Friday, October 16, 2009
Building a Better Bird Picture
It has been about three years now since I've taken up birds as subject matter. Though I have spent a couple of years drawing insects viewed under a microscope during the last 15 years that was more drawing exactly what I saw rather than creating a picture.
For most of my artistic life that's exactly what I did: build/create a picture. It almost always included many studies. But they were all abstract, except for my earliest student years. The one below is from about 20 years ago.
Almost all of my bird art has been based primarily on one photo that I took. So for instance I took numerous photos of Canada Warblers but each drawing or painting I did was based primarily on just one of them. Though this has the virtue of sticking to exactly what I (actually what the camera saw which is quite different) saw it is also limiting in that it is just that view. It's easy to say, 'Well I'll put in that branch, because it's in the photo', but not for any good artistic reason.
More important than this is the fact photos rarely show all of the pertinent parts of the subject. I'm often missing the feet of birds, or something else. Unless I know the bird really well I have to make a guess about the missing area. This rarely works well.
This is one of the many reasons for fleld sketching. By drawing what you see you really do get a feel for the whole bird. It may not have detail but you do get a better feel for the complete bird.
So I'd like to change my method of working. I've already started to do more field sketches and will continue on this path. I'd also like to start doing studies for my bird paintings before leaping into them.
So the other drawings that are here are sketches based on photos of Sandhill Cranes that I took in Wisconsin a few weeks ago. I'm trying to get a general feel for these birds, and in particular their lower legs and feet, which are hard to see because they're often hidden by the stubble in the fields which they frequent.
Over the next few days I'll start to compose small sketches that will be ideas for finished paintings or drawings, just like in my old abstract work. Then the big day: the one where I actually start the Better Bird Picture.