Monthly Archives: May 2011

Bluebird, aka Robin Redbreast

sketchbook page of birds

Work in Progress

One of my summer art projects this year will be for the Quilt County exhibit I’m doing with Loosely Bound.  Our theme is New York Beauty, a traditional quilt pattern, but naturally many of us will be doing non-traditional takes on the theme.  For starters, I stumbled upon the fact that the bluebird is the state bird of New York, and used to be known as Robin Redbreast because of similarities to the robin.  Many sketches from the early 20th century also indicate that they have been confused with swallows, probably because of their wonderful swooping flights.

So over the last few days I’ve been surfing around to see what pops up for bluebirds, and these are some of my favorites.  That little patch of color with the sketch is what Photoshop always displays when you save a file for the web, and it intrigues me.  In and of itself it’s a great color exercise, someday I may start a series of fiber pieces using those… And in the weird coincidence department, the New York state animal is the same as Oregon’s – beaver!

Sketching What’s Handy

potato sketch

Dinner May Be a Little Late...

 It’s a grey Monday in May in Oregon, and energy and inspiration are in short supply after a busy weekend and a dismal workday.  So it is that I turn to the mundane:  There’s a potato, an orange, and three bananas in the basket on the dining table.  The potato wins, although I’m not sure why.  Sketching what’s handy is a quick and easy way to find the next subject for a daily sketch, but it can tend to delay dinner when it turns out you’re sketching one of the potatoes that was scheduled to go in the oven half an hour ago!

Potatoes are homely, misshapen, relatively colorless lumps.  It’s hard to make a composition with one potato.  It’s hard to find much color in a potato.  There’s just not a lot good to say about a potato as a model or a subject.  Yet, I love potatoes – mashed, fried, baked.  And as it turns out, the surface is intriguing: eyes, gouges, bulges, dirt, scabs, sprouts, splits, bruises.  In their own subtle way, they are visually satisfying, a tactile adventure.  And best of all, it’s hard for any critic to say, “You didn’t get that shape or proportion quite right…” – because how could you ever tell?!

This is a combination of colored pencil, a watercolor wash, and more colored pencil over the top of the watercolor.

Sketches Before Supper

three birds of prey, colored pencil sketch

Cruel Beaks

Making a sketch a day is practicing what I preach.  I have told my children for years that if you want to call yourself a writer, you must write every day (not an original idea).  A singer must sing every day.  Ergo, if you want to call yourself an artist, you must make art every day.  Or at least something that has to do with art.   Thus daily sketches.  However, in the crush of making a living (art is not particularly conducive to that currently) and keeping up with family, I have to fight for my creative time.  I ignore the people at work who razz me when I leave “early” after six hours to try to get to my studio for a few hours each day (yes, the math is undeniable – “part-time” artists work 60 hours a week minimum), I ignore my cats yowling to be fed, I try to listen to my husband…  but the hours spent with art are hours of low blood pressure and quiet satisfaction.  Thus it is that tonight I had 40 minutes between chopping carrots for the chicken pot pie and putting the bubbling pie on the table to devote to birds of prey.  A labor of love.   The pie wasn’t too bad, either. 

Even the most rudimentary sketch teaches me to pick out the key elements and patterns.  Birds are amazing, they just have too many feathers…  These are from photographs by Jim Leonard, someone for whom I cannot find an email address, so more research is necessary before I can give him proper credit.  Like me, he loves Finley Wildlife Refuge.  Unlike Mr. Leonard, I do not have a telephoto lens… so I hope he does not mind if I learn from and rejoice in his photos.

Flying Fruit Salad

colored pencil sketch of Western Tanager

Western Tanager

I sat down to eat my chocolate chip pancakes on Mother’s Day and nearly swallowed my back teeth when a flock of flying fruit salads landed in our big fir tree.  Cherry red, bright orange, lemon yellow, a dash of olive green… the males were glorious.  The females, poor dears, were mouse brown with a bit of olive – no fair.

Apparently these gorgeous Western Tanagers pass through Corvallis for a day or two each year, just about Mother’s Day, on their way from Southern Mexico to somewhere in Canada.  Magic!

The Dark Side

beaver skull black

copyright 2011 kmcfall All Rights Reserved

..and you will be haunted by this guy if you even think about using this image or anything resembling it.  Posting this for comment by selected reviewers.

Beaver Skull

sketch of beaver skull

Copyright KMcfall 2011 Do NOT Duplicate!

 As macho mascots go, I’ve always thought that beavers (OSU) were almost as pitiful as ducks (UO).  But maybe they aren’t such wusses after all – those beaver teeth are incredible.  I borrowed the skull from a co-worker’s book shelf and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with this sketch.  Some friends suggested that Duck fans might be interested in Tshirts featuring this expired beav… so that’s the reason behind the copyright notice, I think I’m going to talk to the UO bookstore!  Then again, does that shatter my peace loving Momma image?

I’ve been watching a group of local beavers create a lake at Dunawi Creek, near my forest service office by Starker Arts Park – they don’t just chew on saplings, they have taken down ash trees that I cannot reach around.  It’s awe inspiring what those little mammals can do.

…and the Weeding Continues

Sketch of wild geranium single blossom

Wild Geranium

I’ve always heard these called “wild geranium”, and Google seems to agree.  They are pungent when you break a stem, and the leaves turn deep magenta/red/orange in the fall.  They are fuzzy and frilly – too bad they’re weeds and can take over when you turn your back.  When I was a little girl, we would make “scissors” out of two seed pods: slit the long slender piece with a fingernail, insert the other long slender piece, and voila!

Happy May Day!

sketch of bouquet

Flowers on Your Virtual Front Porch

 Spring still seems like a vague possibility out here in Oregon, so much so that finding May Day flowers to sketch was quite a challenge.  The neighbors “donated” a trio of tulips from the side yard, I found a handful of wild hyacinth that didn’t get mangled when the new front steps were poured, and last summer’s herb pots yielded two stems of mint.  The weather guessers have promised us a true spring day for May 1st, so enjoy your virtual flower delivery while Griff and I head off to Findley Wildlife Refuge to see if we can spot some baby geese!