Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bits and Bobs, Sketching and Short Video

Almost as soon as I published my last post on including an environment in bird and wildlife art I noticed another method of bringing vitality and a sense of the excitement of nature that I'd forgotten to mention. This is surprising since it is what really convinced me that you could make art out of natural and specifically wildlife subjects. That other method of course is working from life.

I first noticed this in Drawing Birds by John Busby. But as soon as I posted the  last post I noticed another fine example by a contemporary Spanish artist. I think that there is something that so often comes through in the work of anyone who draws or paints birds or other wildlife from life. That sense of stagnation and boredom that so often accompanies work based solely on photos is completely absent in artists who work from life.

As you can see from the sketch above though not everyone is equally able when working from life. Except for the Common Green Darner at upper left the other birds on these pages were sketched by me over the last couple of days in Cape May, NJ. One of the more exciting birds was a Whimbrel at the Wetlands Institute on bottom left, two Seaside Sparrows only one of which I sketched on bottom right and the first visible Common Yellowthroat above. I'd heard them the day before but finally  a number came out to sing in their striking black, yellow and white colors. Though I didn't succeed very well I wanted to capture the fabulous yellow throat of the Common Yellowthroat.

In any case there are really quite a number of artists who work from life, though I know of very few American artists who do, though there are some. But they are well worth pursuing. And they do often create really strong art that has all the excitement of being outside in nature.

Black Skimmers at Heislerville WMA. Photo by Ken Januski.

I always enter my bird sightings in ebird and today I had problems with some birds seen on our trip. Ebird, with good reason, doesn't expect certain birds to be around yet, based on years of previous data. But birds always surprise you. One species that created problems was the Black Skimmer, two examples of which are seen above, from yesterday at Heislerville WMA in Cumberland County, NJ.
Normally I just upload my photos to Picasaweb and create a link that I can embed in my ebird list. Not today. All of my photos are currently missing on Picasaweb. My guess is that this is due to Google trying to force people to use Google+, their answer to Facebook. I understand their point of view but it's also a slap in the face to their users. So I won't soon be using Google+. In the meantime though I have no way of showing the photos to ebird. That is the main reason I'm showing the photo above.
Semi-palmated Sandpipers at Heislerville WMA. Photo by Ken Januski.

Less well seen and photographed at the same location yesterday were some Semi-palmated Sandpipers. Two are pictured above, also as proof for ebird.

Before we left Philadelphia for Cape May I had heard my first Louisiana Waterthrush, singing and singing but never making himself visible. Though I love to finally know that they are here it's always an exciting day when we see our first one. Today at Morris Arboretum Jerene had the honors of finding the first one. More than that he was very cooperative and seemed oblivious to us. So along with photos I also took a quick video with my camera and put it on YouTube: Louisiana Waterthrush at Morris Arboretum. I always greatly enjoy seeing them. And I think you can see from this video why it is difficult to sketch them, at least when they are moving as quickly as this.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bloodroot in the Wild, Etc.

Bloodroot Along the Wissahickon. Photo by Ken Januski

So you might ask, where else would you find Bloodroot if not in the wild? After all they are a wild flower. The odd thing is that we used to see so many of them while at Shenandoah National Park and elsewhere that we wanted to get some for our own small yard. So over the years we've bought such wildflowers from local arboretums and nature centers. Most of my previous photos of Bloodroot on this blog have been of our yard wildflowers. It seems like quite a while since I've shown wildflowers in the wild.

Today though I happened upon this small group, just about ready to fully open so I took a photo. I'd like to have seen the Louisiana Waterthrush that was singing today and possibly would have included a photo of him. But it was not to be. Even on leafless trees I could not find him, though he sang for at least 15 minutes. Soon enough though. In our yard Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Trillium Luteum and most likely Goldenseal are all up as of this week. Soon wildflowers will be all over and just as soon they'll be gone.

Common Green Darners, Tree Swallow, Pied-billed Grebe and Canada Goose on Nest. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

Speaking of wild above is a new watercolor on the same theme as the last post: spring flight with Common Green Darners and one Tree Swallow. I'm happier with this than with the first pencil and crayon sketch.

It would be easy to complain about the lack of detail in this. In wildlife art detail still seems to rule the roost. Comments like "I love your detail" are common. But I have no interest. When I first started with bird art, almost nine years ago I immediately saw one of the biggest problems: what world do you put the birds in? Do you avoid the problem completely by just doing a vignette, where the bird is the focus and the background just fades away to nothingness. Do you crop it drastically, somewhat as I've done with the Tree Swallow above, and hope that viewers will be happy with just a partial view of the bird, or any other wildlife subject? This seems to be the most common method, but it's also a glaringly obvious method.

Some artists do try to include the background, or really the environment, foreground, background and everything in between. They try to put the bird in a world. And if they've actually experienced birds in the world, rather than just copying them from photos, then the paintings/drawings/prints tend to work. The real problem is that it is so easy to care too much about the environment, to feel that every little leaf must be portrayed. But no one sees or experiences the world that way. The world moves too quickly. If you're focusing on some leaves then your eye can't possibly be also focusing on feathers of a bird or fur of an animal. That's not the way the eye works, at least not in real life. How do you capture the environment and still have something that has even the slightest hint of wildness.

When I do a painting like the one above I  willingly give up a lot of detail. I'd rather get details wrong but get the whole scene right. Every time I do a painting like the one above I soon realize that something is wrong, some detail, if not something larger, is off. But I really don't care. It has taken me a long time to realize that this is my voice in art and wildlife art: to somehow or other portray the whole scene, sometimes more abstractly than others, but still to try to capture the actual experience of being outside and seeing birds in their world. As a consequence I do my best to value spontaneity and the overall scene over actual detail.

A few rare artists I think manage to do both, but only those who see the value of portraying the entire world and have the experience of being out in it and who also have mastered the structure of birds. For them the spontaneity is there but the shorthand they use is so sure I think that no one even notices that the details might not be there, or even more miraculously they also are able to include the telling details while still remaining spontaneous. I won't name any names but that is wildlife art at its best.

No I don't care a whit for detail in wildlife art. Please show me wildlife art that is wild, rather than the tamest thing in the world.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Flight

Common Green Darners, Tree Swallow, Pied-billed Grebe and Canada Goose on Nest. Pencil and Crayon Sketch by Ken Januski.

One of the great thrills of spring is the exuberant flight, or at least it looks exuberant to me, of birds and insects. Tree Swallows are always among the most impressive and such a welcome change from the slow pace of winter. Yesterday they were joined by the first dragonflies of the year, Common Green Darners, as well as soaring Red-tailed Hawks. I couldn't find a place for the hawks here but I did manage to combine the Tree Swallows and Common Green Darner. Typical of this time as well, particularly in the wetlands of Morris Arboretum, are nesting Canada Geese. Much rarer and in fact yesterday was the first time we've seen them there were Pied-billed Grebes, in migration I'm sure.

I think because this is such an exciting time I'd like to use a medium that matches the excitement and exuberance. Over the years I've found that pencil and water soluble crayons, which are capable of also being used as a wash, work very well. As in the last post this is done with Caran d'Ache Neocolor II crayons..

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Arrival of a Colorful Warbler

'Black' Squirrel, Palm Warbler and Mourning Cloak. Pencil, Wash and Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Crayon Sketch by Ken Januski.

I have to say that I think one warbler exemplifies the arrival of neo-tropical migrants more than any other: that is the Palm Warbler, especially the Eastern race which we tend to get here. The golden yellow, with warm Sienna cap and markings, is  indicative of spring and warm weather. Other warblers are generally first. We may see a Pine Warbler or two, maybe a Louisiana Waterthrush and at least this year Yellow-rumped Warblers, which when they aren't sky high in the trees are actually pretty colorful themselves. Still it is the Palm that signals winter turning to spring and eventually summer.

Yesterday I saw my first Palms of the year, the first sky high where the Yellow-rumpeds should be, but still obvious from their constantly bobbing tail. The next one I saw was down closer to the ground but still not below eye level as they so often are. When that's the case you can't miss their golden yellow coloring.

Yesterday also brought out the second Mourning Cloak of 2015, the first one having been seen the day before, as well as a 'Black' Squirrel. Black Squirrels are really Gray Squirrels but with a darker color. But they seem exotic. And if you're an artist you can't help but be struck by their rich black coloring. When I got home yesterday I tried a quick ballpoint pen and watercolor sketch of the Mourning Cloak and Palm Warbler. But it just didn't work out.

This morning I tried again, this time determined to make the Black Squirrel play a larger part. This is on a page from a Stillman and Birn Zeta sketchbook. It is an extra heavy paper and one that I've used before with Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water soluble crayons. I don't use these crayons often but I do find that they are good when I want a particularly vibrant color. And that's just what I wanted for the Palm Warbler.

Palm Warbler Amidst Bloodroot. Linocut by Ken Januski.

Because Palms are such early arrivals they are often in the woodland ephemerals that are here for such a short time in spring. I particularly see them in Mayapples but I have also seen them in the far more striking Bloodroot. The linocut above, from a number of years ago, places them amidst bloodroot, something that I'd just seen at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

My recollection is that I've seen Mourning Cloaks much earlier in the year on occasion. This year we saw our first on April 6th. That seemed late. But when I checked one of my guidebooks where I often note the first sighting for a particular year I found that April 6th is normal, if not a day or two early. The same thing goes with Palm Warblers. Though we have seen them occasionally in March last year we saw them just one day earlier than this year. So even though this has seemed like a cold and long one, and though it seems everything is late it turns out not to be quite as late as I'd thought.

Someone remarked on my Facebook page that the Mourning Cloak is one of their favorite butterfies. It's easy to see why. It also signals the arrival of spring, though the lazy way that it drifts through space makes it seem altogether languid as though it should really appear in the hazy, lazy days of summer.

As I look at the pencil and crayon sketch at top, especially compared to the Mergansers and Grebes woodcut that I'm currently using as a header on this blog I realize that there is quite a difference in composition. The woodcut is much more solid in composition, as though more thought went into it. It did. But it also seems a bit rigid. That is fine if that's what you want to express. I have nothing against rigidity. But I don't want it to be my default style, especially when working abstractly where it tends to come quite easily to me. So as disorganized and floppy as drawings like the crayon one of squirrel, butterfly and Palm Warbler might be I do continue with them. My hope is that they will lead to something as organized as the Mergansers and Grebes but with the rigidity well hidden. I think I've been most successful in that goal in the watercolor below of a few years ago.

Saddlebags, Savannah Sparrow and Pumpkin at Rea Farm. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

First Brood Parasites of 2015 (Please Note the Date)

Drake Canvasback and Hooded Merganser. Woodcut by Ken Januski.

Blame it on something I read about April Fools Day. I wouldn't normally use such a jokey title as I have today. But it is appropriate. We saw our first Brown-headed Cowbirds today, shortly after the first Eastern Phoebes have arrived, and you can bet that some poor phoebes will soon be raising cowbirds, even if the young cowbirds are twice their size.

Below are some recent field sketches: I've already mentioned the female American Kestrel feeding on an American Robin at Morris Arboretum. On the opposite page are some of the first Eastern Phoebes and Hermit Thrushes that we've seen this year. At bottom right another thrush, the American Robin, that posed just long enough outside my studio window to sketch in everything but his head. When I looked up to do that he was gone.

One of the things I always notice about Hermit Thrushes is that they are pot-bellied. Because of this I sometimes think that all my Hermit Thrush look the same, almost always starting with the pot belly. Still it is accurate. That's just the way they are. They're also a bit smaller than American Robins and 2 out of the 3 times we've seen them together over the last week the Robin chased the Hermit Thrush out of his feeding area. Given his size I guess the Hermit Thrush wasn't going to argue.

American Kestrel with Prey, Eastern Phoebe, Hermit Thrush, American Robin. Field Sketches by Ken Januski.

Yesterday I experienced something new: printing two editions of the same print in the same day. This wasn't planned. It's just that the first edition of the Canvasback and Hooded Merganser at top was much too dark, with many of the finer lines covered/blurred by ink and/or the type of paper I used. I also switched from a soft to hard brayer part way through the edition with little improvement. After all the work that goes into a print it's very unsatisfying to have the end result be something other than what you anticipated.

So after some errands I returned home and printed a somewhat smaller edition. This time I used the smooth side of some Shin Torinoko paper as well as a hard brayer. That seemed to keep the ink just about perfect on the surface of the print. That is what I'm showing at top. This edition is for sale on Etsy. I may eventually put some of the rougher first edition up for sale at at a lower price. It looks alright but it just isn't what I planned on.

I've read recently something I read every year or two in a different source. Audiences, to a large extent, like their art to be interactive. By this I don't mean the silly online interactive quality that many struggling businesses use to try to save their businesses. What I, and the people I'm reading, mean is that the artwork is not so perfect, so closed off that the viewer or reader is left cold, as though he's an observer rather than a participant. In other words he is able to use his imagination and experience to finish the work. The most obvious case for this is novels. They are not visual, nor aural. And yet most readers react badly when they see the characters they're familiar with from novels portrayed in film or on television. We often react badly because we've developed through our imagination a far different view of the character.

In visual art I think that this is why I shy, to put it mildly, away from high finish in my work. High finish may impress those who assume it must take work to get such a finish, but for an audience that looks for something more I think they often react badly because the art work is closed to them. Their imagination cannot enter into a dialog with the work and complete it as they see fit because there is no room. The artwork is a closed door. Stand back and admire my skill, or else.

This is a lengthy argument and something I won't purse at length. But it is not something new, not some fad forced on art by modernism. If you think so then take a look at Rembrandt. Up close so many of his works just show brushstrokes. But from a distance the viewer uses his imagination to complete the work, and history shows that they are far more esteemed than contemporary work of a high finish.

Why do I bring all of this up now? It's something I think about in regard to the woodcut. Woodcuts, just like linocuts, can be exceedingly linear and graphic. It would have been possible to outline every branch and twig in the print. I could have made neater more regular lines for the water. Relief printing lends itself I think to linearity. But even though we undoubtedly see line in the world it's not all we see. And if everything is line it undoubtedly can have a strong graphic, two-dimensional effect but it eliminates the possibility of three dimensions, the world in which we actually live.

All of which goes to say that I try to avoid too much regularity in my prints. I could easily add them and get a snappier two-dimensional, flat result. But that's not what I want. I think that the more irregular method used above and in many of my prints gives the viewer a little more room to enter the picture and enjoy it. Sorry for this lengthy digression but I often write about my dislike for too much finish in art, especially wildlife art, and I just realized another reason why: it closes off the viewer from the experience.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

First Warbler of 2015

Yellow-rumped Warbler. Watercolor Sketch in Stillman and Birn Gamma Sketchbook by Ken Januski.

I don't normally post on two days in succession. In fact I keep telling myself it would be better to post less rather than more. But the arrival of American Wood Warblers causes all sorts of people to make all sorts of exceptions for all sorts of things. It might even be interesting to compare how many people change their work schedules for the arrival of these migrants compared to those who do so for March Madness. Of course most people may just skip work from their desk to keep up with the basketball games.

In any case I noticed today that we saw our first warbler last year on March 26, a beautiful yellow Pine Warbler. We normally see them before Yellow-rumps but never in the same numbers. After mailing off a Piping Plover woodcut which I was happy to find out I'd sold yesterday we decided to spent a brief time on this cold gray day looking for Pine Warblers. What we didn't expect to find were Yellow-rumps. But we did, in two places, along with three first of year Eastern Phoebes and two Hermit Thrush.

So cold and gray as it may be the first signs of migration, outside of the earlier ducks, are finally here. I was never able to sketch any of today's warblers. Most were very high in trees against an overcast sky. Even the photos I took showed next to nothing. So this is based on a photo from a previous spring.

Yellow-rumps are so ubiquitous that they are not the most inspirational of warblers. But they are nonetheless quite beautiful. And I'd have to say that all my previous attempts have been failures to a large extent. The quick pencil and watercolor sketch above is I'm sure my most successful to date. As with many of my quick watercolor and pencil sketches it's done in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook. These sketchbooks continue to be my favorite for this type of work. It is really hard for me to believe that it is once again warbler season.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Why I Bother with Prints, and Other Stuff

Part of the Newly Signed Edition of Mergansers and Bufflehead Woodcut. Photo by Ken Januski.

With all the consternation that seems to be an integral part of printmaking it's easy to wonder why anyone bothers with it. One of the main reasons can be seen above. Rather than just one object, as with a painting or drawing you can end up with many, more or less identical. When you're happy with the print this is great. When you're less happy then you might again question why you do it. Fortunately I'm happy, or at least satisfied with the results most of the time.

Red-breasted and Common Mergansers with Bufflehead at Flat Rock Dam. Two-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

I debated whether to leave a little white in the upper right hand corner of this print. Almost all art can benefit from a variety of lighter, or in this case lightest, areas. But sometimes it just looks tentative and can call attention to itself in the wrong way. That was the case here so I touched up that area with watercolor similar in color to the color of the foreground water.

Female American Kestrel Eating American Robin at Morris Arboretum. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

Speaking of calling attention to itself in the wrong way that's exactly what happened to the American Robin above. It was in front of the car of a visitor to the Morris Arboretum wetlands yesterday. When she returned after birding the area she found this female American Kestrel having it for lunch. If you pay much attention to the natural world you can quickly see how brutal it can be. As another example a male American Kestrel met a similar fate along the wetland ponds a few months ago. I stumbled upon some beautiful feathers that could only have come from a male American Kestrel. My guess is that he was eaten by a Red-tailed Hawk. Also this winter we ran across the remains of a Great Horned Owl, which itself is usually the predator. We're not really sure what might have gotten the owl.

The Announcement of Spring -2015. Pencil Sketch by Ken Januski.

A few weeks ago there were signs of early spring everywhere: two Killdeer together at the Manayunk Canal, singing Song Sparrows everywhere, and the first singing Red-winged Blackbirds again at Morris Arboretum. In my mind I toyed with the idea of combining some of these sites into a print celebrating spring. Above is a template for a possible woodcut or linocut. Unfortunately I could find no way to include the newly returned Wood Ducks.

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring - 2015

Witch Hazel with New Snow - First Day of Spring 2015. Photo by Ken Januski.

Normally I plant peas by St. Patrick's Day, March 17th. But wet soil delayed that task. Just as well as today, the first day of spring, we're predicted to get 3-5 inches of snow, of which at least 3 has already fallen. Above is a photo, out a dirty inside window, of the fresh snow on an Arnold's Promise Witch Hazel.

Temperatures in the 50s are predicted for tomorrow though so my guess is that this is winter's last gasp. It's always nice to see the first birds of spring and I've been out looking for them. Instead I've found the last birds of winter. including the male Canvasback and Hooded Merganser, still at Morris Arboretum where they've been for a few days.

Canvasback and Hooded Merganser. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

If you work in a number of media as I do pictures often present themselves in your minds eye in a certain medium. Even though I had thought of a print featuring the deep mahogany brown of the Canvasback, and lighter cinnamon brown of the Hooded Mergansers, coupled of course with their striking blacks and whites I instead thought of doing it in charcoal, or perhaps a one color linocut. The contrast in black and white, and rich mahogany of the Canvasback head seen as another rich dark seemed more important than color. Rick black and white is what I thought.

So I returned to an old method of charcoal, both vigorously drawn and erased. Someone once mentioned that an earlier work in this method might work well as a woodcut and a few years later that suggestion is what got me to start linocuts. I've toyed since then with charcoal, and sometimes pastel, but more or less stopped because of the health hazards of the fixative used to fix the colored powder on the paper. I probably won't return to this method. But yesterday I was happy to turn briefly to the striking immediacy of this method. The drawing below is 18x24 in compressed and vine charcoal.
Canvasback and Hooded Merganser. Charcoal Drawing by Ken Januski.

And now I think, it's about time for the birds of spring to replace the birds of winter, beautiful though they are.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Completed Bufflehead and Mergansers Woodcut

Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, Bufflehead at Flat Rock Dam. Two-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.
I finally finished the two block woodcut of the Red-breasted and Common Mergansers with Bufflehead at Flat Rock Dam yesterday. It seems like it took forever, most of that time being spent with the final black block.

The problem was that I just couldn't get an even inking that both filled all of the framing edges but also filled the heads of the merganers, and yet didn't fill them so much that it blotted out the small orange/red eye of the Red-breasted Merganser in the foreground. I switched from Daniel Smith to Caligo in the proofing stage, trying to get the inking that I wanted. I finally decided to stick with the Daniel Smith, which is the ink I used for the other colors. But even then I went back and forth as I printed from a thinner ink to a thicker ink trying to get it just right. The print above, one of an edition of somewhere between eight and twelve, is one of the best but still leaves something to be desired.

I realize in using the heavy black outline, including frame, type of woodcut that I veer toward the heavy-handed and cartoonish. But I also find something quite desirable about this method. I have no interest in fussy brushwork that manages to get a great deal of plumage detail. Instead I find, at least at the moment, something appealing in this stark almost primitive portrayal of the subject at hand. But still I do think that if the black ink had worked more smoothly my goals, simple though they are, might have been more thoroughly accomplished.

Finally I should add that there is a little more color richness to the actual print than can be seen in this scan.

I'm still tempted to do something with the recent combination of drake Canvasback and drake Hooded Merganser seen at Morris Arboretum on Monday. But after that I think the season of waterfowl will be over. Though there is snow predicted for Friday. Perhaps one more opportunity for some colorful ducks.

One last thought, which I hate to bring up for any reader who's not a printmaker. I continue to be amazed at how much dumb technique plays a part in printmaking.  I don't like technique and I think I always kept my distance from printmakers in my art education because so many seemed thoroughly enamored of the esoterica of technique. I still dislike it. But the more you print the more you realize that at a basic level it is an integral part of printmaking. If you want to print an edition, i.e. more than one copy of a print, then consistency between the prints of an edition is desirable. And as with this print you don't want splotchy areas, or smudges or dried ink or any of the other small things that can ruin a print. It's a very different mindset from that of a painter or draftsman, unless I suppose you're looking for a very polished surface in either of those. With a painting you just work on one painting. It works or it doesn't and then you move on to the next painting.

Printmaking requires more thought and care I think, not that this in turn makes it better than painting. I like printmaking both for the surprise it offers, and for the need to have a dialog with the materials and process, but also because I can print more than one. And I better be able to for all the work involved. The virtue of this is that I can sell more prints for less. And even when I have sold one or many I probably still have a few more to sell. It's an odd way to work, and for me a very different one after so many years as a painter. But it seems like the right method for me now and it's one I imagine I'll continue for quiet a while, eventually learning the technique that I have so little interest in.

Monday, March 16, 2015

First Field Sketches of 2015

Long-eared Owl and Drake Canvasback. Field Sketches by Ken Januskil

Ken Januski Sketching Hooded Mergansers at Morris Arboretum.

I officially declared 'Spring Is Here' I believe in my last post so I suppose I really ought to prove it by doing some field sketching. That wasn't the main intent in going to Morris Arboretum today but I did want to try out a new Tripak Tripod Pack that I bought recently. You can barely see it here but basically it is a very small backpack whose main function is to carry your tripod and scope on your back leaving your hands free for using your binoculars, sketching, drinking coffee or whatever.

I'm not a big gear person but I've often lamented the pain of carrying around a tripod and scope when I'm out sketching, especially when I'm at a place where I don't know if there'll be much call for a scope. So I often end up carrying it on one hand, tripod legs fully open, or folding the tripod legs and carrying over my shoulder. The problem with that is you can almost never see a bird that appears and disappears quickly. By the time you set the scope down and put up the binoculars the bird is gone. So I decided to gamble on this.

Here's my verdict. It almost paid for itself on the first day today. Even though I have an older, and thus heavier, tripod I hardly noticed I was carrying it. The only thing that did make me notice it is that the tripod legs tended to spread out behind me, something I hadn't thought about. I suppose a small bungee cord might fix that, or further experimentation.  The main thing though is that I was free to bird and sketch as though I didn't have a tripod and scope. Until I needed one. Then there it was conveniently on my back. The only adjustment needed is to lengthen the legs. But for birds seen with a scope you often have time to do that. In any case I have to say I'm really happy I bought this and expect that I'll be taking my scope with me on far more sketching outings.

Early on in our trip we saw eight Hooded Mergansers at the far end of the wetlands pond. But what was that big white shape? Detritus? That seemed unlikely given that the wetland is not public water and thus very clean. I'd forgotten that a Canvasback had been seen there yesterday. So I put the scope to its very first use and saw a handsome drake Canvasback. What a beautiful bird. One of our guides calls it 'The Aristocrat of Ducks.' It's hard to argue with that. Though I also took photos I really wanted to spend some time sketching him. So the photos at top took place over 15-30 minutes as he kept drifting all so slowly but still changing his position every few seconds. So it took awhile of continuing to draw him in various positions before any of the sketches above started to look like much.

Behind him were numerous Hooded Mergansers and I wouldn't be surprised if that combination ends up in a new print or painting. I've been thinking about my favorite prints recently, my own prints I mean, and almost always they stem from a real experience such as this. My background is an abstract artist, or more accurately a non-objective artist, where everything comes out of the artists own imagination, more or less. That's fine and I enjoyed it for years. But now I really enjoy making art based on something that actually happened in the external, especially the natural world.

And that woodcut? I believe that the carving is finished. Each day I continue to proof the black block on good paper, all that I've got left at this point, and I'm unhappy with the ink itself. Tomorrow I'll try one more time. Once I get a good inking the edition should be printed quickly.