Thursday, October 8, 2009

Evening Grosbeaks in a Paper Birch

This Painting is called "Evening Grosbeaks in a Paper Birch."  I began it in the spring of 2009 and completed it in November of the same year.  It is currently part of a group exhibit by artist members of the "Guild of Natural Science Illustrators" (Fingerlakes Chapter) in cooperation with the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca.  This exhibit, entitled "The Sweet Voiced Bird Has Flown, Portraits of Common Birds in Decline" features portraits of 20 common birds of North America which The National Audubon Society identified as experiencing alarming population decline.  Our Guild is using this exhibit not only to call attention to the plight of these lovely winged friends, but also to suggest ways we can aid their survival.  The show hangs at the Lab of Ornithology's Fuentes Room through April 2nd, 2010.  As part of Ithaca's "Light in Winter Festival, a reception will take place on Thursday January 21, 2010 and an educational talk about these 20 birds will be given by Steve Kress at 11:00 on Saturday January 23, 2010. This watercolor painting measures 11 x 15 inches and is $800.00 framed. (MORE)   
If you would like to see how this painting was created, please read on: First I drew in the entire composition of the birds, foliage and branches.  Next I covered that area in masking fluid.  Then I  did a series of washes in blues, greens and yellows, followed by a treatment with salt.  This was done in 3 or 4 layers to create a sense of a full lush forest background.

Next I began painting in the foliage, again in layers of washes. I decided to paint the female first, because I thought she looked easier and more boring. To my surprise, the more I worked on her the more I saw that she was not just grey but also had hues of pink, yellow, lilac and more! One of the most fascinating characteristic of these birds to me is their unique chartreuse-green beaks! (Yes, in spring and summer the really ARE that green!)

Lastly I started working on the male, who is resplendent in his shades of yellow, orange, gold and black.  At times during this project I wondered why I ever volunteered to participate in this exhibit.  I'd never painted a bird before, nor foliage for that matter.  I had a steep learning curve. Because of my disabilities, I had to work with a timer, stopping every 15 to 20 minutes to prevent further injury. However, over time it did turn into a labor of love thanks to the guidance of a great teacher and wonderful supportive friends and family, especially my loving wife, Lisa.  Thanks all!!


  1. Nicole, this one looks a winner, I like the backround texture a lot. Congratulations, it is great to exhibit, wish I were there in Ithaca! All the best!

  2. Thanks Muru, but you cheated! I wasn't ready for you to look yet ( I was still working on the bugs) But I do appreciate your enthusiastic support!