Sunday, March 26, 2017

But Why Should It Look Like an Oil Painting?

Glossy Ibis. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

The show American Watercolor currently on at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a quite timely counterpoint to these recent watercolors and watercolor studies.  We've seen it twice and I'm currently reading  the massive catalog that accompanies it. Both are well worth the money  and time if you are interested in watercolor.

As long-time readers know I've had a very mixed history with watercolor. I love the results in the hands of masters like Winslow Homer  and John Singer Sargent but my own work  has often led  me to near despair, or at least mild cantankerousness. I've also never had much interest in various watercolor  societies, because based on the little I've seen it seems to value control over everything else. And yet it  has such possibilities as a medium!

To make a long story short I've looked at a lot of watercolors, done a fair number myself and read a few books about watercolor, mainly American watercolor. (I'd be happy to read about British watercolor  but have not  yet heard of  a good, and affordable, book that covers that topic). In any case the end result is that I've thought a fair amount about the styles of  watercolor I like and those I  don't  like.

What is  so refreshing about the American Watercolor show is  that it covers  those same topics except in a broader range, with far more knowledge than I have, and with living, breathing examples. Because it is  such a huge subject and such a  huge  show I'm  not going to say much more about it. However I will say that you  can find great examples of so many different ways  of painting  in watercolor, from the extreme detail of  the followers of John Ruskin and the American Pre-Raphaelites, to those who seemed to think that it served no other purpose than to imitate large, exhibition oil paintings, to the 20th century abstractions of John Marin  and Georgia O'Keeffe, with many, many artists, many of  whom I'd never heard, both male and female along the way.

For me personally it has helped to crystalize what I  want in my own watercolors, though to a certain extent I already knew: Homer  and Sargent. So much  wildlife art seems so similar to the Ruskinites, artists who painstakingly tried  to portray every little  detail of nature. Tellingly most of them  eventually gave up. It is too much work for too little reward. More important to me is that though they can be quite beautiful they  also seem to live in a world with no air, where nothing  breathes.

So I've always preferred a looser style, that allows imprecision,  but that also allows light and spontaneity,  two of the elements that seem to be the greatest inherent strengths  of  the medium. I  won't  go on about  this. I  think that  if  you  like  watercolor you'll like the show  and you'll find examples of  the style  of watercolor you like. But you'll also find examples  of other styles  of watercolor  and you might walk away appreciating them as well.

Many early American watercolorists eventually gave  up  because they  just  did not  sell. They  weren't  'real' art works, like oil paintings. I've had my own dissatisfaction with watercolor but it really is  more related to the difficulty of  the medium,  at least when highlighting its strengths of light and spontaneity, than it is  to sales. Printmaking is now my primary medium. But I can't help going back to watercolor every so  often, as I have in this recent work.

One last comment about the show, though it is more noticeable in the catalog than in the show itself. That regards watercolor sketches as used by naturalists. Early on the book mentions a few types of  watercolor  that are pretty much outside of  the subject of the book, that seemed to proceed on their own, regardless of  movements in the art world  or watercolor  world itself. One of  those is the watercolor sketch of naturalists. It is  an interesting side note and perhaps explains at least to some degree why there are so many talented wildlife artists, especially in terms of  field sketching who use watercolor, and yet who seem oblivious  to or perhaps  even opposed  to everything that happens in the wider art world. The show does  include by the  way a wonderful watercolor  by John  James Audubon of some Black Rats.

Eastern Screech Owl at Rea Farm. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

Hermit Thrush. Pencil Sketch and  Pencil Sketch  with Watercolor by Ken Januski.

I really don't have much to say about my own works that I'm showing here, except to say that they were all done in  the last  week or  two. Most are a little bit more  finished, and a little bit less spontaneous, than my  ideal  watercolor.
Louisiana Waterthrush at 'The Magic Bridge.' Watercolor Sketch by  Ken  Januski.

Northern Harrier  at Dixon Meadow. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

Monday, February 20, 2017

First Moku Hanga Print

Nashville Warbler on Bean Trellis in Winter. Moku  Hanga Print by  Ken Januski.

For quite some time I've debated trying Moku Hanga printmaking. As best I can tell the term itself just refers to Japanese woodblock or  woodblock  printmaking. Most  people will probably be familiar with it through ukiyo-e prints, such as those by Utamaro, Hokusai, Hiroshige et al.

Though I've always liked those prints I suspect I first liked them more for their influence on the art of people  like Edgar Degas than for any other reason. That is no longer the case but it was my first reaction to them. Now my interest is completely different. It is more related to things like the use of  non-toxic materials(since the ink  is water-based not petroleum  based), the fact that it can be done without a printing press, though this has been true  of all my other prints as well, that it has a registration system that most likely is  better than the one I've used in the past, and perhaps most of all it is capable of a rich color, a color that actually is absorbed into the paper, rather than lying  on top of it.

Though I'd read the last statement before, the fact that the color merges with the paper,  you  actually need to see it to understand it. Now I have! It can be seen in the two prints above and below of a Nashville Warbler  on a Bamboo Bean Trellis in Winter,  which we had in our backyard on and off over a two week period a number of winters ago.

These two prints also show at least one of the problems with this type of printmaking:  the background color, in particular, varies greatly between prints. I began printmaking about 5-6 years ago I  think, though  I had had a brief introduction in college. The more I've done it the more I  remember why I shied away from it in college. Printmakers seemed SO interested in technique! At the time that was the last thing that I thought art should  be about. But after my 5+ years of printmaking I realize that technique is an integral part of  it,  at least if you want to make an edition, i.e . more than one more or less consistent print  of the same image. And given all the work involved, at least when I make a print, it seems silly to not have more to show for  it than just one print.

Still I don't like having to worry about technique. It's a necessity, not a virtue, not something I seek out. That said I've seen some moku hanga prints that are extremely rich in color and that is  something that I think is desirable enough to more than compensate for  the technical problems involved. At least I hope so! Time will tell.

Another thing I love in many ukiyo-e prints is the sinuous, graceful line, based most often on the sinuous, graceful line of the original brush paintings on which the prints were based. For  me there at two huge obstacles to doing this myself: first I can't do graceful, sinuous brush paintings, and to do so would  probably take  years  of practice; and second, I'll never  become such an accomplished carver of wood as to translate sinuous lines from paint to carved wood. In ukiyo-e prints this was no problem because the artist and the carver were two different people! And the printer was a third person involved in the process. This helps to explain some of the accomplishments of this type of print. And it also shows the difficulty of doing it today.

There seem to be quite a few contemporary Western printmakers using moku hanga today, each in their own way. From what I can see many skip the part based on graceful, sinuous lines and instead are more interested in rich color fields. I know of some art in this manner that I greatly like. But it's not for me, at least not at the moment. So crude as my lines might be I plan to continue  to use  them in my prints. Only time will tell how I come into my own interpretation of moku hanga.  Above and below you see the first.

Nashville Warbler on Bean Trellis in Winter. Moku  Hanga Print by  Ken Januski

All printmaking seems to require a lot of time in the studio. So I was happy a couple of  times recently to  leave prints and printmaking behind and head outside. Below you see two recent field sketches. As you may be able to tell they are done with a brush pen, something that resembles a Chinese  or Japanese brush but that comes with a reservoir of ink. It may be hard to believe but when I first started using them a year or two it was with the idea of developing the sinuous, graceful line that I talked about above. I find it far more refreshing that a labored pencil sketch,  at least for myself.

Great Blue Heron and Killdeer at Manayunk Canal. Brush Pen Field Sketch  by Ken Januski.

Two Great Blue Heron in Trees Along Manayunk Canal. Brush Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Some More Firsts of 2017 and a Reminder About the Artistic Status of Wildlife Art

White-throated Sparrow Eating Staghorn Sumac. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

It's been a slow artistic start to 2017, probably due more to the number of bird censuses we do at this time than to any other factors. In any case I have been somewhat busy over the last week or so and am including that work here.

Above is a 9x12 inch watercolor of one of a number of White-throated Sparrows Eating Staghorn Sumac, seen along the Manayunk Canal in Philadelphia. It's on a new paper for me, Saunders Waterford.

Nashville Warbler on Bean Trellis. Moku Hanga Proof by Ken Januski.

I also decided to take a stab at traditional Japanese woodblock printmaking, called Moku Hanga. Since it can take a while to learn I've debated whether it was worth the time involved in learning it. Finally I decided to bite the bullet and buy the minimum materials required to give it a try. Readers may be most familiar with it as ukiyo-e prints from the 19th century. It is a watercolor based printmaking and thus uses far safer and more environmentally friendly materials, though it also has purely aesthetic appeal. In any case this is a first proof of the black block. When I receive some newly ordered supplies I'll be experimenting with additional color blocks.

If done correctly Moku Hanga allows for very precise registration which should allow colors and black to blend seamlessly. We shall see. That's never been a high priority for me but it's worth experimenting with.

Nesting Bald Eagles at Heinz NWR. Brush Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

I was horribly lax with field sketches last year despite my stated goal of doing more of them. So at least this year I can say I'd done a number by mid-January. These are all from Heinz NWR based on birds seen last weekend. They include two nesting Bald Eagles above, a well-hidden Northern Saw Whet Owl below and a Black-headed Gull at bottom. The latter are life birds for us. There's nothing quite as exciting as sketching a life bird from life. Photos don't even enter the competition.

Northern Saw Whet Owl at Heinz NWR. Brush Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Black-headed Gull at Heinz NWR. Brush Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Lastly I was reminded recently of the artistic world I've abandoned: that of mainstream galleries, museums, etc. This occurred due to my being contacted by an old artist friend of mine. As I looked at her recent work and exhibitions I was reminded that though I once exhibited like that, though not as much as I would have liked to, I can no longer do so.  Most galleries and museums will not take seriously art that uses wildlife as subject.

But I've known this for the entire time I've focused on wildlife art, about 10 years now, so I'm not complaining. I knew exactly what would happen when I chose to use nature, especially birds, as subject. On the other hand I rarely try to show in wildlife galleries or exhibitions because to a large extent I don't like the art. In fact it more often illustration than art. I've also known this for a long time so it's not a complaint.

Though not intentionally or willfully I guess I've always been an iconoclast, even though I'm one with great sympathy for past accomplishments in the arts. Vital art always revives clich├ęs and makes them live again, regardless of what art establishments of whatever sort think art should be. So I'm quite happy working as I am, with few venues in which to show or sell, but still able to do exactly what I want. You can't beat that!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

An Artistic Team of Rivals

White-throated Sparrow in Staghorn Sumac. Sumi Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

 

When the flush of newborn sun fell first
On Eden's green and bold
Our Father Adam sat under a tree
And scratched with a stick in the mould
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen
Was a joy to his mighty Heart
Till the devil whispered behind the leaves,
"It's pretty but is it Art?"
From 'The Conundrum of Workshops' by Rudyard Kipling, quoted in 'Lines from Nature' by John Busby, Langford Press.

*********************************************************************
'"I have attained," he said, "a form filtered to the essentials."'
Henri Matisse speaking about his later cutout artwork, as quoted by John Elderfield in 'The Cutouts of Henri Matisse', George Braziller.

***********************************************************************
Every animal, plant, or fish exhibits individual moods compatible with its nature. It is difficult to understand, but once understood their spirit expressed in your painting will be complete -- otherwise you are painting mere likeness. Few artists can express their subjects spirit -- the first rule for this is universal empathy. As you progress in this, not only will you understand the spirit behind the few animal motifs on which you are studying, but every creature will begin to be enlivened with mood and spirit. Later, when you meld the myriad creatures together with your emotions and nature through your brush you attain a 'dissolution of opposites,' a realm where both subject and object are transformed together. Every scene that passes your vision and leaves your brush becomes enlivened with your individual personality. The average person may not recognize this, but other artists will acknowledge your paintings as possessing both feeling and character. At this point painting becomes an art of life, perfected by transforming your disposition. Neglecting to mold your nature inhibits you from attaining a higher realm of painting. This is why abstract art has become an art for this modern, chaotic age.
Cheng Man-ching: Master of Five Excellences, translation and commentary by Mark Hennessy, Frog Ltd.
****************************************************************************

I recently received the last book by John Busby , 'Lines from Nature' and was struck by the opening quote from Kipling. And I'm not sure exactly what Busby meant since his own work exhibits both direct observation of nature and art based on that as well as more formal aspects. Perhaps he just wanted to show that it is an age-old dichotomy.

Seeing a wonderful film recently called 'A Model for Matisse' about a nun who was a subject for many works by Matisse and was also instrumental in his late works for the chapel at Vence, renewed my appreciation for Matisse. There's no question that his work is ART.

Thus a dilemma: straightforward response to nature, which may or may not be ART, and ART that intends to be ART. I love them both.

So that got me searching through 'Cheng Man-ching: Master of Five Excellences', translated with commentary by Mark Hennessy for some of his thoughts on art. The one I quote is not actually the one I was looking for, about chi in art, but it's good enough and I'm not trying to write a research paper.

My point is really to show how many different attitudes there can be toward making art, and how one person, namely me, but I suspect most other artists as well, are influenced by many of them, even when they can seem contradictory. And out of all those contradictions comes ART. And I think the best art comes from an artistic team of rivals, not from just one source or one school. As I've been noticing so much recently while listening to Beethoven it is out of conflict that the most bracing, striking and honest beauty sometimes comes.

Since this really is more about ideas than pictures it was hard to know how to illustrate this. So I chose the only art I've made in 2017. This is a fairly quick sketch with a sumi brush pen of a White-throated Sparrow eating the seeds of a Staghorn Sumac. Perhaps it will eventually become a print, or painting, or perhaps even a cutout.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ending 2016 with Two Woodcuts(Or Keep Calm During Chaos)

Wood Ducks in Snow on Wissahickon Creek. Reduction Woodcut by Ken Januski.

It's always a bit of a struggle to keep politics, or other things that occasionally seem important, out of what is supposed to be a blog about art, birds and nature. I try to but Trump blasts away all my resolve due to his constant attack on decency, logic, reason, fairness and just about any other quality that used to be considered part of 'civilized' behavior. So I'll just say that I expect chaos both here and in the rest of the world, largely due to Trump. It may not be immediately evident, especially if you ignore his tweets(as everyone should), but it will eventually become so. That being the case I think the Wood Ducks portrayed above, seen in a blustery winter storm a number of springs ago, may serve as a good example. They look calm and serene amidst the chaos. Hopefully the world can do the same under whatever conditions he brings about.

I'd originally intended this small 4x6 woodcut as a season's greeting card that I tried to whip out in time for the holidays just as I was also finishing the woodcut below. But I soon let it got more complicated than I should have, especially at such a small scale. Still in the end I'm happy with how it worked out. It does have the misty, blustery feel of the actual day that I saw the Wood Ducks. It is printed on a good quality Japanese paper, Nishinouchi. The ink went on a bit more sparsely than I expected but in the end it didn't seem to be a problem. I was also impressed that I could keep adding new colors and the paper accepted them without problem.

I loved this scene when I first saw it a few years ago. This print, like many I've done, is based on a watercolor I did of the original scene. Little did I know as I did it that it might need to serve as a motto for the next 4, and God Forbid, 8 years: Remain Calm During Chaos!

Killdeer and Great Blue Heron in Snow at Manayunk Canal. Two-block Reduction Woodcut by Ken Januski.

I finished the Killdeer and Great Blue Heron woodcut a few weeks ago, just adding a few minor tweaks to the last version that I posted here. As usual with prints, especially reduction prints, I often find at the end that there is something I wish I'd done differently earlier on. With a painting I can just paint over it. But not in a print. So printmaking I think really forces you to live with simplification. You can only tweak so much. The final tweaking probably took two weeks and affected only about 10% of the entire area of the print. But I do think it made the print a bit livelier, both in terms of color and tone.

As anyone who has followed my work and this blog for very long knows I'm always trying to reconcile naturalism/realism and abstraction. To me this print goes quite a way in that direction, though here I think I'm a bit more realistic than in some of my other attempts. Others may view it differently.

I've been listening to a lot of music by Beethoven recently as well as reading two biographies and taking a number of audio courses. At one point Beethoven talks about writing for the future not the past. With wildlife art it's easy to get tricked into sticking with the past. But in the end I think it's a mistake. Art needs to remain lively and not just be an imitation of the past. That is my goal in my hybrid realistic/abstract work. For me it works and is endlessly fulfilling I hope that also proves true to people who view it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Reduction Woodcut, Recalcitrant Snipe, Leftovers, Trump's Greatest Sin


Killdeer and Great Blue Heron. Partially completed reduction woodcut by Ken Januski.

I guess one of the benefits of writing posts so infrequently these days is that I can ramble all over the place in terms of subjects covered. Thus the title.

My most recent artwork is the reduction woodcut above, based on one of numerous sightings of Killdeer and Great Blue Heron in the Manayunk Canal over the last few winters. I'm moving along more speedily than normal on this one, spending less time in endless deliberation about what to do next. I think one or at most two colors are still left and I plan that they will just be in a few small areas.


Wilson's Snipe and Greater Yellowlegs at Ottawa NWR. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

I say 'recalcitrant' snipe in the title because I keep going back to these snipe seen at Ottawa NWR a number of years ago in the hopes of getting a painting, print, drawing I'm happy with. Above is the newest effort, I think 11x17 or something like that. It's the biggest watercolor I've done in a while.

Wilson's Snipe and Greater Yellowlegs at Ottawa NWR. Acrylic Painting by Ken Januski.

Next is an acrylic painting, actually smaller than the watercolor, that I painted then repainted a number of years ago. It seems like such a great subject and yet I'm not completely happy with any of my attempts. I've also done numerous pen and ink and watercolor studies along the way. So we shall see. Sometimes it almost seems like you need to exorcise a subject. I do think eventually that I'll get a good print out of this subject.

Chipping Sparrow in Pines. Brush Painting by Ken Januski.

When I print I always tear large sheets of printmaking paper to size. And always there are small leftover strips of good paper. I've never known what to do with them so they just accumulate. Recently I ordered a new Chinese brush, ink stick and grinding stone from Oriental Art Supply. I realized that this leftover paper might be just the ticket for experimenting with the new brush and ink. So after about 5-6 horrible failures I ended up with this passable brush painting of a Chipping Sparrow in a pine tree. One reason I wanted a better quality ink stick was so that I could get richer blacks. As you can see there are at least one or two here.

'Tula' salvia in backyard. Photo by Ken Januski.

I haven't written anything on Trump and the election so far. I'm not completely shocked by the results. The white working class has been effectively abandoned by Democrats for years. There's also a sense of moral superiority in many Democrats that I think fuels a resentment of them, a resentment Trump was all too happy to take advantage of. But what of Trump? To a certain extent I agree with both Obama and Clinton in the idea of at least giving him a chance.

But for all of his faults, and everyone except the blind know that they are legion, there is one that I think will do more harm than anything else: his lack of civility, respect for others, and respect for truth, all willingly jettisoned by him. As he said to the Wall Street Journal when questioned about whether he'd gone too far in some of his statements he said: "No, I won!"

Most Americans know that the presidency is more than just a matter of winning. It's not a football game, or a backstreet brawl, though I suppose it has been in the distant past. But in an age where there is already far too much ranting, too much eager willingness to  not even consider the other side, Trump sets the worst possible precedent. Anything and everything is legitimate as long as you win. History will decide I fear that this is his very worst legacy.

I should add, as others have, that he might actually be successful. History never unfolds as predicted. But I'll still never forgive him for his utter degradation of the process.

And, to end on a happier note, the last photo  is of 'Tula' Mexican Sage, almost always the last flower blooming in our garden, even in December. We buy this plant at about 12 inches tall every few years, then watch it grow and grow until November without flowering. And then finally in a race against a hard frost it starts to bloom. Each day we wonder: will it be the last? Not so far.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Some Tiny Watercolors

White-rumped Sandpiper in Cape May, NJ. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

It seems that a few times a year I'm at a loss as to what to do next and so, in a manner somewhat similar to practicing on a musical instrument I'd guess, I do either sketches or small paintings based on photos that I've taken.

As I've said forever I don't like working from photos, mine or anyone else's. In fact I don't believe I've worked from anyone else's since I was a child. If I'm going to work from a photo I want it at least to be one where I have a personal recollection of the experience.

All of the small 5x7 watercolors in this post, with the exception of the Cattle Egret below, were done over the last few days.

Sometimes when I do work from a photo it's because I've seen a bird, perhaps done a field sketch of it, but want to get to know it better, both in my mind's eye and on paper or canvas. That's the case with the White-rumped Sandpiper above. I both wanted to understand it better and also do a successful watercolor of it. With their generally subtle colors shorebirds lend themselves to plumage detail I think. If you don't get the plumage subtlety, they all you have to work with is the shape, which in the case of shorebirds is actually quite a lot. But who wants to paint a feather map? Not me. So this type of watercolor allows me to see what I can do in getting some sense of plumage complexity and subtlety while still having the watercolor retain some spontaneity and fluidity.

Cattle Egret at Cape May Point State Park. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

The watercolor above was actually painted as a gift for the people who rented us their house recently while on vacation. So the motivation is somewhat different. But it was also exciting to see a Cattle Egret, actually two, so I wanted to get the experience down on paper. It is based on field sketches and on looking at a photo on my camera, about 1x1 at most I'd guess. So it is not particularly detailed. More importantly though I think it gets a good sense of Cattle Egrets and their fascinating movement.

Ruddy Turnstone at Reed's Beach. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

I'll rarely try to paint a bird in flight. Almost always they have the deadly quality of a bird painted from a photo. But in this case I liked the photo and decided it was time to give a try to a bird in flight. I guess that is one of the appeals of such small watercolors. You can't try out something new without worrying too much about a possible disaster.

Warbling Vireo at Morris Arboretum. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

Finally a Warbling Vireo from Morris Arboretum. I've always wanted to do a painting based on these photos. It's still not completely satisfactory but I'm not unhappy with it either.

One virtue of these small watercolors is that I learn more about the structure of the bird, well some of the time anyway. The end result might appear in a more finished, more detailed work or just as well, it might give me the confidence to take much greater liberties and do something abstract.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cape May Field Sketches - Part Five

American Coot at 'The Meadows.' Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Unusual circumstances found us back in Cape May, NJ for the second time this fall, not a bad place to be of course. Though it's always tempting to reach for the camera first, especially for rarities, I tried to force myself to first reach for the sketchbook.

With the exception of the one more developed pencil sketch of a Cattle Egret and Ring-billed Gull all of the sketches are done with various brush pens. After a week of such drawings I was more firmly convinced of how much I like them and how I ought to stick with them.

They of course don't offer the detail of pencil or ballpoint pen but they do offer the sense of fluidity and spontaneity. This is more important to me and is much more likely, at least for me, to lead to a more developed print or painting.

The one more developed sketch by the way was more developed only because the Cattle Egret was so cooperative alternately strutting and meandering around the lawn adjacent to the Cape May Point State Park parking lot. I was able to sit on a bench set up my scope and sketch him. Of course he didn't sit still but I was eventually able to see him enough times in one more or less similar position to do the pencil sketch. When he disappeared I turned to the far more stationary gull.

Cattle Egret at Cape May Point State Park. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Cattle Egret at Cape May Point State Park. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Cattle Egret and Ring-billed Gull at Cape May Point State Park. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Eastern Phoebe and Yellow-rumped Warbler in Cape May. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Immature Hermit Thrush at Rea Farm. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Long-billed Dowitchers and Killdeer at 'The Meadows.' Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Long-billed Dowitchers. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Long-billed Dowitcher and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Long-billed Dowitcher at 'The Meadows.' Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

More Sora and Rail

Sora, Virginia Rail and Mallard. Sumi brush painting by Ken Januski.

Sometimes I seem to want to go fairly deeply ( I will not say 'deep dive' thank you very much) into a subject. That's been the case with sora and rails recently. I can't explain it other than the desire to get familiar enough with them that I think I can eventually do a fairly spontaneous work with them as subject. Today's newest foray is seen above, a sumi brush pen and ink painting of a Sora, Virginia Rail and Mallard, all seen a few weeks ago at 'The Meadows' of Cape May, NJ.

Every time I return to sumi brush painting I'm reminded of how extremely little I know about it, how low my skill level is, but also how much I love the rich tonalities and vigorous brushwork that it can allow. I'm using an extremely old sumi ink, one bought back in San Francisco when I was a student and my guess is that the lack of true black in this painting is at least partially due to the quality of the ink. Once of these days I need to buy a better ink stick.

Sora at Heinz NWR. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

I've also been experimenting with more detailed works and you can see them above and below. They are both based on photos of Sora at Heinz NWR that I took last year. Both are in watercolor.

Sora at Heinz NWR, version 2. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

Sora at Heinz NWR. Watercolor sketch by Ken Januski.
Before I started the watercolors I did a quick watercolor sketch, seen above, and a couple more ballpoint pen studies. But there are only so many ballpoint pen studies I can do. At some point they just get too frustrating to me and I need to move to a looser medium.

Sora at Heinz NWR. Ballpoint pen sketch by Ken Januski.

And speaking of loose media, the sumi brush or sumi brush pen may be among the loosest. The synthetic brush pen, used below, seems to me to be mainly a linear medium. You can't use it like a sumi brush and ink to get both line AND tone. But that also means that mistakes, generally impossible to correct, jump out at you and the viewer. But the feeling of spontaneity that it allows is well worth the risk involved.

Sora at Heinz NWR. Sumi brush pen sketch by Ken Januski.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Back in the SWLA Again

Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Turkey Vulture. Two-block Reduction Woodcut by Ken Januski.

I'm quite happy to be able to once again entitle a post with the words 'back in the SWLA.' For those of you who don't know it refers to the annual exhibition of The Society of Wildlife Artists at The Mall Galleries in London, Great Britain.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I have a real love/hate relationship with wildlife art. The love part of it can be seen very reliably in the work of the SWLA and in their annual exhibit.

I've never seen it in person and once again this year, mainly due to lack of proper planning on my part, will miss it. And each time I see an online gallery of some of the work I realize what a great opportunity I'm missing.

But for anyone else you can, if you're not near London, take a look at The Natural Eye - 2016. Each year it again gives me hope for wildlife art! My print is for sale on page 5 of the online gallery.