View Full Version : A Bird a Day /Flicker Farm

06-21-2015, 04:11 PM
Eighteen months ago, I began keeping a daily watercolor journal in order to work on developing my technique and exploring different styles within the medium of watercolor. My interest is primarily in nature studies -- flora and fauna, as well as some miscellaneous sketches when I travel. I like working au plein air, but often the journal painting ends up being done inside, looking over my beautiful farm and forest.

I have a website where I post some of these explorations: http://www.flicker.farm/ It has been a great way to share progress with friends, and I would invite anyone who is interested to subscribe to it.

I am still developing my own style, but I am beginning to see glimmers of what makes me happiest and what works best for my temperament. I realize that I like linework (no surprise, as I have been an architect for over 30 years!), so those paintings that use line, usually with a wash, are my favorites.

I am an avid intermediate-level birder. So in 2015 I have focused on painting "A Bird a Day" using a daily photo calendar as my jumping off point.

This is my latest:


My current journal is a Moleskine Watercolor A4 size, and my paints are almost all Daniel Smith. The linework is mostly pencil, sometimes with Micron or Faber-Castell pens. I also use Stabilo 88 markers as I can blend those and soften the edges/colors.

I started using smaller format journals but since the daily painting is often my only painting each day, I needed to work larger to loosen up and explore the medium.) I prefer the smoother paper in Stillman and Birn Zeta journals, but I really like a landscape format and hard binding, which, sadly, S&B doesn't offer.

Please take a look at my website and let me know what you think.

06-23-2015, 09:34 AM
The great thing about a daily journal is it allows me to explore how different media work with various subjects. This early sketch (from 16 months ago) illustrates my 'migration' (no pun intended) from watercolor pencils (where I started) to watercolors supplemented with ink/line/wash.

As my goal is not hyper-realism, the pencils, I realized, are not loose enough for me. (I still use them, but almost never on their own.) Looking back over the past eighteen months, I can see my evolution and media preferences evolving (and improving, I hope!).

I also was already beginning to understand the benefit of higher quality paints and papers. This was done with good WC pencils (Derwent watercolor, Inktense, and Graphitint), but inexpensive paints and paper.


06-23-2015, 04:41 PM
Would love to see you post your birds here. Great job on discovering your preferences in making art.

06-24-2015, 12:12 AM
I love birds and i love these! would love to see more also.

06-25-2015, 08:47 AM

06-28-2015, 04:57 AM
Nice :). Don't chase after a 'style' as it will limit you. Your own way of working and mark making evolves naturally like your handwriting ... Base elements taught but it develops in your own way

06-29-2015, 07:05 AM
Nice :). Don't chase after a 'style' as it will limit you. Your own way of working and mark making evolves naturally like your handwriting ... Base elements taught but it develops in your own way

Good advice, thank you. I agree that one cannot force a style. It has been useful to explore techniques and read about others' approaches. I can certainly tell that I am beginning to discern what is truly ME and what is just mimicry or practice. This Ruddy Duck (yes they really do have blue bills!) is an example of a fairly recent bird study that came easily to me. I was very pleased with how it came out...not overworked, and just loose enough to depict the bird's characteristics.


(Yes there are blotches in the wash, and yes, there are areas that didn't blend quite right. But I still like the result.)

06-29-2015, 12:50 PM
wow, love the duck.

06-30-2015, 03:33 PM
Lovely duck.

07-01-2015, 03:42 AM
I agree that one cannot force a style. It has been useful to explore techniques and read about others' approaches. I can certainly tell that I am beginning to discern what is truly ME and what is just mimicry or practice)

Exactly. :)

07-02-2015, 07:49 AM
This was a study of a fairly monochromatic subject, but I did manage to get some subtle color variation nonetheless. And adding the 'feathers' on the back made it a bit less serious!
(Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook, Daniel Smith and Sennelier WC)

07-02-2015, 01:34 PM
Sweet bird. Amazing how agile their necks are.

07-14-2015, 05:04 PM
An Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. Timely, too, as I leave for Peru this weekend and will finally see it in person!


07-15-2015, 02:47 PM
I was intrigued with no beak showing. I had to go look up this bird. Now I get that it is in full mating display and the beak becomes hidden in the feathers. Great job!

07-15-2015, 05:44 PM
Thanks. Yes, indeed, it is a hard image to parse at first. It will be fascinating to see them for real, and get a better sense of how that 'topknot' appears when they move around!

07-15-2015, 05:48 PM
I feel as if I am having a bit of a breakthrough today (!) -- very loose and free, with a good mix of lines and brushwork.


07-16-2015, 02:41 PM
Sweet sketch of mama and babies.

07-16-2015, 04:26 PM
"Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!"


Wonderful bird studies!!

07-18-2015, 09:22 PM
thank you both for the kind words. Off to Peru for three weeks, so won't be posting...but I do hope to do some serious sketching of birds and other fauna and flora that I will share when I return.

I also brought the pages from my bird-a-day calendar, and will try to keep those going as well!

07-24-2015, 01:24 AM
We will be looking forward to your Peruvian etchings.

07-24-2015, 01:24 AM
We will be looking forward to your Peruvian etchings.

07-24-2015, 01:25 AM
We will be looking forward to your Peruvian etchings.

07-25-2015, 01:04 AM
I'm not sure how those three posts happened, but I'm not really as anxious as it might seem by that barrage: however I am still looking forward.:lol:

07-25-2015, 05:30 AM
Really enjoyed looking through your work. Birds are a favourite subject of mine, your Ruddy Duck brought back a few memories for me as here in the UK they have been shot to extinction as they were worried they would interbreed with the rarer White headed duck in Spain.

08-22-2015, 04:38 PM
A fine fellow, indeed!http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Aug-2015/1497267-150716_king_vulture_small.jpg

08-22-2015, 04:51 PM
Several sets of paintings featuring white birds with distinctive faces:




A few issues with smudging on the left-hand albatross (top) and gannet (bottom), but generally I liked the way these turned out.

Comments/critique always welcome.

08-22-2015, 08:02 PM
Lovely bird sketches.

08-22-2015, 10:54 PM
Your work makes me smile.. Thank you. It is really lovely.

Joan T
08-23-2015, 08:29 AM
Wonderful sketches of the birds!

08-28-2015, 02:53 PM
A recent bird-a-day selection (and one I saw in Peru, as well, though I did not get to paint it there).


Some of the background got a bit watery, and the beak looks a bit like a carrot (!), but a fun quick portrait!

08-28-2015, 06:06 PM
Sweet sketch.

08-28-2015, 08:10 PM
Lovely birds... I especially find the two with beaks raised together appealing. Nice work.

09-15-2015, 11:54 AM
A Snowy Egret, once again painted in a slightly 'wild' style.


(Must be something about egrets -- just look at the image next to my signature!)

Painted in my newest journal, a Pentalic, 2100 x 1300 landscape (yea!) format, using my Sennelier travel watercolour set.

09-15-2015, 02:50 PM
Enjoyed looking through your work, and i like the loose feel you achive reminds me of John Busbys work.

09-15-2015, 04:11 PM
Nice! Nothing wrong with liking egrets. They are a cool bird.

09-20-2015, 02:50 PM
We call them 'pink,' but the color of flamingos changes depending on what they eat. This particular one was more on the salmon-end of pinkness!


09-20-2015, 03:12 PM
Gives meaning to "you are what you eat". Great sketch.

Joan T
09-20-2015, 09:48 PM
Great recent birds, especially that flamingo!

09-21-2015, 02:16 PM
Gorgeous flamingo! The eye really "grabs" me.

09-25-2015, 05:12 PM
Thanks to all for the continued encouraging comments. I came across this recently -- the juvenile Southern Caracara, which is already an amazing bird. But the young often have this fabulous purplish coloration -- my favorite color!


09-25-2015, 05:49 PM
Unusual colour. I like how you used the same purple in the feathers.

09-26-2015, 07:58 AM
I am enjoying your sketches!

09-26-2015, 09:29 PM

10-07-2015, 09:23 AM
I love these, I need to stop saying I want to do it and do a bird journal! Last time I did one was 2nd grade! The Egret is gorgeous!

10-08-2015, 07:22 AM
Thanks to all. And as they say, Harvestmoon, "just do it!" I started out pretty clunky two years ago, and definitely am gaining confidence and a sense of my own interpretation over time.

10-09-2015, 07:51 AM
BeeG I posted my first bird page. Plan to start a bird sketchbook, sketchbooks arrived yesterday from Blicks!

10-09-2015, 08:47 AM
Some recent bird studies from my 'Bird-a-Day' project:

Great Egret (yes another white bird -- damn them!)

Blue Jay/Green Field

10-09-2015, 08:50 AM
A natty Rockhopper Penguin:


And the ever-elegant Anhinga:


(though looking a little frazzled in my painting!)

10-09-2015, 08:58 AM
They are all wonderful! Great job on the egrets white wings! I love the last one, what a bird, wow! It doesn't even look like you draw much with pencil! Where do you get most of the photos?

10-09-2015, 06:50 PM
Thank you very much! I do block out the bird and main color fields in pencil, then paint. I sometimes use Stabilo 88 water soluble pens to add colored line, and occasionally use other pens if I want more pronounced line work. The anhinga uses a lot of washed pen work to get the feather differentiation.

This 'bird-a-day' series, began in January using a Page-a-Day Bird Calendar. They are nice photos, but I must confess I am ready for next year, to go back to 'regular' birds and nature observations. (My website, noted below my signature, has menu links to all of the birds I have posted. And not to worry ... I certainly did not share them all!)

Other good sources for bird photos are Cornell's Ornithology Lab, the various birding apps, and websites of birding tour companies (Field Guides, VENT, etc.) who have many of their trips well-documented with exotic photos.

One thing that has surprised me is that I do not enjoy drawing and painting the exotic and most colorful birds as much as the more subtle ones. Who knew?

10-11-2015, 05:36 PM
...woodpecker, of course!


10-11-2015, 06:13 PM
Nice Woodpecker BeeG! We have a few of these, I love them! And all birds. I wish I had the equipment and patience to get good photos of them!

10-14-2015, 05:14 PM
My college mascot, and one of my favorites:


10-15-2015, 04:32 PM
Love the owl. Owls look like they are feeling so superior with those eyes, don't they?

10-15-2015, 05:12 PM
Gorgeous birds, and of course my favorite, a white egret! I love those!

10-21-2015, 03:36 AM
Really enjoyed looking through your sketchbook, very inspiring. You capture the essence of the birds in a lively way.

10-21-2015, 10:16 AM
Your lovely birds make me want to start my own bird sketchbook, so inspiring!

10-24-2015, 04:22 PM
Thanks you all for the compliments and encouragement. They are fun to do!

Here are a couple of new ones:

An African Jacana (walking on lily pads!)

And a Kingfisher with its improbably large head:

Both from my journal, which is currently a Pentalic 5" x 8" using mostly DS watercolors and some DS watercolor sticks. A touch of Stabilo 88 pens in a few places, too.

10-24-2015, 06:27 PM
Great birds. The kingfisher is wonderful.

10-24-2015, 06:32 PM
Oops...that would be "thanks TO you all..."!

I forgot to mention that I added salt to the kingfisher to get that mottled texture. It worked really well...first time I have ever tried it!

10-24-2015, 06:51 PM
Oh I love the owl and the Jacana! The Kingfisher is especially well done! Love those colors, he looks friendly!

10-27-2015, 04:50 PM
On my first trip to Africa, many years ago, we had just settled into our roundel at Etosha National Park in Namibia, and I went outside to look around the grounds. I had not gone more than about ten feet when I saw a hornbill. I was not a birder at the time, yet I knew that bird without a doubt!

This is a slightly different species of hornbill, but with the same distinctive beak. These will always have a special place in my heart, as they were the first really exotic-looking bird I ever saw.


10-27-2015, 05:00 PM
They are definitely unique birds. Great sketch.

10-27-2015, 05:07 PM
Wow Peru! How cool! I love your birds!

10-28-2015, 09:49 AM
Love teh Jacana, that bird in its environment is so striking. Love the pose and motion on him.

Great Horned Owl! Saw this again and realized it matches my Imaginary Owl! Awesome! I thought it might be something real but wasn't sure.

Kingfisher great and thanks for the tip about its head, saw another artist do one and thought it was a proportion error. Glad now I didn't mention it because was posted without C & C. Whew!

Love the Hornbill too. Gorgeous rendering, beautiful colors and form, very recognizable.

11-01-2015, 01:15 PM
A handsome bataleur to finish out another sketchbook. (Though his head is a bit more peaked than it should be!)


I really loaded up the brush to get the deep dark color. Lost a bit of detail, but I do like the color depth.

11-01-2015, 03:01 PM
Fantastic fellow.

11-07-2015, 02:25 PM
We tend to overlook these guys, as they seem omni-present here, but very fun to watch.


11-07-2015, 02:54 PM
Falling behind in my bird-a-day sketchbook, I decided to take a few images along with me when I knew I would have a spare hour to work on them. I decided to try some inking, and then added the washes when I came home. I am pretty pleased with these, though they are very different in feel from my 'normal' Bird-a-Day studies done primarily with paints.

A Resplendent Quetzal:

and a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher:

The linework emphasis served the latter very well, I think, as it is otherwise a fairly muted palette.

Fun to do, and to play with some new inks.

Both are in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook, and the inks are De Artamentis Document Brown and Fog Grey. Watercolors are Daniel Smith and Sennelier. The pens were a Lamy Safari, medium nib and an old Levenger pen with a good heft (similar to a Parker) and another medium nib.

11-07-2015, 06:07 PM
Just delightful. Love the ink and watercolor as well as the darling chickadee.

11-10-2015, 01:50 PM
One of my favorite birds. This bird's pose reminded me of watching them on their roost in High Island, Texas -- just extraordinary.


11-10-2015, 04:36 PM
Very cool sketch. And great memories.

11-14-2015, 03:41 PM
Thank you, Debby, for your continuing encouragement.

Two more studies, both with excellent eyes!

An Eclectus (NOT eclectic!)Parrot:

And two Puffins. I did this one very fast, and the granulation of the black paint I used left some spots on left-hand bird before I noticed it and could wash it off...

11-14-2015, 03:45 PM
Very cool parrot. The puffins are delightful. They make me smile.

11-14-2015, 06:11 PM
Love those Puffins! I have been trying to collect my bird books together lately, thinking about painting them anyway!

12-05-2015, 11:41 AM
I did this lovely ptarmigan and thought that leaving it 'minimalistic' worked well. Just simple linework in De Atramentis Fog Grey, with a bit of Payne's Grey wash to complement it. Back in a Stillman and Birn sketchbook, Beta paper, landcape approximate 8x5".


Ptarmigans make me smile, as I recall a trip a few years ago in pursuit of an elusive one. I was with some avid (read: CRAZED) birders who attempted to locate an all-white Snowy Ptarmigan in the midst of a blizzard on top of a mountain pass near Denver. I got out of our vehicle, was blinded by a gust of snow and ice, and climbed back in to wait for them. Needless to say, they never spotted the elusive white-on-white bird!!


The shot below was taken the next day, in better weather, when we went back to try again. (Still no luck!)


Nothing quite like birding in a blizzard!

12-05-2015, 04:16 PM
Wow! So glad I leafed back to catch up. The Resplendent Quetzal is my favorite, I think, so colorful and dramatic. Great chickadee though, puffins cool, lovely white snowy ptarmigan, so many gorgeous birds. I like this style.

Joan T
12-05-2015, 05:30 PM
Congratulations on keeping up with this challenge! Your birds are just great!! I had so many to catch up on.

12-06-2015, 07:47 AM
Thanks for the encouraging comments. Though the discipline of painting birds for an entire year has been good, I must say I am, unbelievably for me, reaching bird burnout!

Next year...maybe Bing-a-Day (Bing has such lovely images, and so many to choose from), or perhaps just go back to my 'regular' daily journal. We will see what my mood is in a few weeks!

12-06-2015, 02:48 PM
Lovely ptarmigan.

12-13-2015, 02:31 PM
This Le Conte's sparrow (one I have yet to see) turned out rather well. A 'keep-it-simple' painting, in harmony with a little brown bird...


12-13-2015, 02:59 PM
I can see how this one would be hard to spot. Sweet bird painting.

Joan T
12-13-2015, 08:27 PM
This one of the sparrow is so bright and cheery!

12-15-2015, 06:25 AM
Cheers! I often feel bad that the LBBs (little brown birds) are so under-appreciated. But if you take the time and really look at them, there is much to admire.

12-15-2015, 04:28 PM
The more the end of the year approaches, the more I think about starting a sketchbook with this theme.
Your thread is a great inspiration!

12-16-2015, 07:56 AM
I'm glad that you are inspired. It has been a fun theme, and kept me at it. But I do confess to nearing bird burnout (in terms of the posed Bird-a-Day pictures form the calendar). Looking forward to going back to more varied sources of both birds and other nature scenes.

One great outcome of the focused sketchbook this year is that I have finally begun to hone in on my style...experimenting with different approaches to watercolor, ink, line and realizing both what looks better and what I enjoy most. Unexpected benefit!

I look forward to seeing YOUR sketchbook soon!

12-16-2015, 12:14 PM
Thank you for sharing your experience. I will think about starting one :)
You probably know this tread?

12-17-2015, 07:56 AM
Yes, I saw it when I first started getting more active on this site. Nice idea.

I think that my bird total for the year will be 313....365-52, since the calendar I was using combines weekends. Of course, I painted quite a few extras along the way, both from Peru and other sittings closer to home. So maybe closer to 400 birds for the year? Wow.

12-17-2015, 09:14 AM
That sounds great! I like page-a-day calendars and have been thinking to get one for two or three years now. But it seems to be quite a commitment. I mean, that's a lot of birds!
But "a bird a week" sounds kind of lazy :D
I was thinking about putting the calendar on my office desk and draw during lunch breaks. But I would be probably hungry all the time because I can't draw fast :)

12-23-2015, 02:55 PM
Closing in on the last few images, and decided I'd better scan a few more!


And one of my favorite new birds -- I saw a different oen of these this summer in Peru, and thought it was just lovely. Not to mention teh very cool name: Chlorophonia! This doesn't really do it justice -- lovely greens and gorgeous light aqua colors, all mixed together.


12-23-2015, 04:11 PM
Great bird sketches.

12-31-2015, 09:04 AM
The final painting in the Bird-a-Day project, with a lovely egret and its 'golden slippers.'


12-31-2015, 09:46 AM
Well done BeeG ! What a gorgeous bird, they are all good, and your determination and ability to see it through to the end are amazing!

12-31-2015, 03:28 PM
Lovely egret.

12-31-2015, 04:14 PM
So! Many! Birds!!!

Joan T
01-01-2016, 08:29 PM
Great finish to this theme, BeeG!

01-03-2016, 06:34 AM
Well done :)

01-26-2016, 06:54 PM
Great work on the bird sketches! I admire your looseness - I try to be impressionistic with birds, but always tend toward a lot of detail. Probably comes from being a definite bird nerd - I have a master birder certification through Audubon and have done a lot of field trip leading and bird survey work for some wildlife biologists out here.

I'm curious where 'rural central PA' is - I grew up in Bloomsburg and went to college in Lewisburg. You mentioned the owl as a college mascot - Temple? My wife and I worked in the Philly area for 7 years and got masters degrees at night from Drexel.

I just posted my 2016 'birds I've seen this year' sketchbook and will try hard to get caught up with my year list (stands at 67 so far, with 38 of them sketched).

Hope to see more of your work here! :clap:

01-27-2016, 07:05 AM
Thanks, John. I live about 30 minutes from State College, over the mountains to the SE. Our land abuts Rothrock State Forest.

Your work is lovely. Ironically, though I am a detail person (as an architect one has to be), in painting I discovered quickly that I do not have the patience for realism in my art. Did you read 'The Wild Duck Chase' about the annual Duck Stamp painting competition? Fascinating book, and speaks to the minutiae of realistic painting.

I think watercolors lend themselves to looser styles, and I also find that if I am field sketching, my tendency is to capture just the 'jizz' of the bird. After all, that is how one best begins to identify them, right?

I also do not keep lists, which astounds many of my birding friends, given that I have seen many of the world's most amazing birds. But for me, the joy is in the watching, and listing doesn't add anything for me. But hey, to each their own!

I won't continue to post work here, as this thread was for my 2015 project. I do post other birds in the watercolor forums from time to time. More of my work is on my website (fun only, not pro).

If our paths ever cross we can bird together. Sounds like you could show me a lot! Cheers.