(Illustration Friday) Sir Thomas

March 11, 2011

A few weeks ago on a Wordless Wednesday post, Barefootheart told me about Illustration Fridays. On checking the link she provided, I decided an Illustration Friday feature might keep me motivated to play with my paints.

I also thought an Illustration Friday feature might get me writing again, as opposed to Wordless Wednesday, which is — well, you get the point.

By the bye, I will state up front that I have never been tempted by Facebook, Twitter, or whatever sixteen other social media have been spawned since their inception. Likewise, I never signed up on the megagigantic Wordless Wednesday list, and won’t sign up for Illustration Fridays either. Consider this your own private salon, you lucky (or at least faithful) readers!

So. When my son and his partner were here for Christmas, they gave us several thoughtful gifts. One was a field guide of North American birds, in hopes that I might use the photos as subjects for my watercolour paintings. They know I like birds.

Fast-forward to this winter’s watercolour class. Everyone in that class, with the exception of me, has been meeting to paint together for years, and they are good. I began that course intimidated and ended up dejected. While they’re all nice people, there’s something to be said for peers.

One technique I did glean from the class is to squint at the subject and paint the patches — in realistic colours or not. I decided to try it with this tom turkey, and was quite pleased with the result.

This is the version in my sketchbook. I haven’t tried making a “good” copy. Maybe someday.

Meanwhile, if you’ll excuse me, Aunt Theodora’s friends and well-wishers are throwing a 95th-birthday-party bash for her tomorrow, and I need to head upstairs to make a card. Ta for now.


Follow-up Friday: Sculpt

February 25, 2011

By popular request (okay, Jayne  in Australia asked, and I thought Novroz over in Indonesia might not know these birds), I have decided to present a few photos of a European Starling chiseling away at our suet feeder. Since the photos, taken with the zoom lens through the living room window and then tightly cropped, aren’t very sharp, I will plague treat you to four pictures to give as much fuzzy subtle detail as possible.

Starlings are medium-small birds, bigger than sparrows but smaller than crows. (To compare, the suet cage is about 13 X 15 cm.) Males and females look pretty much the same.

Other than their pink feet, the colouration of European Starlings depends on the season and the time of day. In Winter, they’re spottier because they’ve worn their body feathers down to the spots.*** In their new Spring outfits, they’re a little more uniformly black. In Winter, their beaks are darker; in Spring, they turn yellow.

If you squint a bit, you’ll notice a green sheen on this bird’s feathers. That’s a trick of the sunlight that starlings share with other black-feathered birds.

You don’t need to squint at all to notice that the suet cage is now broadside to the camera. The wind that day was spinning the cage like a hypnotist’s watch.

In this photo, you can see the starling’s long, narrow, pointy beak. It works well for picking bugs out of the grass, plucking berries from bushes, or pulling bits of suet from between the cage bars. Starlings will eat anything. They are not picky eaters, like birds of prey. The raptors, however, aren’t jealous. Instead, they graciously rejoice in the starlings’ easygoing ways that have helped to spread their population, in just over a century, from one end of North America to the other.

Starlings also make tasty, nutritious meals for hawks.

One last picture. Here you can see the starling pausing to inspect its artwork. Will it incise “I love Turtle”? Will it fashion a reliefwork basket of tulips? Will it decide which breadcrumb is biggest and best?

The world will never know.

My funny valentine was in fact the work of many starlings, not simply the sculptor seen above. They often arrive by the dozen, some playing King of the Castle on the suet cage while others stand on the snow beneath, catching the fatty crumbs that the mock warmakers drop. Their chattering and clowning in the snow-coated stillness brightens my day.

***Nota bene: I got this part wrong. Starlings get new clothes for Rosh Hashanah, not Easter. Their new suits are spotted, and by Spring they have worn some of the spots off! Please check out Seabrooke’s informative blog entry for more info on these birds.


(Wordless Wednesday) O My Starling Valentine

February 23, 2011


(Wordless Wednesday) Airmail

December 15, 2010


Gulls have wings. Angels have wings. Coincidence?

December 2, 2010

Lily Lake

Rain was forecast for today. So before the sprinkle became a downpour, we took the dogs for a walk around Lily Lake in Rockwood Park. There it is in the photo above; on the left, you can see a Ring-billed Gull gliding over the water.

What is wrong with this picture?

Now I’m as superstitious as the next person, and I get the connection between white-feathered sea gulls and our culture’s version of angels (we’ll leave aside for now their origin as fiery snakes). But I had never before noted any ability of gulls to walk on water. See? There’s space between their bodies and their reflections. Let’s go to Camera Two, Bob:

Quick -- call the Scooby Squad!

It took a while before I solved the magic trick. Observe, if you will:

Aha!

The oak leaf nearest my foot is floating in the water. The other two leaves are resting on the ice, which is still pretty thin at this time of year. Breezes make the lake water lap over the edges of the ice, and the rain has  coated the rest of it. Case closed.

Zzzzzzoommmmm!

Still and all, gulls put on a good show. Here is a snap of the Duck Pond that adjoins Lily Lake. While the Mallards and Black Ducks are scrambling towards a pair of hominids bearing breadcrusts, a Ring-bill — there, just below the foot of the staircase — goes sweeping up in the opposite direction, like the Paraclete flitting through her dorm window for a few hours of fun.

Yes, I like gulls.

Gulls belong to the order of birds known as Charadriiformes. While sitting in the car one day, I pulled a pad of paper and pen from the glove compartment and wrote this blue-ribbon word verticaly down the page. Then I made a poem. Duck Enjoy!

Charadriiformes

Cries of
Herring Gulls
Awaken
Red eyes
Anchored in
Dreams.
Reeling
Idly
In
Formless
Opalesque
Radiance, they
Memorize
Endless
Sea.


(Wordless Wednesday) One Little, Two Little, Three Little Lorikeets

December 1, 2010


Never Underestimate a Twelve-Gram Bird

October 5, 2010

When E.g. and I first moved here, Aunt Theodora gave us a bird feeder as a housewarming gift. The manufacturers’ tag advised patience, stating that it may take a week before any birds discover the new feeder.

The chickadees found it in two hours.

Aunt Theodora’s gift is used in the Winter, when there aren’t mobs of Common Grackles to spill all the mixed seed. On the other hand, the sunflower seed feeder (above) runs all year.

 Chickadees (like the one above), Song Sparrows, Purple Finches, and Goldfinches are the usual customers. They usually take three or four days to empty the feeder. When I notice the dearth of feathered friends, I trek into the garage, fill an old ice cream container with the birds’ “black gold”, and carry it out to the tree.

I’m starting to think that my Movements Have Been Noticed.

Here’s the garage, the lovely new fence that E.g. and her dad Eddy built, the oak tree, and one of the spruces. The sunflower seed feeder hangs from a low limb on that spruce.

And here’s the inside of the garage. The blue bin behind the wheelbarrow stores the birdseed. That triangular piece, part of the door mechanism, in the upper left of the photo, is where a Chickadee stopped two days ago while I was in the garage. Instead of its “Chickadeedeedee!” warning cry, it whistled softly. “Seet! Seet! Seet!” it called, while hanging from the metal and eyeing me.

Or maybe it was singing, “Seed! Seed! Seed!” ‘Cause, I went and checked, eh, and the feeder was empty.

The Black-capped Chickadee: Excellent choice for New Brunswick’s official provincial bird.