Sanhill Crane Quartet

Sanhill Crane Quartet
OIl on 18x24 inch canvas

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gray Heron

This painting of a gray heron, from a photo I took on vacation many years ago at Bel Aire Beach, Florida, is my best in this technique. I am learning so much about the materials and happily mastering them. I used a 16 x 20 illustration board which is a pale azure rather than the  dimmer blue that shows up here. No matter. I began with Derwent Water Soluble pencils, HB to be specific and after drawing colored in and painted in place the 8B pencil. Then came the mix of rust, orange and brown to create the spots of color on the heron. I used Derwent Inktense blocks for this. I painted over the 8B with Inktense black and added a few fine lines and streaks to improve the feathery appearance. Next came the white paint.

I like the Inktense blocks and pencils. The colors are strong and they work as easily as opaque watercolors but I'm not so crazy about the white. sometimes it's good for the work and sometimes it's not enough. The white often appears to be pearlized and is translucent so it works for some highlights but not as a strong cover. Before I began this project I headed out the Hobby Lobby in search of opaque white. I searched very hard and finally found a box of tubed, opaque watercolor paints; 12 colors. No open stock. Well, I know I'll use them so I picked up the box and then I saw a sign for a new product. New to me at any rate. Winsor Newton has a new oil paint, Winsor Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Color, that works with water and cleans up with soap and water. No turpentine like cleaners, no thinners or oils. I picked up a tube of Titanium white paint and happily went to check out with all my new supplies.

I was most satisfied. The WN water mixable paint works a bit better than acrylic. I don't know the drying time of the paint but I used so little that it didn't take more than 10 minutes to dry. I must say that I am very pleased about all of the materials I've assembled to create my paintings. I was never good with watercolors and while I've used acrylic and oil paints and love the strength of colors and variations of the hues it was to far away from my first love, drawing. That's what I liked most about chalk pastels and marker brushes; they were a step away from drawing. I find that this combination of water based products is giving me the best of both worlds. I'm having so much fun!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Raven

This very beautiful specimen is a Raven (wth a capital R) from New Mexico. I took his photo while I was living in New Mexico a few years ago. He's actually hunting for food at a construction site but I softened the background a bit.

I started this painting with Faber-Castell water soluable pencils and painted it with Derwent Inktense pencils.  Highlighting was done with the white Inktense block but the remainder of the highlights were drawn in with the pencil. I've always enjoyed the mischeivous stance of this Raven. It's almost as if he knew I was watching and he was ignoring me, inviting me to watch.

I know at first glance you probably thought this is a crow but it's not. If you ever do see a raven up close you'll know it. Thoughts like "that's a really big crow, twice as big as any crow I've ever seen" will immediately pop into your head. You'll watch, transfixed, as this regal bird casually struts about and wonder what they feed crows in New Mexico or whatever state you happen to be in. And then, you'll get it. You'll know. This is the Raven. The same bird Edgar Allen Poe wrote about in his poem of the same name. You'll wonder how he didn't run screaming from the room when a bird twice the size of a common crow flew inside and made his menacing self comfortable in your living room.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The African Pygmy Falcon

This delightful and diminutive bird of prey rests on the gloved hand of it's handler. Drawn in actual size or close to it, I started with Faber Castell water soluable pencils on 9 x 12 inch watercolor  paper. I began layering color from my Derwent Inktense blocks and then the pencils. I used acrylic white paint in addition to Inktense white  and followed up with fine detail using Derwent Verithin hard colored pencils. All in all, I do like the result. I also like being able to use several paint and drawing media to paint the bird's portrait.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Male Rufous Hummingbird

This delightfully colorful hummingbird looks as though he's wearing camoflage with his green cap and orange collar.  I drew the image on 6 x 6 inch bristol paper using Faber Castell water soluable graphite pencils and painted it with Derwent Inktense blocks.  I used both Inktense white and acrylic white paint to highlight the feathers and a touch of orange acrylic paint to get a touch more intensity. 

This small bird spends it's spring in California, summers in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska and moves to the Rocky Mountains in the fall.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hooded Warbler

This study of the Hooded Warbler was painted on 6 x 6 inch bristol paper using Derwent Inktense blocks, Faber Castell water soluable pencils and acrylic paint. I drew the bird with the Faber Castel pencils, "painted in the linework with a water brush and then added the Inktense inks. When I was done I wasn't done. I wanted more pop and I realized that the black and yellow weren't as strong or intense as I would have liked. I added medium yellow to the chest and face of the warbler and black to the hood, beak and eye and a touch of acrylic white to the beak and wing.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Swan and Cygnets

I've done this mother swan and her cynets before with marker brushes on white bristol. This time I moved the family to a 15 x 20 moss green illlustration board which I later trimmed to 14 x 18. It's a better frame fit. Being lazy and not yet comfortable with filling expansive backgrounds I chose the moss green board to take the place of water. I drew my image with Faber Castell water soluble graphite pencils and painted the image with Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks but I ran into a problem. The white Inktense medium wouldn't cover the the board as I had hoped. It took three coats to acheive the swan reflection. I turned to acrylic white to build up the body of the Swan and was quite successful. It (the acrylic) lay perfectly on the Inktense applications. I used the Inktense white to paint the cloud reflections and the ripples. 

All in all I am pleased with the calm image of a mother and children getting ready to cross the lake. At least I think that's what's going on. Certainly it is. I'm the artist. I should know.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Florida Scrub Jay

The Florida scrub jay is the only bird species found exclusively in Florida. It inhabits scrub oak habitats, which consist of scrubby flatwoods, sand pine scrub, rosemary scrub, and coastal scrub. Because the Jay is found only in Florida and it's environment is in danger, the Florida Audubon Society runs a Jay Watch Citizen-Science Program. You can find out more about the Scrub-Jay and the Florida Audubon Society at or

This drawing of the Scrub-Jay was executed on a 9 x 12 inch piece of watercolor paper using Faber-Castell to draw the image and Derwent Inktense blocks. I used a limited palette of gray, blue, tan and white.