Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Goat-sucker Coincidence

I confess that I do enjoy making up provocative titles for my posts. 'The Goat-sucker Coincidence' sounds to me like the 10th sequel to an already overly drawn out series of spy thrillers. And of course it's hard to resist 'goat-sucker.'

In fact that's the reason I'm writing this post. I've been reading 'The Life of Birds' by David Attenborough for the first time. He mentions that the Nightjar family, which includes the Common Nighthawk above, often associate with cattle. They do so particularly at night
"and do so with such regularity that country folk once believed that the birds were seeking to take their animals' milk and accordingly gave them the wholly inaccurate alternative name of goat-sucker."

I had often wondered as I looked through my bird guides why there was a family of birds called 'goat-suckers'. Now I know.

After I'd read this the other day I remembered that, coincidentally!, I'd gotten a couple of decent photos of a Common Nighthawk at Magee Marsh last May. After painting so many of the colorful wood warblers it might be a nice change of pace to do a quick sketch of the cryptic brown form of this bird.

My feeling about watercolor is I'd guess similar to what some people might have about ice-skating. It can be the most graceful and beautiful medium in the world. Or it can be a colossal flop, no pun intended. The only way to get good with watercolor I believe is to keep at it, especially as a sketching tool.

Precise but lifeless watercolors seem like just that: lifeless. I prefer watercolors with fluid brushstrokes, like Winslow Homer or so much Asian brush painting. So sketches like this give me a chance to practice, to try to become adept and fluid with watercolor and the watercolor brush.

The next time I try a more finished watercolor all the fluidity might well disappear. But there's only one way to prevent that: keep practicing. So this seemed like a good excuse.

And also a good excuse for one of my favorite titles: The Goat-sucker Coincidence.

No comments: