Saturday, December 31, 2011
Ending 2011 with Hawks and Acrylics
It would be nice to report that our last birding walk of 2011 turned up some extraordinary birds and I managed great field sketches of them all. Why leave it at that? I actually managed to do my first plein air paintings of them as well.
But that's what would have been nice. We did see 20 species at Morris Arboretum but didn't find anything extraordinary. The most unusual bird was a Brown Creeper, a winter bird that's always fun to see. But he didn't sit still long enough for me to get any sketches.
I did finish up the immature Red-tailed Hawk above though when we got home. It's 6x8 inches and done in acrylics. It's based on a bird that seemed to be at Morris the entire summer of 2010.
I've looked at photos I took of the bird many times and have always thought a beautiful painting was there for the taking, the whites and browns of the bird shimmering against the gray-blue sky. But for some reason I couldn't ever picture myself ever being successful doing it in watercolor. As I've continued to work in acrylic though(this being my fourth acrylic of the last few months, the first in over 25 years), I keep thinking that I can tackle previously forbidding projects in acrylic.
My guess is that the reason for this is that acrylic, or oil, is just so much more forgiving than watercolor. Since I spent many years as an abstract acrylic and oil painter I'm not surprised that it's starting to become comfortable to me.
That is not what got me started on this painting though. That can be attributed to the fact that I realized it was past time for our local accipiters, Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, to be visiting our feeders trying for our feeder birds. I decided to do some sketches of Coopers Hawks, above, from photos of previous backyard accipiters. My idea was to refamiliarize myself with them so that I could be prepared for possible field sketches. I'm always thrilled to sketch them but rarely satisified with the results. After I did these sketches from photos I added watercolor. Though these are not particularly successful they remind me of why I remain infatuated with watercolor: the sense of light. Oil and acrlyic can create great light effects as well but for true unadulterated celebration of light there's nothing that can beat watercolors, at least in the hands of someone who has managed to master them.