 3rd October 2010, 18:55   #109
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PS This is really sound advice my Mike, too. Words that I should try to heed more often.

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Old Monday 4th October 2010, 16:57   #110
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Hi Russ,

Thanks for looking and for the feedback. Actually, one of the two sketchbooks I'm using for birds in this thread is close to A3 size. Official A3 if my chart is correct is about 11.7 x 16.5 inches. The larger of the two sketchbooks I'm using is 11 x 14 inches (obviously based on older English rather than ISO dimensions). The second one is square at 9 x 9 inches. I have found myself gravitating to the larger sketchbook. I'm also keeping a general (not bird-specific, though it includes a lot of birds) nature journal on our back yard garden and that one is 11 x 8.5 inches, so some of the bird sketches will be done there.

I hope in a couple years my best sketches reach your half decent ones...! Your work is great.

So, here are my latest sketches. Again, these are not fully from life - they were done from a looped video and I confess to stopping it at a pose I liked. I am definitely finding that the more sketches I do the quicker and 'easier' they become (duhhh...!) to get a passable likeness so progress is happening. Although I must say I sometimes feel like my old hiking days, when taking the first couple steps on a hundred mile backpack trip - exciting, but there are many miles to go yet...!

Here I've attached one non-bird page from my back yard nature journal project, showing some of the other types of things I'm doing with it. The first page of sketches is a Golden-crowned Sparrow in pencil, where I concentrated just on the form, not plumage marking details except a little bit on the last sketch. The second page of birds is Band-tailed Pigeons - this year these pesky birds have been showing up and wreaking quick havoc on the seed I spread each morning for the ground feeders.


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Old Monday 4th October 2010, 17:52   #111
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it is the persistance alone that will take you where you want to go.

Since I took the same route from photo to life, here are some things I asked myself along the way.

Why am I sketching, what it the goal I'm after, ( that changed from getting surface details right to getting something far more indefinable in words, the Jizz...could I see a few lines and know what bird it was.)

What is important to me in this one sketch? ( the beak the legs, the curve of the neck)

What media is the most immediate and useful for capturing what I'm after?( tried a lot, settled on pencil, charcoal, and watercolor)

What draws me to sketches I like, what qualities do they have that I lack in mine and how can I get that ( sometimes I copied master works)

Who are the sketches for( am I unwilling to give up my photo detail ways and let some really "bad" work out?)

What happens if I completely let go and just scribble? looking only at the bird and not at my paper?( those were sometimes better than my attempts at getting detail piece by piece.)

Since I have a camera, how much detail do I really need in this sketch?

Keep up the good work
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Old Monday 4th October 2010, 20:18   #112
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some very successful poses here, full of character and observation.
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Old Tuesday 5th October 2010, 13:17   #113
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Like the Band-tailed Pigeons best John. They have that sense of light that field sketches can be so good at capturing.

I've done a few drawings from video too. And though it's a great convenience to be able to stop it my feeling is that for me it's best not to. Just scribble down what I see as I see it, just like in real life.

But you're doing really well. Just keep working, finding out what works best for you. I do think that it's good to be aware of how easy it is so slide back toward photos when faced with the difficulty of working from like. I say this from experience. If I had anything to do differently it would be to have forced myself to do more work from life earlier on. Of course that gets much harder to do as the colder weather arrives.

Either way it's nice to see your progress. Saw and photographed three Black-throated Blues on Sunday. So I may go against my own advice and do something based on one of them soon. I've never been able to sketch or get good photos of any so took advantage of this opportunity to get some quick photos.
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Old Thursday 7th October 2010, 09:16   #114
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lovely work John
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Old Friday 8th October 2010, 22:24   #115
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Sketches from Life - American Coot

Due to a couple other art projects (and classes starting up again) I've got going on, I haven't sketched a great deal from life recently. So this morning I decided it was time to go out and do it again. I went to a nearby state park which often has ducks and gulls that are relatively cooperative, but there were no gulls and only a few distant ducks. However, there was a small raft of American Coots close to shore, and a huge raft of coots further out.

I figured they would be good practice to sketch and worthwhile because I had never tried them before, and they have that unique bill shape which I figured would be a challenge. (It was!)

In the interest of full disclosure, being so early in my sketching experience compared to most others on the forum here, I will post all three pages here even though the first ones look rather like elementary school age work, sigh...! By the third page, though, I had one or two sketches that might be actually ID'd as the correct species by someone who looked at them for the first time. It was great learning, though - as always I realized how little time I've actually spent really looking at details. That's probably particularly true with this species because their ID is so easy and unmistakable that unless you're trying to draw them, they don't require much real study. Here I focused pretty much on the bill, figuring I'll have lots of opportunities to come back and keep working on them down the road.

These were done in my 14 x 11 inch sketchbook using woodless graphite - mostly HB and 2B.

Comments and advice always welcome.

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Old Saturday 9th October 2010, 18:45   #116
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a beautiful example of how when you start you "revert" to more primitive marks and symbols, but if you will allow these awkward ones room they teach you really how to get the more subtle aspects, to learn to really see, and fall in love with the actual forms is front of you, and see how quickly you got to some very nice and alive sketches...

Do some more from life....even give up photo work for a while, just to break the habits.
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Old Sunday 10th October 2010, 10:54   #117
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a beautiful example of how when you start you "revert" to more primitive marks and symbols, but if you will allow these awkward ones room they teach you really how to get the more subtle aspects, to learn to really see, and fall in love with the actual forms is front of you, and see how quickly you got to some very nice and alive sketches...

Do some more from life....even give up photo work for a while, just to break the habits.
Excellent advice, and it's good to see pages of looking for the right forms, my sketchbooks are fullof searching for the beak on Eurasian Coots!
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Old Sunday 10th October 2010, 16:22   #118
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nice work John , Makes you look does'nt it
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Old Sunday 10th October 2010, 20:05   #119
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nice work John , Makes you look does'nt it
Really interesting couple of pages there John. Coots! What a beasty to practice on!

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Old Sunday 10th October 2010, 22:29   #120
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Good work, John. Like me it hasn't taken you long to find the ultimate challenge in the everyday subjects. And coots are right up there with them - just look at that bill and shield shape (well, you have!) You've inspired me to take another look at the humble coot with your latest efforts. Put these to one side and compare 'em with some more coots you'll be doing in 12 months time.

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Old Sunday 10th October 2010, 22:51   #121
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Thanks, everyone! Glad to hear it isn't just me who was thinking, 'geez, how can these be so tough, they're 'only' coots!' Poor coots just don't get no respect, as the saying goes! I'll definitely keep trying.
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Old Sunday 10th October 2010, 23:07   #122
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Thanks, everyone! Glad to hear it isn't just me who was thinking, 'geez, how can these be so tough, they're 'only' coots!' Poor coots just don't get no respect, as the saying goes! I'll definitely keep trying.

Isn't amazing how after years of quickly IDing a bird you assume that it won't be all that difficult to draw? Like you I keep realizing how little I know. Hope to see some coots in a couple of weeks and will probably go through this same learning experience.

Bravo for your continued work at this. Eventually I think it almost becomes an addiction, even on the bad days
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Old Tuesday 12th October 2010, 11:04   #123
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I seem to have missed commenting for a while - some really superb work going on here; the backyard work really is the way to go - it gives a real sense of place and the connection between the artist and the locale. Lovely stuff.
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Old Saturday 16th October 2010, 19:34   #124
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Here are some of my latest sketches. Only the first page (Red-tailed Hawk) is fully from life, although the Merlin was first sketched from life (a bird that landed on a favorite raptor snag visible from our house) but completed using a reference. The California Quail, two deer and the squirrel were done from photos I took in previous years. The squirrel is a very humorous pose, hanging from, and standing on, strands of barbed wire. I came across this fellow one morning early on a float trip down the Deschutes River in central Oregon, which is high desert country. I theorized he was warming himself in the morning sun after a cold night - he was positioned so that the sun was hitting his left side and back. I wondered if he was stuck but as soon as I started toward him, he scolded me and jumped off and headed for some other place.

All these are sketches in that they were done not as finished pieces, in generally a half hour or less, and in an 11 x 8.5" sketchbook. The quail is done in pencil and Derwent Graphitints (tinted water-soluble graphite), the Merlin in watercolor and gouache, the deer in watercolor, and the squirrel in watercolor and Graphitints. I should probably mention that the Merlin is either the 'Black/Pacific' or 'Boreal' subspecies,which are quite dark compared to the other subspecies. As it turns out, these two subspecies and others hybridize to produce intergrades in our area so it is impossible to visually tell subspecies without the bird in hand.

All input appreciated, as usual.

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Old Saturday 16th October 2010, 19:35   #125
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And here is the squirrel...you'd think at my age I could count to five, yes?

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