Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Recent Work - Moku Hanga, Watercolor, Field Sketch

Yellow-billed Cuckoo with Worm. Moku Hanga print by Ken Januski.

It has been a very long time since I've posted anything here. One reason is an old one: I tend  to  write more  than make art on this blog. Though I  obviously  have an interest in thinking  about things, especially artistic things, I often feel that is to the detriment of  actually  making art. So a year ago or more I decided to limit my writing here.

A newer motivation is  both a seeming lack of  interest from readers and moreso a belief that most viewers are interested for the wrong reasons: hacking or some other motive not related to my art. This isn't just paranoia. It's based on reading the stats of who visits, who links, etc. The great majority are from countries known for their hacking, especially for the purpose of  identity theft, or from sites that aren't legit. This  didn't use to be the case but it  is now. So I have no reason to write posts for  hackers and others who just aren't interested  in anything I want them to be interested in.

Of course a lot of  this came about as social media became more popular. I finally relented and joined Facebook a few years ago, mainly to have access to some artists whose work was hidden without a Facebook logon and perhaps a friend request. I didn't like any of this but I finally decided to try it. All in all I'm not unhappy. But Facebook reminds me of what I used to call 'snippet journalism', journalism whether in print or online or television that was too breezy and short to be of much value.  There is something there but it certainly isn't the more developed, thoughtful discursive material that is available in something like a blog.

So perhaps blogs will return to popularity. But I used to think that eventually print, especially printed newspapers and magazines would make a comeback. It seems crazy to me that this has not happened but there's no doubt that is has not.

So.............I'm just going to show some recent work here, though without a lot of  theorizing.

At top  is the finished moku  hanga print of 'Yellow-billed Cuckoo with Worm.' Traditional moku hanga includes very finely painted,  carved and printed lines. Contemporary moku hanga has largely abandoned line for color fields. This makes sense for various reasons, but I  still miss line. So below you see a trial proof of the same print using lines just on the cuckoo. Another proof shows only color fields with no line  at all. The color  field proof was done much  earlier in the process and the linear one as I made the final edition.

My long history with abstract art has taught me that you really have to be careful about precious areas of  a painting, areas that can seduce the eye but that don't add much to  the entire painting or print.  There is  an aesthetic that says that this is just fine but it's not MY aesthetic. The proof without lines has a lot of areas I  like but they just don't fit with my idea of the  print. The proof below with minimal line was my attempt to keep the color fields and just use the most essential line. But in the end I decided that I needed all of the lines. It took a long time to come to this decision but I finally did. And I'm happy with it.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo with Worm. Trial moku hanga proof by Ken Januski.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo with Worm. Early state moku hanga proof by Ken Januski.

All of my work desires spontaneity in some form or another. And I rebel against too much detail and too much adherence to what something looks like. On the other hand, especially with wildlife art and particular species, I can't very well just ignore the specifics. So I try to do what I can to learn them but to let the actual prints and paintings look spontaneous, or at least not constipated.

Further down on this page are some field sketches I did  at Cape May a few weeks ago, mainly  of  Sora, Virginia Rail and Wilson's  Snipe. I wanted to capture the actual scene of Sora and Virginia Rail all together, constantly moving out of view and back into the reeds. The sumi brush pen and watercolor painting below is the result of  my attempt to capture the scene, be spontaneous but still be at least somewhat true to what the species actually looked like.

Inevitably this will not have the detail or the realism of more fastidious detailed work. But other than as a learning tool I have no interest in painting in such a manner. And I think my prints show that this is also true with them. In any case I'm happy with this  12x16 inch painting.

Juvenile and adult Sora and Virginia Rail. Brush Pen and Watercolor  painting  by Ken Januski.

Since the day I started wildlife art, specifically bird art, over 10 years ago I knew some things I didn't want. I didn't  want portraits, where cute animals were centered on the canvas or print as though posing in a photographers studio. I didn't want cameos either, where the bird is in focus and the background just fades out into mist. I also didn't want a totally flattened picture plane, with cropped subject and an interesting design. I used to admire this in Degas and in Japanese prints, including some moku hanga. But  today it seems easy and a bit too decorative.

I also knew, how could I forget, that I didn't want labored art. I'm always shocked at how artists, especially wildlife artists, will talk about how much time they spent on their work. Who cares?  That 's a bad sign not a good one. To me the best art looks effortless, regardless of how much work went into  it.

So I had a huge list of what I didn't want my art to look like. One thing I've realized is that I do want a sense of life, a sense of artistic knowledge and ambition, and more and more a sense of space and depth. The latter is not inherently good. It's gone in and out of artistic fashion over the centuries. But to me it seems to be a way to help the subject open up, to help it breathe. It seems to me that especially in wildlife art the subjects should breathe!

So that is what I attempted to  do in the 12x16 inch  watercolor below of a Black-bellied Plover and two Dunlin below. It's quite simple and has an extraordinarily  limited palette for me. It also leaves a lot of white space, something that is harder than anything else for  me to accomplish  in watercolor.

Black-bellied Plover and Dunlin. Watercolor painting by Ken Januski.

As I said above I still like to be able to portray my birds and other subjects with some sense of accuracy. The best method for  that bar none, is to work from life. I may not get the detail that I might if working from a photo but I get a sense of life and I also learn to make decisions about what is important in my subject in the brief seconds or nanoseconds before it moves. Because of that I always enjoy the chance to draw birds from life.

It is  still a bit difficult to do, especially with rarer birds, when my camera is hanging around my neck ready to use. And I do use it. But it never has the thrill of sketching from life!

Juvenile Sora. Field  Sketch by Ken Januski

Sora. Field Sketch by Ken Januski

Virginia Rail and Common Gallinule. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Virginia Rail Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Wilson's Snipe. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Varieties of Artistic Motivation

Yellow-billed Cuckoo with Caterpillar. Moku Hanga Proof by Ken Januski.
Three artistic subjects have been on my mind over the last few weeks: field sketches, shorebirds and moku hanga prints. And to a lesser extent, the annual exhibition of  The Society of Wildlife Artists in London, UK.

All of these subjects relate to the idea of artistic motivation, specifically MY artistic motivation. I mention this because I think that unless you're an artist you might not realize that artists have motivations. They don't just make art the way you the viewer think art should be made.

My own motivations are often complex if not contradictory. For one thing I love sketching birds from life, though with a caveat or two! I particularly like sketching shorebirds and there's one primary reason for that: I can see them. I can even see the whole bird! That is not true with warblers, vireos, flycatcher, sparrows, etc. Most of them are hard to see period because they are moving so quickly and in addition they are often partially obscured by their environment, often vegetation. What a relief it is to go from a fast flitting warbler seen only briefly and partially through some leaves to a shorebird that sits out in front of you, often staying in the same area, if not same position, long enough for you to look through your spotting scope, see, and sketch some detail.

So that is why it was particularly exciting a couple of weeks ago to find a fair number of species of shorebirds at Morris Arboretum. I spent a good part of two days sketching them. They didn't sit quite as still as I've just indicated that they often do. In fact they rarely sat still. But they did remain out in the open so it was possible to get continued looks at them and build up a drawing over time, adding little touches of areas I missed earlier in the sketching.

As you can see I kept quite busy with both Least and Solitary Sandpipers.

But why? Given  that my work normally ends up being somewhat abstract or stylized why spend so much  time sketching birds from life? I'm not an illustrator whose job it might be to capture them realistically for a guide book or something similar.

Well it's a good question. For me I think there are a couple of answers. One is that the more I sketch them the more I understand their structure and the more confident I am in using them even in the most abstract form. I know that there is a basis in reality. The second, which I just figured out today is the challenge. Birds, especially shorebirds have subtle but elegant shapes. It is a real challenge to both see and put down on paper all that is in a shorebird, especially in regard to shape. This reminds me of figure drawing in a way. The subject is endlessly complex, challenging and rewarding. And as with figure drawing there is also an almost sculptural aspect, the desire to show movement and how weight is distributed. It almost entails a physical empathy with the bird, animal or model. Work that shows this, even when incredibly detailed, immediately attracts me.

There is a real excitement in both trying to see what is there and in trying to get it down on paper. I'm showing quite a lot of photos of field sketches here. Some are better than others. But I think most if not all capture the excitement of drawing birds in the field. (Though I rarely sketch animals I expect that the challenge and reward is similar).

And yet.....
Least Sandpiper. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
Least Sandpiper. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
Least Sandpiper. Field Sketch  by Ken Januski.
Least Sandpiper. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
Least Sandpiper. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.


Solitary Sandpiper. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
Solitary Sandpiper. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
Solitary Sandpiper. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
Solitary Sandpiper.Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
Solitary Sandpiper. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
Solitary Sandpiper. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

.... this is only one artistic motivation. There is also the one of artistic composition, which includes color, shape, texture, etc. In many ways it is more exciting to me. It is this motivation that I think non-artists are most unaware of. It is the thing, or at least one of them, that makes art Art.

It is both the motivation behind the moku hanga print at the top of this post and the motivation behind  the prints that I selected for my application to this year's  annual exhibition of The Society of Wildlife Artists. In fact it's really more than composition. It's more like personal expression and all that this entails, often a great deal of concern with composition. So it explains the endless proofing I've done on the Yellow-billed Cuckoo print in order to get  it to meet some subconscious sense I have of what is right and it explains why I chose the particular prints I did  for the SWLA show.

And in fact both works turned out to be rejected. This rejection was a bit of a disappointment but it really doesn't bother me that much. I chose what I thought were my best works, using the standard of personal expression that I  just mentioned, and I and the judges, whoever they were  just didn't see eye to eye. But when you think you chosen your best work you don't change your mind  because that judgment was not echoed by someone else. Particularly with juried shows things like this often happen. There could be a million reasons for rejection from any show. So my feeling is to always just choose your  best work and then let the chips  fall where they may.

What is worse I think is to submit  your work to a show you don't  really like. I've done this for years for  a show that I don't like. And I've never gotten in. This year I finally stopped applying because I realized I got  angry every time I looked at the catalog of what did get in. I didn't like 90%  of it, year after year after year. With SWLA it's far different. This is a show I like and admire. And I've never felt bad about submitting what I think is my best work to a show I like. If you're going to be rejected I personally find it much easier to deal with not getting into a show that I admire. Though I do have to admit it's always nice to get in  the show.

In any case both the SWLA experience and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo print represent what you might call ambition in art. You challenge yourself,  a challenge that maybe only you understand and/or appreciate, but it is what makes all art, at least for artists, exciting! Artist sacrifice a lot for art, more  than most people know. On the other hand it's not really a sacrifice, because most artists love what they're doing, even if  it  doesn't  always end up with success or sales, and even if  artists are not apt  to publicly admit  this.

Finally there is a last motivation in my bird-based art: getting not just the shape, and sense of movement and life of birds, but also getting the subtlety of  their coloring and plumage. Most wildlife artists spend far more time on this than I do. For me it isn't even very interesting, in either my work or the work of  anyone else. I think this is mainly true because so often it is at the expense of any sense of life in the bird. It often seems to exhibit the skill of copying photos, not a very valuable skill in my book.

But sometimes you are just so struck by the beauty of a bird that you'd like to try to get it down on paper or canvas. Often such attempts end up lifeless but I  do understand and appreciate the motivation.

But that was not the case with the two watercolors below. And this is something peculiar to wildlife art and especially bird art I think. I wanted to show some of the diagnostic characteristics of birds, the things that you  might see in a guidebook. I rarely get into this in my art. But I  do spend much  of  my time trying to identify birds and to differentiate similar ones from each other. So it's not surprising that occasionally I attempt to show that it  my artwork. But it is a rarity for me, and though exciting when I do it, can be disappointing afterwards if it doesn't also show some sense of self-expression.

As usual when you see shorebirds, especially if you're in a place like Philadelphia that doesn't really have all that many, there is the question of peeps. Are those small shorebirds Least Sandpipers, Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers, something else? These questions were going through my mind as I looked at peeps recently and so I did these two watercolors, at least in part, to try to show the differences between the two. To some extent I've succeeded though I do think there is a little too much of the torpedo-like shape of a Red Knot in the solo Least Sandpiper watercolor.

It is this desire  to show something accurately which I think is most difficult for an artist like myself who comes from a 'Fine Arts' background. This type of almost scientific accuracy is just of no importance whatsoever in my training. In fact it's quite suspect. I would guess that my peers, at least at the time I was studying art in college, would have considered it an example of the most mundane and uninspired 'illustration', certainly not art. This is of course just one view of art and I have no idea how many people still subscribe to it.

But I do think the fact that you never, ever see contemporary wildlife art in any museum show or contemporary art show indicates that this view still holds. So I  personally find myself  in an odd position. I abandoned the art world I'd grown up in because I think it had become thoroughly fatuous. All art was 'important' art, at least if you believed the galleries and art magazines about 20 years ago when I got fed up with it. So there are a million reasons I think to criticize contemporary art which has just as much of an 'academy' today as in the mid-1800s when the Impressionists reacted against it.

I find the idea of working from nature, which has always had some importance in art, a good place from which to revive 'high art' to get it out of  its thorough insularity and self-referentiality. So that's where I'm working. But I can't  really see making art that is nothing more than illustration either, even if the subject is birds or wildlife. Art can be and has been so much more than that. So though there is some attempt at realism in the two paintings below I don't care in the least if I happen to miss one row  of scapulars or any other such detail. That to me seems more the concern of a pedant than a artist.

Least Sandpiper. Watercolor Painting by Ken Januski.
Least and Semi-palmated Sandpipers. Watercolor Painting by Ken Januski.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Moku Hanga Number Two - Jumping Squirrel, Kingbird, Damselfly, Butterfly)

Jumping Gray Squirrel, Eastern  Kingbird, Ebony Jewelwing  and Zabulon Skipper Moku Hanga print by Ken Januski. On Nishinouchi paper.

It's been quite a while since I posted here and though I've been working on a new print for some time I wanted to wait until the print was finished before posting. Above is one of the  finished prints. I've done 10-11 and am debating whether to print a few more in the edition. Given all the prepartory work it  always seems silly not to print a  relatively large edition. On the other hand it is more work!

Spring is a time of  almost too much natural wealth. There is so much  so see, hear, experience, and perhaps  draw, paint or photograph from life. But how do you  choose a subject for  an artwork? For me it  often comes from a quick sketch that I've done.

Below you can see the field sketch of  an Eastern Kingbird that led to this print. It probably wouldn't have just based on the kingbird sketch, but while I was sketching it a Gray Squirrel seemed to jump up straight in the air between me and the kingbird. Perhaps he saw a snake,  maybe a grasshopper,  or maybe he was just being squirrelly. In any case I tried to get some sense of it  down in my sketchbook.

As I said these chance encounters often lead to more developed work. My guess is that there seems to be a subject to portray, something more than just a portrait or study. In any case after I got  home I started doing various compositional  studies for a print, as well as studies as to just how a squirrel that jumped straight up in the air might look.  As I did so I realized how poorly I understood squirrel anatomy. So  I did some sketches based on photos I've taken over the years.

Field Sketch  and Studies for Moku  Hanga Print.

Studies for Squirrel Moku Hanga Print.

I'm not going to show all of the various compositional  studies I made. But finally I came up  with what I wanted. I then drew that with a brush pen onto a tissue like paper, pasted it  down on the block that would be the  key block(the one with most detail, and at least for me printed in black), and eventually printed that block onto more tissue (Usu Mino paper)  that I then pasted in reverse onto the other blocks to  be carved. Below is an example. I overdid  the amount of  Nori used to paste down the drawing(kyogo) and that is what the blotches are in photo below.

Anyone who's familiar with moku hanga will know what kento marks are but most people will not. They  are registration marks carved into the block itself so that there is a greater likelihood of  prints matching up as you print more and more colors. In the kyogo below you can see that I've also included the kento marks from the key block. Once the kyogo dried I used it as a guide as I carved away  the non-printing areas and just left the areas I planned to print in color.

Pasted down Kyogo for color block.

Below are the other blocks, well actually other block. Since both sides of each block can be printed I can get four blocks from two blocks. Additionally I can print more than one color  on some of the blocks, though I do  have to be careful as I ink up the areas not to brush the wrong color into an area. Below all of  the blocks except the black key block have more than one color: gray and blue, brown and a tiny orange area(for the skipper butterfly) and yellow and  a tiny second area  of black (for the squirrel's eye).

Blue and Gray, and Black Blocks for Moku Hanga print.

Yellow and Brown Blocks for Moku Hanga Print.

As the title says this is just my second moku hanga print. I'm happy to say it was  not as tortuous as the  first. All printmaking methods seem to require a fair amount of  technical  knowledge and skill, something I really have never liked. But the more  I print, regardless  of  method of printmaking, the more I realize that I just  won't  be successful without some technical knowledge and skill. Moku hanga seems more complicated than other methods I've tried.

Its virtue though is  that  it can lead to beautiful prints, that is almost thoroughly non-toxic, assuming  you don't eat any of  your paints/inks, and it requires very little space. I used to print in the basement after carving and designing my prints in my second floor studio. Now I do all my work in the studio. I only go to the basement to clean up.

There are many technical problems with moku hanga but  based on  my vast experience of two prints I'd  say that the most difficult is  getting consistent ink coverage. This print is not perfect but I've gotten much better with ink coverage. Registration is better and smudges are fewer. It will remain a learning experience. But it is one where I see a bright future.

From what I can see of contemporary moku hanga a great deal of it  is done with fields  of color  and NO lines. Since the mastery of line, and other things, seen in ukiyo-e artists and printmakers seems absolutely impossible  to match  today I  have some understanding of this. Who wants to compete with Hokusai? But  I  like  line and see  no reason to keep it out of my prints. I also , as in most of my work, like to combine naturalism and abstraction. It was that which made printmaking appealing to me to begin with. It is even more so with moku hanga.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Grabbing a Warbler in Your Hand

Northern Parula at Magee Marsh. Charcoal and Pastel Drawing by Ken Januski.

Northern Parula at Magee Marsh. Pencil Drawing by  Ken Januski.

Northern Parula at Magee Marsh. Pencil Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Northern Parula at Magee Marsh. Photo by Ken Januski.

I recently spent over a week in the Magee Marsh area of Ohio with my wife. It is a great place to see warblers close up. But after a while you begin to suspect that warblers all have the same song: "click, click, click, clickclickclick". The sound of cameras drowns out the sound of the birds. It is that crowded and everyone seems to have a camera.

It's easy to understand. They are such beautiful birds and only rarely can most people see them so close. So you want to capture them. It's a real temptation, and one I always fall to. But there's something bothersome about 'capturing' them via photography. It can seem a bit aggressive as well as possessive, like an object to be obtained rather than something to enjoy. Drawing them from life is far more difficult than pushing the button on a camera. But it's also far more engaging. So I always plan to do sketches of them from life and eventually I do so. Such sketches are difficult because the birds move so quickly.

At that time it almost seems criminal to reach for the sketchbook. On the other hand it's also the only chance you may ever get to sketch them close up from life. I know that there will be problems with the sketches but I can't resist doing so. Many of them are shown here. I'm also including a number of photos, and also I hope a couple of videos. I think together that they give some sense of the full experience.

Above you see three different representations of a Northern Parula along with a photo.  Sometimes the warblers are so close you could literally reach out and grab them. That certainly was the case for me with Pine, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided and Yellow Warblers. They were within my grasp. My thinking here is that though you can almost reach out and grab these warblers any art work based on them ought also to have that quality. The charcoal and pastel drawing at the top, done today two weeks after getting back from Magee, attempts just that. It attempts to capture the experience, not just copy a photo.


Blackburnian Warbler at Magee Marsh. Pencil Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Blackburnian Warbler at Magee Marsh. Brush Pen and Watercolor Painting by  Ken Januski.

Blackburnian Warbler at Magee Marsh. Photo by Ken Januski.

Above are three representations of the striking Blackburnian Warbler. The first is a field sketch done from life. Often I know that I'll get something wrong, perhaps the shape, more likely some part of their complex feather patterns. But trying to capture them live on paper gets me to see and know them better. If I later do a work based on a photo, as in the brush pen and watercolor painting above, it is much easier to take liberties with the photo, to be less intimidated by its 'reality.''

Below are a few more field sketches as well as photos of many of the other warblers seen at Magee Marsh.

Black-throated Blue Warbler at Magee Marsh. Pencil Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Black-throated Blue Warbler at Magee Marsh. Photo by Ken Januski.

Black-throated Green Warbler at Magee Marsh. Pencil Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Black-throated Green Warbler at Magee Marsh. Photo by Ken Januski.

Magnolia Warbler at Magee Marsh. Pencil Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Magnolia Warbler at Magee Marsh. Photo by Ken Januski.
Nashville Warbler at Magee Marsh. Pencil Field Sketch by  Ken Januski.

Nashville Warbler at Magee Marsh. Photo by Ken Januski.


Chestnut-sided Warbler  at Magee Marsh. Photo by Ken Januski.

Though it is always exciting to see all of these warblers, and many other species, at Magee it often happens that as soon as we get home a bird that we'd gone on vacation specifically to see makes an appearance while we're out birding in Philadelphia. Such was the case with the first Prothonotary Warbler we've ever seen in Philadelphia. I found it less than two miles from home, along the Wissahickon Creek.

He actually stayed around long enough for me to shoot a short video with my camera as well as take a number of photos. One of the reasons I like shooting videos, and only with my camera so the gear is simple, is that I can often get the song along with the bird. For me a bird is not a bird without his  song.

One problem I've had with Prothonotary Warblers is that though they are quite striking visually I find it  difficult to make an interesting painting based on them. I think that this is due to the lack of pattern in their plumage. In any case I used this video as a springboard for my most successful version of a Prothonotary so far.


Prothonotary Warbler at Wissahickon. Brush Pen and Watercolor Painting by Ken Januski.

Prothonotary Warbler  at Magee Marsh. Photo by Ken Januski.

Finally I'd like to add something about the title of this post. When a warbler is close enough to grab in your hand you realize what tiny, fragile creatures they are. I like experiencing this. It helps to take them out of the 'cute' category and actually seem like the living things that they are. It also helps you realize how optics don't necessarily tell the truth about the world, neither through binoculars nor in photos. Things seem large, bold and detailed in both. But it often comes as a surprise to  find out just how small those bold, beautiful warblers really are.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Some Field Sketches, Some Videos

American Kestrel. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Each spring I tell myself that I'll do more field sketching and each year I seem to fail to do so. But  seven field sketches yesterday and a few earlier in the week are a good omen for  this year. The seven sketches yesterday were made easier by the fact that I had my scope with me and that most of the birds stayed in one place at least for a second  or two. The last  sketch of a Yellow-rumped Warbler shows what happens in other circumstances, for instance when it never sits still. I have had my scope with me recently when I've seen Yellow-rumps but it's been of little use. The birds move too fast to give me time to even get them in focus in the scope  before they're gone.

Above is a male American Kestrel and below a male Eastern Bluebird. Both were sketched at Dixon Meadow Preserve.

Eastern Bluebird. Field Sketch  by Ken Januski.

I didn't have any problem with movement in the larger drawing below.  I'd been eyeing the broken, but still magisterial, leaves of this garden tulip for a week or more. There was something so sculptural about it. So I sat at our small garden table  and spent one morning sketching it last week. I'm quite happy with it and it reminds me how powerful pencil on paper can be, without any need at all for color or fine detail.

Storm-battered Garden Tulip. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Yesterday I brought my scope with me to Morris Arboretum, hoping to see some migrating shorebirds. But no luck. Then as I was training the scope on an Orchard Oriole some friends came up to tell me an unidentified  shorebird had  just landed. Sure enough there was a Greater Yellowlegs, the first I've seen this year. So I took the opportunity to keep doing sketches of it, four or five of them over an hour.

With field sketching I  often find that I tend to stop after one sketch, unless it's a bird I've never seen before. I think  this is due  to fear more  than anything else. If I've done one sketch I'm happy with why risk failing on the next one? It's a dumb way to think but one that still applies. Much better is to realize it's a rare opportunity  and just keep sketching until the bird flies away. So that's exactly what I did.

With sketching I think you soon realize that there is always more to learn, if not about the subject itself, then about the art of rendering the subject and the scene.

Greater Yellowlegs. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Greater Yellowlegs. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Greater Yellowlegs. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Savannah Sparrow. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Above is another page of sketches from Dixon Meadow Preserve yesterday. It shows a Savannah Sparrow, the first I've seen this year. Below  is a drawing of a Yellow-rumped Warbler, not drawn through  a scope. The reason is that the bird wouldn't begin to sit still, as is true of many birds, especially warblers. So in the end you just have to look and look, try to form a mental image and then stop looking and try to get that image down on paper. Inevitably you realize that your mental image has faded too quickly. So you keep practicing. I think that's the only way to do  it. And it does become satisfying  as you get better at it.
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Field  Sketch by Ken Januski.

When I did the sketch of the Yellow-rumped Warbler I also shot a video on my camera of the same bird. It seemed worthwhile to show it as well. I think it shows why sketching warblers is so hard.


I enjoyed that one so much that I took a few more yesterday. I'm including below ones of both a Blue-headed Vireo and an Orchard Oriole. The oriole sings toward the end but unfortunately the vireo does not.