Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Warbler Return

Blackburnian Warbler at Papermill Run. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

Blackburnian Warblers breed in Pennsylvania, not unfortunately where I live in Phialdelphia, but farther north. So they are not all that uncommon as they migrate through in fall and spring. Still they do tend so stop most people in their tracks if seen closely. The one I saw today along Papermill Run at Morris Arboretum no longer had the fire engine orange/red of the spring in his throat but he was still orange enough to make me take notice.

If they were a bit more common I suppose I might have tried some field sketches today. But this one was 50-60 feet up and I couldn't really see him well even in my binoculars. So I reached for my camera and took about 10 photos hoping that at least a few would be worth keeping. One of the best became the origin of the sketch above in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook.

With warblers, especially if you use photos, it's the easiest thing in the world to get precious, to try to get every little nuance of color and pattern, letting composition and everything else that makes a picture fall by the wayside. I tried to not lose sight of the other elements of painting here. Hopefully I'll eventually become a master of this, knowing how to paint the most beautiful and striking of warblers without letting them dominate the scene.

The Blackburnian has been the most exciting fall warbler so far. A few days ago I saw two Blue-winged Warblers and that was pretty nice. Chestnut-sided Warblers have given me great looks at their undersides twice during the last week and Black and White Warblers have given us some good looks. The breeding Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats and American Redstarts have also been around. It's great to be seeing them but sad to realize that once they're gone it will be at least another 6 months before they appear again in Philadelphia.

Least Sandpiper. Ballpoint pen studies by Ken Januski.

The watercolor at top and these ballpoint pen sketches from photos I've taken over the last year of Least Sandpipers both show my tendency to try to do studies of birds I've recently seen and sketched. I was recently engaged in an online conversation about what gear to take with you if you want to sketch birds. Video cameras and still cameras topped the list, but not my list. I really don't believe either are of much use until you've tried to sketch birds live. It's only when you do, and fail, that you realize how complex it is.

But more importantly you learn to make decisions, to choose this line over that line, in the brief time the bird is there. You learn ALL that you don't know, but also what questions to ask, what to find out when you look at photos or videos. For instance only if you've sketched shorebirds live do you realize how hard it is to properly place their head and neck when they're bent over feeding. Is the head above or below the back and how much?

I think my ultimate goal in sketching, outside of just liking the finished product, is to be able to know birds so well that if I'm sketching them facing one direction and then they face the other direction  I can effortlessly continue drawing. I'd like to know their structure so well that I can place them convincingly in any pose. And then of course I can abstract that since that's the way I like to portray them.

I think artists who work mainly from photos probably have much less of a chance of getting to understand the structure of birds. It's definitely a skill to be able to render what you see in a photo. Unfortunately it is far more common than you might think and my guess will never lead to a successful career in art. We watched a wonderful show on the Cuban musician Cachao recently. He said more or less the same thing about music as I recall. Rendering skills and technical music skills can only go so far. Then you need to do more.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Failure, Followed by a Mistake, Then Failure

Painted Skimmer. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

I'm of the philosophy that the quicker you make your first 1,000 mistakes in art, or anything, the quicker you'll make progress. I also have the impression that in many areas this type of thinking is considered old school, or just plain bad. Oh well. I have no doubt of its truth. Any endeavor involves more failures than successes. But if you build on failure it really isn't a problem. And it's the quickest way to success. I only thought of this because it's been 36 hours more or less of failures and mistakes.

Let's deal with the mistake first. Back in June I wrote a post that included a photo of a beautiful Halloween Pennant dragonfly. It reminded me of ones we'd seen last year and when I read in a guide of its fluttery butterfly like flight I confirmed it as just that. But recently I've been looking at my photos of birds and dragonflies from June and July as well as reading through my dragonfly guides. Uh oh, I thought. That may not be a Halloween Pennant.  Well today I finally investigated and discovered that it is in fact a Painted Skimmer. As reparation for my misdeed I did the quick ballpoint pen and watercolor sketch above.

That covers the mistake of the title. But it also covers one of the failures. The above drawing is somewhat off. The abdomen is longer and thinner than I've portrayed it. I do like the colors and I think it captures some of the beauty of a Painted Skimmer, but I also know it could be better. So in a way it's a failure, the most recent failure of the last 36 hours.

Least Sandpipers, Hairy Woodpecker, et al. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Yesterday found numerous shorebirds at the Manayunk Canal. The page on right above includes three sketches of Least Sandpipers from yesterday along with a quick sketch of a Great Blue Heron. I partially did them to illustrate my working method elsewhere. In that explanation I said that I liked to start with field sketches, then perhaps do a more developed drawing or watercolor, probably incorporating details from photos that I'd taken, to reinforce what I learned about the bird drawn in the sketch.

So I spent an hour doing the pencil sketch below based largely on a photo from yesterday. I then added watercolor.

Least Sandpiper. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski

The second failure, or actually the first, of the last 36 hours. Normally I wouldn't have shown it here or on the other site. But it did illustrate my working method and here it fits in with the theme of failure.

Of course failure is completely relative. Some of my successes would seem like failures to others and some of my failures like successes. The point is that every artist, or actually any person who strives to accomplish something, will meet with failure and disappointment at times. I've managed to put a number together in just 36 hours. But they're a part of growing. And hopefully I'll remember what I've learned, including being more cautious about what I ID publicly.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another Woodcut Finished

Crouching Green Heron. Two-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

It's taken a while but I've finally finished the multi-block Crouching Green Heron woodcut above. It is an edition of 10, printed with Daniel Smith water-based inks on Rives Heavyweight paper. The entire print is 7x10 inches and the image alone is 4x6 inches.

It really isn't all that much different from when I last showed it. But I wanted to do something more with the background, especially in the top half of print. I also toyed with the idea of cleaning up some of the chisel marks in front of the heron that picked up various bits of ink.

Then I had a bright idea, something I should know to be wary of. I decided to cut the backside of one of the blocks as a third block. I would cut out the heron and the two horizontal stripes and then print one color over all that was left and then perhaps another on the upper area. Below you see the wo results.

Crouching Green Heron. Abandoned Proof of Two-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

Crouching Green Heron. Abandoned Proof of Two-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

As a test I showed one of them to Jerene without telling her that in fact I wasn't going to use this version. I wanted to see if her opinion was similar to mine. I DON'T LIKE IT!, she said. Well neither did I. I suppose with a lot of work it would be possible to get something usable out of it. But I much preferred the earlier version.

So I gave up on the idea of cleaning up the area in front of heron and opted to just concentrate on adding some vibrancy to the top half.  I was able to do that and give just a hint of detail as well. So as far as I'm concerned it worked out well, but not without a very scary detour!

It's not often I complete two woodcuts in a week and my guess is that it will be a long time before it happens again. I'll enjoy it while I can.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hummer on Yew Two-block Woodcut

Juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Yew. Two block woodcut by Ken Januski.
I was really taken by my memory sketch of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched on a bouncing Yew twig from the last post, the one that included him doing a BIG back stretch. So I decided to use some of the cutoffs from a grab bag of Shina Plywood from McClain's Printmaking Supplies to make a very small print.

Since I wanted to concentrate on the pose of the hummer and not much else a very small block seemed the right way to go. On the other hand I really don't want what you might call 'illusionism.' I see so, so much of this, much of it helped along, if you want to call it that, by Photoshop. What I prefer is something that is still recognizable but that will never be mistaken for a photo, even one with all sorts of PS filters and special effects applied.

So after I'd made a template of the field sketch of the hummer, modified it, copied it onto the woodblock, carved and proofed it I decided that I'd use the other side of the block to print some abstract shapes. This procedure is all very hit or miss. I printed the two greens over the last three days and then printed the black on top today. Unfortunately much of the dark green doesn't show up in the photo.

You might ask why I'd ruin a good drawing, or at least one I was happy with, by adding all these distracting abstract shapes. I can only say that it relates to my dislike of illusionism and also I think to a desire to be a bit more modern, a bit more of my time. I realize that this is a slippery slope. Hula hoops were of my time way back when but they're not much remembered now. So it's easy to be so much of your time that your work is not striking except for the briefest of times. On the other hand there is Beethoven, for instance, or many, many others, who created a new view of art, one that has held sway for hundreds of years afterwards.

I think art always tries to find a way to be fresh. And the reason it does so is that for some artists that's the only way to be expressive. Anything else, for these artists, may look like art to others but to them just seems clich├ęd and empty. I don't think everyone does or should work this way. And I can't say that it's always successful. But sometimes it really is the only fulfilling way to work.

I should add that I also have tried to stay true to the Ruby-throated Hummingbird in his portrayal here. I like being able to do that but also add some abstraction, or what some might call decoration, as I have done.

I think that this is done but there's a chance that I'll add one more color in the abstract areas. The print is about 7x7 inches and the image itself about 4x4. So far it is in an edition of nine. Printed with Daniel Smith water-based inks on Rives Heavyweight paper.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hummers, Facebook, Nature Blog Network

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Eastern Towhee, et al. Field Sketches by Ken Januski.
I'm not sure how much longer Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will continue to visit our backyard so I'm taking every opportunity to sketch them. At bottom right above is a sketch from memory of one seen earlier today on a small branch of our Yew. I looked at him on first floor, tried to memorize what I saw, then went upstairs to my studio and did this sketch. Later I decided to go back down and try to get a quick video. The quality of this is not great. But if you do watch all of it you'll be treated so seeing him/her crack his back.

For years I've been part of the Nature Blog Network a collection of blogs based on nature, in one form or another. When I first started I tended to read a variety of blogs. But once you needed to choose a category, e.g. Art, I found that I really only looked at those blogs. Over time it has grown and grown, and then over the last few days seemed to go kaput.

I couldn't find any information on this until I looked on Facebook, on the assumption that maybe they'd move there and just let  the old site collapse. I did find a site on Facebook and from what I gather the database of site has been so hacked that they can't even get into it.

That really has been the impetus for me to do something I've avoided for years: join Facebook. There are myriad reasons for avoiding it but I think one of the main ones is that I don't need another Time Drain. Nonetheless it seems that so much of the world only accesses the online world via Facebook. So today, or perhaps yesterday, I joined.

After a bit of experimenting I decided that it was best so have a separate page, rather than just an account. It can be found at https://www.facebook.com/KenJanuskiArtist. Oh do I hesitate to say it, but feel free to like it, if you really do. Even if you don't like it you may find it interesting. My guess is that it will have more pictures and fewer words than my blog.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hungry Goldfinches, Hummers and Others

American Goldfinch Eating Thistle. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski. 

Ever since I started that new Moleskine sketchbook I've been pretty busy with sketching. I hope that I'll be able to continue this pace. In ways it's like exercise. At first it is work, and then it becomes something that you miss if you don't do it with some regularity.

Below are numerous pages of field sketches. Immediately below are two pages from today, except for that hummingbird at top right. Just about the first bird I saw at Morris Arboretum today was the Eastern Phoebe at bottom left. It's been months since I've seen one there. The last bird I saw as an American Golfinch tearing apart a thistle for seed. He's at the bottom of page.

Goldfinches are so common, and so cute, that I generally avoid sketching or photographing them. But it's not their fault that they're cute, or common. In any case today I was struck by the vigorous pose he took, feet rooted to the plant so that he could go at the seeds. He was oblivious to me, standing just a few feet away. The watercolor sketch above, in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook, is base on the field sketch and some photos that I took. After I'd posted this I was a bothered a bit by the lemon yellow color I'd used. I liked the sense of light but the color was wrong. So I experimented with a deeper yellow. It's now more accurate but less lively I think. This reminds me once again that my watercolor palette is extremely deficient in yellows, more than in any other color. I notice this almost every time I paint a watercolor using yellows.

I've had a hankering to do a bit of watercolor again so this was a good excuse.

Eastern Phoebe, American Goldfinch, et al. Field Sketches by Ken Januski

A day or two ago I walked along the Manayunk Canal and did the sketches below: Gray Catbird, immature Green Heron with immature Great Blue Heron behind him, another Great Blue Heron up in a Sycamore, and one of our many Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, done when I got home as he sat on our clothesline.

Trying to get at least some semblance of the Sycamore convinced me to start reading The Artistic Anatomy of Trees by Rex Vicat Cole, first published I believe 99 years ago. Many years ago I realized that I needed to portray trees, or at least understand the structure of trees, better if I was going to continue to work in a somewhat realistic vein. So I bought this book. But I really couldn't convince myself to read it.

Now that has changed and I'm about a third of the way through. The odd thing is that both I and Jerene love trees and can identify quite a few. We've actually taken weekend workshops on tree identification. But I just haven't pursued it artistically. I think that now is the time. Though of course you wouldn't know it from my sycamore below. I look forward to having the opportunity to do more sketches of them, eventually incorporating them in my paintings and prints. I would thoroughly recommend the Vicat Cole book by the way. It is old, written in an old style. But the author's love of both trees and art is evident throughout.

Gray Catbird, Herons and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Field Sketches by Ken Januski

Each year I say I'm going to do more sketches of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that visit our backyard each summer. We're lucky to have them and it seems criminal not to try to portray them. But each year I fail, getting just one or two tiny sketches or perhaps a number of photos. This year that has changed and I'm drawing them almost daily. Today one stayed in the same spot, and more or less same position, for at least 10 minutes. So I got out my extreme close focus binoculars and did the drawing below. As I said I feel quite fortunate to have this opportunity and I'm glad I'm finally taking advantage of it.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Clothesline. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Oh yes. I haven't given up on that two-block woodcut of the crouching Green Heron. I'm just ruminating on how to finish it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Two Block Woodcut Coming Along

Crouching Green Heron. Woodcut Proof by Ken Januski.

Many distractions along the way but the multi-block woodcut of the Green Heron seen in a crouching fishing position a week or two ago along the Manayunk Canal is nearing completion.

I printed three colors on the second block over the past week or so: an ochrish yellow, deep blue and deep maroon. Then today I recut the first block to get just the amount of black that I wanted, though I had to make a couple of proofs to decide exactly what I did want.

It doesn't really show here but that large yellow background was also printed in black. But the first proof showed that it wasn't going to work. So in the remaining prints I just wiped it clean before printing. As a result there are small bits of washed out black in all of the ten prints.

I'm still hoping to do something more with the background, perhaps just another similar color, so that it vibrates a la. Josef Albers.

 When I start a print, either woodblock or linocut, I'm rarely sure whether I want any gouge/chisel marks to show. They are an integral part of many prints.  After the fact I realize that I would have been better off to completely clear out the white area surrounding the green heron. The bits of ink and color that show through occasionally I think are more of a distraction than an element that adds anything. There may still be time to remedy that a bit when I add the next background color. But most likely I'll just have to live with it.

I began my linocuts about 4 years ago  I think it was leaving much of the carving showing. And I'm happy with those prints. But now I often find that I prefer not to have them in many cases as in the last green heron print.

Barring some catastrophe along the way this will be an edition of ten. The image is 4x6 inches and the paper itself 7x10 inches, printed with Daniel Smith water-soluble inks on Rives Heavyweight paper.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hummers, Flycatchers and Lazy Birding

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow Warbler, Wetlands of Morris Arboretum. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Jerene and I have often found that lazy, sit-down birding can be some of the best birding of the day. That proved to be the case today at Morris Arboretum. Though there were heavy rains last night and it was cloudy today, presaging both wet and probably poor birding conditions, I decided to take advantage of Morris Arboretum's early 8 a.m. opening. You just never know what you might see at this time of year.

Well it turned out to be pretty quiet. That explains the sketch of clouds and wetlands at lower left above. I was sitting down waiting for something to fly by and sketched it in the meantime. A few minutes later the bird above it flew in - a nice Yellow Warbler. This one stayed still for a bit longer than usual so I got a chance to sketch it.

When I got home a Ruby-throated Hummingbird rested on some telephone wires. So I looked at him until he flew with my extreme close focus binoculars, tried to memorize what I saw and then came up to the studio and  did sketches at right. I'm happy to be able to pursue sketching them. Who knows?Perhaps eventually a painting or print.

Indigo Bunting at Morris Arboretum. Photo by Ken Januski.

Soon after the Yellow Warbler appeared another small very dark bird landed even closer to where I was sitting. Though there wasn't a hint of blue my immediate thought was Indigo Bunting. Experience has told me that a small dark sparrow-sized bird is often an Indigo Bunting, even though I rarely see them at Morris. Sure enough that's what he was and he was close enough for me to take some of the closest photos of them that I've ever taken. Next time, if there is one, I'll have to try to sketch instead. But the main reason I include this photo is just to prove how good birding can be when you just sit down. Birds forget you are there, or get used to you, and resume their normal behavior, allowing you a much better chance of observing them closely.

Possible Olive-sided Flycatcher, Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer, et al. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

A couple of dsys ago I started off the day at the Manayunk Canal and soon saw a flycatcher that didn't seem quite right. For one thing I rarely see flycatchers there. I got three glimpses of this one, two from a 3/4 view, i.e. partially from the back and partially from the side. He looked like a large Eastern Wood Pewee, but more the size of an Eastern Kingbird. The last look was from the front. I was so struck by the very dark mottled gray vest that I immediately thought Olive-sided Flycatcher and reached for my camera. And then he flew not to appear again.

I should have known better than to reach for my camera but I did because Olive-sideds aren't that common here, especially in late July. Once he was gone I did my best to put down what I'd seen in the sketchbook. But the only thing I really remembered was the length of the bird, when seen from 3/4 view, and the dark vest when seen from the front. I also noticed a large bill, with the lower mandible yellow-orange. But I really didn't notice the head. When I sketched it in I only made the top half dark, more like an Eastern Kingbird. But after checking photos of Olive-sideds I realized that their head is mainly dark. I didn't see the head in either case, at least not from the front so I figured it was okay to change it to an all dark head. When I did so it  looked more like an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

It's hard to say for sure. It would be early for them and  he was much lower than they normally are. Still it was a large flycatcher and had a very dark vest. I still think it was an early Olive-sided. I have seen them at Morris in mid-August so he was on my wanted list for today. Unfortunately though no flycatchers were to be seen.

Along with him are more cooperative birds that I was able to view for longer periods of time: a young Green Heron and another Yellow Warbler on the left and a Solitary Sandpiper and young Killdeer on the right.

Crouching Green Heron. First color of second block of two-block woodcut by Ken Januski.

Yesterday I decided to experiment with a second block for the Crouching Green Heron woodcut. The first color on good paper is above. Next I'll add a blue and perhaps a maroon and then most likely print the black of the first block. And then seen what it looks like and what to do next. It will probably surprise me as much as you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sketching and Beautiful Weather

Young Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers with Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Ballpoint Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

We've seen beautiful late September weather here the last few days. But wait, it's only late July! I read recently that this may presage another long and brutal winter like last year's. If so we may regret this weather then but for now there's nothing to do but revel in it. And because of that I've found that each day I tell myself I have to be outside sketching rather than in the studio working on that woodcut that I started a few days ago.

Above is the work from today. On the left an immature Hairy Woodpecker with a Downy Woodpecker beneath him. The Downy was almost all white from this perspective with just a bit of black around eye and on underside of tail. The lack of black, esp. around eye made me think he also was an immature.

I've continued to spend a lot of time watching the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that have been visiting our backyard. On the right side above are three drawings from today, the smallest of which was done from memory after he hovered two feet away from me for a few seconds. All too soon the hummingbirds will be gone so I'm really trying to take advantage of them while they're here. Oh yes, the bill of the hummingbird on lower left looks a bit odd because he's sticking out his tongue! I love being able to get such seemingly unusual behavior down in a sketchbook though I doubt that it's really all that unusual.

Eastern Kingbird, Question Mark Butterfly and Great Blue Heron in Field. Ballpoint Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

The drawings above were done at Morris Arboretum, though I think on different days. The Eastern Kingbird didn't stay for long so there's a lot of memory used in this drawing. Beneath him a Red Admiral that stayed for a few seconds, though not enough for me to get everything down. On the right one of three immature Great Blue Herons that were at Morris yesterday. I got a kick out of this one in the field. He was sketched live and some of the landscape was done at the same time. The rest of the landscape was improvised over the last 24 hours.

Before I move on to the delayed Green Heron woodcut I wanted to mention John Busby. After I posted the last post I realized that John Busby's most recent book, Looking at Birds: An Antidote to Field Guides, is the perfect book to encourage drawing encounters with birds, even if you just get the briefest of sketches. As I googled for the exact title of the book just now I ran across a video of John Busby sketching on the web site of author and artist John Muir Laws. When I posted this yesterday I hadn't yet had time to watch the full 24 minutes of the video. But today, a day later, I have. It is spectacular. About minute 15 or 16 he sits amid hundreds of gannets and mentions how he could never do a glorified portrait of one of them, in spite of their beauty. Take a look at most bird art shows and catalogs and that's all you'll see - glorified portraits, made possible only through photography. John Busby is interested in the full experience of seeing the birds and not just the birds but the birds in their environment. Towards the end he says that he thinks his goal might be for the viewer to wish he'd been there. And in that he succeeds. A far, far more lofty and worthwhile goal than all those deadly glorified portraits!!  And who knows what else you might find of interest on Laws' site.

Crouching Green Heron. Second Proof of Woodcut by Ken Januski.

Okay, back to the woodcut. I've done some minimal cleanup in the heron woodcut. I've also copied this onto a second block so that I can use at least one more color if I feel like it. Time will tell. I want to keep this pretty simple. I was really only trying to catch the striking pose. But once I printed it the pattern of the wood came out in the background and now I'm tempted to keep it, which of course is threatening to send the woodcut off in a different direction. I hope it rains soon so I can figure out what to do.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Crouching Green Heron in Many Media

Crouching Green Heron. Woodcut First Proof by Ken Januski.

I started this small 4x6 inch woodcut today. This is a very early proof. At this point I don't even know if I'll use more than one block each in a different color, turn it into a reduction woodcut in numerous colors, or just leave it as one black woodcut.

It's based on the field sketch below. Hard to believe perhaps? I was walking along the Manayunk Canal on one of the recent refreshingly cool early mornings. I was greeted by a rabbit. A bit later I saw a Green Heron crouched down looking for food. I was struck by the way he lifted his feet while in this crouching position. Of course he didn't hold the pose long and the sketch below gets the feet somewhat correct but drastically misplaces the head.  Still if I hadn't done it I probably wouldn't have pursued any artwork based on it. At the bottomis  a Great Blue Heron. In it I was trying to study his bill more than anything else.

Rabbit, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

I had my trusty Panasonic Lumix FZ28 camera with me. It has a video function that I didn't even notice until after I'd had the camera three or four years. I still rarely remember to use it and I'd hate to come to rely on it. But in this case I thought it might be good for capturing how the heron lifted his feet. Me and Eadweard_Muybridge together again! My guess is that I wouldn't be so fond of the videos I occasionally take if they were taken by anybody than myself, that is there is probably nothing special about them. But I do still get the biggest kick out of seeing birds, especially herons and shorebirds as they pursue food. I sometimes wonder if it's not like a child seeing his first cartoon.

The sketch below combines what I saw in the video with my original field sketch and with a couple of other photos I took. It was meant as a template for the woodcut at top. After I'd scanned it into the computer and reversed it so that I could copy it on to the wood block I realized that the bill was too short. So I modified the drawing on the woodblock to account for that.

Crouching Green Heron. Pencil Sketch by Ken Januski.

I also saw a Killdeer, well actually two, in the same area as the Green Heron. I was happy with this field sketch. It's probably the best field sketch I've ever done of a Killdeer. And I was also somewhat happy with the Gray Catbird below. On the same trip I noticed the curve of the lower bill and tried to capture that. Nice sketches I thought! But then as I sat in the backyard yesterday afternoon a Ruby-throated Hummingbird visited our Monarda. I used my new extreme close focus binoculars to watch him and try to sketch him. I particularly noticed the big eye with white area behind, and also the surprising thickness and darkness of the bill. I think I captured most of that. But then I tried to portray the humming wings. Oh well. That part is pretty unsuccessful.

As I was doing this a Northern Cardinal was just about to land in an Arbor Vitae 5 feet away from me. So there he was stretched out, his landing gear, i.e. feet, dropped and in position to land when he saw me. Gone! I tried to capture this and did a very bad job. It's at moments like this that I realize that I don't know enough about birds to capture them in surprising but momentary positions. Still if I didn't try I'd never pursue it. And then I'd never learn how to do it. So that's really why I sometimes show these field sketches that look so bad - as an impetus to others to give it a try, and to me to pursue it.

Killdeer, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinal. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.
I'll probably do no more work on the woodcut today but I'm hoping it will move along quickly over the next couple of days.