Everywhere you go, you can find references and inspiration for your art.
Everywhere you go, you can find references and inspiration for your art. We are lucky to have cell phones that can be whipped out quickly to capture a moment. Some of us take selfies. Some of us take landscapes. I take pictures of animals, for the most part, as that is my focus.
I love spring for the backyard symphony of birds singing. It is a time of nests and eggs and the birds are singing their joy of that. It saddens me to hear some complaining of the noise. It isn’t noise! It is a symphony. I can identify most of the birds but there are a few that I can’t. Onto the internet I go to find that bird song. We have Baltimore orioles this year – well, Heather does! I have cardinals, blue jays, juncos, yellow and purple finches, chickadees, woodpeckers, robins, turkey vultures and crows. When I am out, I see red-tailed hawks and Coopers hawks. Then, we have the pesky rabbits (don’t you dare eat my poppies this year!!), and squirrels. Our grey squirrels have white tufts behind their ears.
I had the pleasure of being up at Heather’s cabin, just south of Perth Ontario for a week. I love it there. It is a tiny, unpretentious cabin where you don’t worry about anything. We read, we swim when the Lake is warm, fires if we want them (and we did this week!), eat good food and drink. The cabin is on the north shore of a beautiful Lake, with trees and wildlife hiding until all of a sudden, they are not. The shades of green of the newly leafed deciduous trees was beautiful. While we were driving back from Perth one afternoon, we saw four white-tailed deer. Two were young ones but old enough to have lost their white spots. Their tails were flipping up signaling danger. They have such huge ears, compared to their faces. Their faces are triangles filled with eyes and a nose. One was quite near a fence and it seemed to be on springs as he just bounded over it. Then, he went a few feet and stared at us in the car. I wish that I could have gotten a picture of them. I feel badly for them. Imagine living your life in a constant state of awareness and anxiety, knowing you are food for so many. To see a deer live shows you the variations of colour in their hide, the way their white tails are a shock of colour, the softness of their ears but also how upright and large they are compared to their faces. Despite the spring green of the forest, they can hide so well that you would never see them.
I wanted to feed the blue jays who came calling when they knew someone was at the cabin. They know who feeds them. I put peanuts on the deck railing. I don’t know how they could possibly have eaten them all in that short period of time. Maybe they were stashing them for later. The next day, peanuts were left over. That night, we heard a strange noise and there was a baby momma raccoon eating them. It wasn’t quite dark yet. She was the size of one of my cats and had babies from the looks of her underside. Most raccoons are a lot bigger than her. It was quite surprising.
Of course, spring means babies. We saw so many baby cows and sheep on the local farms. One farm has pigmy horses. They are so sweet.
It was raining the first two days that we were there so that is when we got out to do some shopping. Westport is the town to the south and has great stores. Village Green buys up discontinued books and sells them for a lot less than a bookstore would have. Of course, I bought reference books. One was a life-size book on birds. It has a scale that shows you how big or small they actually are. Regular pictures don’t give you that perspective. I purchased Wings Along The Waterway by Mary Barrett Brown. Her illustrations are in stunning watercolour.
This week gave me so much fodder for paintings. Seeing animals live can give the paintings more life and personality. You see their true colours, their antics and quirks. On the way back from Westport, we took a country road. We saw flickers floating from tree to tree. Flickers are a relative to woodpeckers. They are an orange brown with a white splotch on their back. They feed on the ground, not in the trees. The woodpeckers had patches of red on their heads and throats, while their bodies were black and white. We were gifted a feather from the woodpecker.
I definitely want to paint a deer hiding in the trees. I want to paint herons, loons with babies on their backs, hawks, woodpeckers. My mind is reeling from all the scenes from this week. I don’t know if I will ever get them all done but at least, I don’t have to search for my next subject.
In the meantime, I am working on owls, wolves and bears. I am laughing at that because they don’t have much to do with this week, but they were on my board in the last month.
“Seeing animals live can give the paintings more life and personality.”
I worked on a different painting this month. It is a large (11x14) painting of birds in trees. The background was fun as I did it with my fingers. The background branches were done in colour mixed with glaze. Then, I pushed it all back with zinc white. It made the branches and background soft and misty. Can I tell you how much I love zinc white? The birds were tiny so I couldn’t put much detail in them but they really didn’t need it. I love this direction and you will see me doing it more.
My neighbours lost their Gracie this month. It is so hard to lose a beloved family member.
Bert and Gwen are more family than neighbours. I made them a portrait of Gracie so that they will have a reminder and will be with her ashes.