Sunday, February 15, 2009

Purple Finches and the Great Backyard Bird Count

I mentioned in my anniversary post how much blogging has not only been a place to create, but an inspiration. And that inspiration is often provided by my fellow bloggers.

Round Robin caught my eye this week with Hugh's post on the Great Backyard Bird Count. Then I noticed how many other bloggers were participating. So I read about it and decided to count too. My first day, I felt hesitation, mainly about busy birds that won't keep still while you try to count them. But this nervousness quickly fades. You just do the best you can and go! And even if you are a beginner like me, there's a primer on ebird that will jump start your understanding of how this thing we call "counting" really works.

Nancy at the Zen Birdfeeder posted her bird count yesterday with some nice information about pine siskins. She also posted two convenient links to the Cornell site with helpful information. I visited the links and explored the "Top Ten" and guess what! At the time I'm writing this post, Knoxville, TN ranks #5 in "Localities Submitting the Most Checklists". Do you think that makes me glad I decided to participate? What a fun surprise!

Today I also took a few minutes to sketch and paint the male and female purple finches in my sketch book (the ones that aren't showing up for the count). The female was a joy to draw. I sketched her several days ago. But the male has been a different experience!
Actually, my first try looks like a pretty close sketch as I post it here. But remember in my last post I referred to "finch shapes" and how the eye integrates shapes with practice? Well, I grew up on a farm and we had roosters. Every time I walked away from this sketch and came back to look at it again, that finch face turned into a rooster! And that just wouldn't do.

I realized there were two shapes battling for my attention, the shape of his head and the shape of those fluffed up feathers. So I erased the top lines and concentrated on the shape of his face without the fluffed up feathers.
And then I added the shading for the fluffed feathers and adjusted some lines in his bill.


Still not perfect, but I stopped seeing a rooster. By this time my sketch paper is getting pretty worn and my doubting voice is starting to taunt me, "how do you think you're going to sketch in the field with all this erasing?" And since I have to have the last word, I answered. "Practice...and patience. Besides, I'll start with a plant."

8 comments:

  1. You're so right about the rewards of participating in the bird count. This will be my third year, and I find I enjoy the comparisons, not only of what others find, but what I found in previous years.
    Your sketches and wonderful. I'm always envious of those with the skill to capture in line, what is a living, breathing object. And the colors of the male are perfect!

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  2. Vickie you are being to hard on yourself. The sketches are fantastic!

    And as for sketching in the field ... well that is why I am doing studies from photos now. practice, practice, practice. So when you and I hit the field it might be easier.

    Don't you just love those odd positions of the birds. I do.

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  3. It is so neat to read about the process of creating a drawing /watercolor - the one that takes place in your mind. (that ghost rooster from your past made me laugh) The male and female purple finch are rendered beautifully! Is your sketch book drawing paper or watercolor paper? I just love it! Funny that you mentioned - how can one draw in the field with all that erasing? I always wondered about that. I suppose that means - practice drawing so much that it becomes second nature?

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  4. Thank you so much, Nina. I am enjoying the count. I've been so surprised by what I'm seeing and hearing in a short amount of time.
    I had 23 species in less than two hours.

    Thanks, Toni. Practice, practice. Even with the struggles, I love it!

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  5. Thanks, Bird Girl. The sketch book I'm currently using is an "all media" Canson. It works well with watercolor but its not watercolor paper and doesn't have the toughness of rag. Both pigment and water move differently on it so you use a lighter touch.

    I have a wonderful book on "gesture sketching" in the field. My guess is you dispense with the eraser and just keep your hand moving, correcting as you go but leaving the stray lines. I actually like this way of drawing because its loose. There is spontaneity and movement. But it takes practice to let go and just draw it as you see it.

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  6. Vickie, I agree with Toni on you being too hard on yourself. Those sketches are great!

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  7. Vickie, I enjoy your blog. Your sketches look like they could leap right off the paper. I think that's primarily due to your talent, but also to your eye and the supportive research you do. You know your subject!

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  8. Hi Vickie,

    I love your sketches. :-) Well done!

    ReplyDelete

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