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04-15-2011, 10:32 AM
Thanks, Debby!

Yes, habitat loss is the biggest reason for bird population decline, worldwide. Too many people who have to eat and live somewhere...unless worldwide population stabilizes or is reduced, the long term outlook for a lot of critter species is not very good, unfortunately.

This is another sagebrush habitat species, appropriately called the Sage Sparrow. Like the Sage Thrasher, it is best seen (or heard) during breeding season when the males are up in view on their territories, singing away like this fellow. After breeding and nesting season is over, they bury themselves down in the sage to avoid predators. The head on this species is a light bluish gray, with variations of brown on the back, and a grayish belly and breast. The blue-gray head is very striking when the birds are at their peak breeding plumage, even though it's understated from a hue point of view.


04-15-2011, 11:45 AM
Wonderful sketch. I can almost hear him singing.

Joan T
04-15-2011, 12:11 PM
Great bird sketches!!! Makes it feel like spring.

04-15-2011, 05:01 PM
great sketch, John. . .esp like the beak and feet details. You always do those so accurate and those are the parts that I underplay in mine usually!

04-16-2011, 03:34 AM
lovely :)

04-16-2011, 05:43 PM
Two very pretty birds. It's interesting seeing birds from a different locality. If I were sketching birds in my area, I would have sketched a robin and a cardinal this week. Both were hanging out in my backyard.

Ms Nan
04-16-2011, 06:08 PM
So surprised to hear about Audubon carrying a gun to shoot his subjects!! He was from my husband's hometown area (Jamestown NY), and has been so revered for his research and art work. Your bird is wonderful, thanks for posting.

04-17-2011, 11:52 PM
Thanks Debby, Joan, Rainy, Vivien, Michelle and Nan!


06-04-2011, 11:46 PM
It's been some time since I posted on this thread, but I just finished a watercolor sketch of three Evening Grosbeaks. We've had as many as 40 of these wonderful, very vocal and gregarious birds in our yard at our feeders for the last week or so. The two birds at the back are males and the more drab-colored bird in the foreground is a female. The initial drawing was done with fountain pen and gray ink, then completed with watercolor washes. This is in a 12 x 9 inch Aquabee Deluxe sketchbook.

I realized after I posted this that the eyes were not completed, so went back and darkened them. You'll have to use your imagination...:) .


06-05-2011, 05:08 PM
Quite a painting. Your birds are always wonderful to see.

06-05-2011, 06:50 PM
John, as you know, I'm a sucker for Evening Grosbeaks! LOL about forgetting to finish the eyes. I can't count the number of times I posted something and then saw some huge mistake or unfinished area. There's something about showing our work in public that makes us see the worst! Hahaha! Love seeing you take these on in watercolor.


06-05-2011, 07:14 PM
Love the Grosbeaks! Such expression you capture.

06-05-2011, 09:30 PM
nice watercolor, John. the birds and the background!

06-05-2011, 10:00 PM
Thanks Debby, Jamie, Candace and Rainy!

This definitely falls in the quick sketch category, not what I would term a painting, so it's pretty basic. Although I like the Aquabee Deluxe sketchbook a lot for its versatile and paper quality, my experience with it is that it does not take watercolor as well as my normal Arches 140# cold press. The colors seem to be more muted than the same amount of wash on Arches, and there is sometimes some pooling when painting wet on dry. Still, it's overall in my top couple of sketchbooks. I don't know if I'll work this up into a more finished piece or not. I would change the composition if I did, at least somewhat.

Oh, I should mention that I got two of my bird paintings into a large juried art show at a nearby city that runs the weekend of June 25-26. Exciting, as those are the first bird paintings that I've gotten into a juried show - actually they might be the first ones I felt were strong enough to enter.

06-05-2011, 10:04 PM
WOW, congrats John. . . that is wonderful!! Best of luck to them in the show, but just getting into a juried show itself is cool.

Joan T
06-06-2011, 12:13 PM
Congrats on the show!!! This last sketch is great! I admire that you know these birds so well.

06-06-2011, 08:51 PM
Congrats on the show. That's marvelous.

06-06-2011, 10:41 PM
Thanks Rainy, Joan and Debby!

Here is a small sketch from today (and one from last night). Today while doing my bird survey on the golf course, I heard a Sora on one of the ponds. Sora's are not common, and because they stay in the reeds most of the time and are skulky, they are very rarely seen. Usually, as with today, they are heard rather than seen. I have been lucky enough to see a few over the past few years. They are very handsome birds. This sketch is all pen and ink except the bill and legs, which is watercolor. I used Herbin Gris Nuage and Caran d'Ache Grand Canyon.

The plant is a spikey flower on some ground cover from our back yard - I forget what the name of the plant is.

These are in the 6 x 5 inch Watermark Bindery journal.


06-06-2011, 11:11 PM
what a great page spread John. . . both the flower and the bird are lovely. Beautiful shading on the bird with the inks!

06-07-2011, 08:53 AM
I think the bird and the flower look good together. Nice job on both. We have an area near me where birders do surveys from time to time. It's called the Celery Farm, and someone actually did a book about it. I like to go there to sketch, but I would need to sketch from seriously strong binoculars to sketch the birds.

06-07-2011, 10:16 PM
Splendid pages here. Interesting about the sora.

06-08-2011, 12:45 AM
Congrats of the show!! Your birds rock!

06-08-2011, 03:43 AM
congratulations on the show :)

and these are going well

07-14-2011, 02:49 AM
Thanks Rainy, Michelle, Debby, Candace and Vivien!

Here is a quick one I drew first in pen, then added watercolor. This is a female Rufous Hummingbird on our hummingbird feeder that hangs about six feet from my work area in the kitchen nook - right outside the window. I took a couple photos and worked from one. Getting these guys to stay still for very long is tough. This is in a 10 x 13 inch Arches watercolor wirebound sketchbook.


07-14-2011, 05:03 AM
how amazing to have those little flying jewels outside your window!

nice one

07-14-2011, 09:24 AM
Pretty sketch! That's an interesting bird feeder. :-)

07-14-2011, 11:08 AM
John, what a thrill it must be to sit and watch the hummingbirds. Does your feeder attract bees? I'd love to get a hummingbird feeder, but the last thing I need is more bees around here!


07-14-2011, 11:31 AM
Thanks Vivien, Michelle and Jamie!

Jamie - We don't have a problem with bees on the feeder. It's designed so that the hummingbirds need to use their tongues to get at the solution, through the yellow 'grate' that covers the hole leading into where the solution is. (Hummingbirds actually drink with their amazingly long tongues, which seemingly operate almost as fast as their wings do.) So there isn't much sugar water that gets outside for the bees. However, we do get some - and in our particular area for reasons I don't understand (but definitely am not complaining) we don't have nearly the yellowjacket problem that exists back in your neck of the woods. We have a lot of bumblebees this year (some cute little ones that are native to our area - I don't know insects at all, only birds, so have no idea what species they are!) but they stay on the flowers in our yard.

I should mention that at one point in the spring, we had five hummingbirds around the feeder at once - 4 Rufous and 1 Anna's. They are highly aggressive, and it was like watching fighter combat with the birds trying to defend 'their' feeder from the others. Right now, probably because so much is blooming naturally in our garden and the neighborhood, the feeder isn't nearly as busy - today I've seen only 1 Anna's and 1 Rufous so far. At the peak, I was going through 8 ounces of solution every day - that's a ton of fluid when the birds drinking it weigh only a couple grams each!

07-14-2011, 11:31 AM
Wow, I just went through this whole post - you have a talent for painting birds. great job.

07-14-2011, 11:42 AM
Thanks, Zebby! We posted at the same time apparently. I've worked hard at learning to draw birds, because I'm definitely a 'bird nerd'. But I have light years to go to get in the same league as a number of the folks in the Wildlife Art forum on BirdForum.net - that forum has several world-class bird artists who post regularly, and their work is so motivational and inspiring though I don't know if I have enough years left (or talent!) to even approach what they are doing. (Tim Wootton and Nick Derry are two of the standouts there if people are interested in looking.)

Because of my work with birds in the area, in a couple hours I'm going to be interviewed for a documentary film being made about wildlife in the vicinity of Snoqualmie Falls - two of my friends are also going to be filmed. Not sure it was a good idea to say yes when they called. :eek:

07-14-2011, 12:05 PM
John, thank you for that info. 8 oz a day....wow! That's a lot of sugar water for tiny birds, as you say!


07-14-2011, 12:18 PM
wow john, great news about the documentary. I loved both your quick sketches and the ones you took more time with - to me they were all beautiful. I'm a bird lover for sure and for awhile focused on drawing them, a few years back. Haven't had time lately for art but I can't wait to get a "move" behind me and start fresh somewhere else with lots of time for art.

07-14-2011, 01:27 PM
Zebby and others - I would be remiss not to give a HUGE plug to Tim Wootton's recently-published book 'Drawing and Painting Birds.' Tim lives in the UK - actually Orkney - and is a fantastic artist with marvelous life drawings of birds as well as studio pieces. His book is destined to be a classic, and in addition to lots of how-to and images of his work, he has included bird art from a number of the hall-of-famers in that genre as well. It's available on Amazon and I'm sure other places as well. You can also search Tim's name online and find his website and blog. He does post in the Animals and Wildlife Art forum on WetCanvas sometimes as well (I haven't been in that forum lately, so not sure what his current status is). Tim's style is looser and more impressionistic than the typical field guide 'scientific illustration' style - much more artistic in my mind, although he certainly is more than capable of doing illustration work when asked to. Plus, he's a very modest guy and greatly supportive of other artists trying to learn the craft.

Oh, and the film shoot got cancelled today - foggy and potentially rainy weather and a high of 65 degrees today. Unlike almost all of the rest of the country, we are still having a very cool and wet early summer, sigh...

07-14-2011, 04:27 PM
Thanks for the heads up on tom - i'll check him out.

darn...cancelled eh...This weather lately is strange - I read many folks saying they hardly have had a summer in the pacific northwest.

07-14-2011, 11:26 PM
That's one cute hummer. My mom has those at her feeders too.

09-18-2011, 01:54 PM
Thanks, Debby!

Well, it's been too long since I did an entry in this journal, so time to correct that. I was just at the Oregon coast for a four-day plein air oil painting workshop, which was excellent - did 6 paintings while there. Also found a bit of time to sketch some birds from life. As might be expected, the majority of the sketches were...seagulls. This is one page that turned out well. After I finished an oil painting, there was a bit of time before the workshop group got together for lunch, so I grabbed my sketchbook and walked to the nearby beach looking for a cooperative gull...and I found one. It was hunkered down in the sand resting, and allowed me to slowly walk within about eight feet of it, then I sat down on the folding chair and did some pen sketches. The ink (Diamine Graphite) was washed with water back at the hotel. This is one of our common gull species - a Western Gull (an adult). The yellow color of the bill is a watercolor wash, but I wasn't careful enough in the top bird and it mingled with the ink, turning the bill gray-green. Oh well...


Vivien Maloney
09-18-2011, 02:06 PM
John, you have an amazing talent for drawing/painting birds. I love the little Humming bird and these gulls are so lifelike. I particularly like the bottom gull.

09-18-2011, 05:27 PM
Thanks, Viv!

Here are some other quick sketches made from photos I took earlier that day. I also threw in two small oil paintings done from photos, again quite quickly, even though they're not technically sketchbook pieces (although they are certainly sketchbook size at 8 x 10 inches). The birds in them are a little wonky since I was painting wet-into-wet, but the goal was a sketch, not a finished painting. I did no preliminary drawing first, just painted everything directly from the photo. The pen sketches are probably five minutes each, max, and maybe an hour in each of the 8 x 10's.






09-18-2011, 08:55 PM
John, your bird sketches are so inspiring! Makes me want to pull out my binoculars and do some birdwatching/sketching soon. Migration season should give me plenty of opportunities! Hope you had a great workshop; I am just coming off a five dayer and I'm so fired up! A great workshop is a big lift!


09-19-2011, 02:34 PM
you've really got the attitudes of gulls, their body shapes and poses :)

09-19-2011, 02:38 PM
Thanks Jamie and Vivien! I like doing gulls because they are great models - at least relative to other bird species, many of which provide a couple seconds in any pose and then are on to something or somewhere else.

Joan T
09-19-2011, 03:23 PM
John, you did a great job capturing the gulls. I find they don't hang around here long enough unless someone is feeding them. lol

09-19-2011, 07:38 PM
beautiful gulls, John. . . esp love that one on the rocks and also that first one. Gulls are fun to watch. Looks like you must have gotten some neat photos to draw from!

09-19-2011, 10:20 PM
Great gulls. Interesting poses you captured.

Vivien Maloney
09-20-2011, 02:29 PM
Great job on all the gulls! I especially like the rocks, gulls and that wonderful sea.

Carole A
09-20-2011, 10:46 PM
Love your gulls, John. What beach did you visit? I'm going to go to a beach between Lincoln City and Depoe Bay the end of October. Don't know if I'll get a chance to sketch, but will have with me my faithful lab, Bogey, and my faithful camera.

Carole A

09-21-2011, 01:27 AM
Thanks Joan, Rainy, Debby, Viv and Carole!

Carole - We painted at the Salmon River estuary by Cascade Head, and Neskowin Beach, on the other side of Cascade Head from the Salmon River, basically. Beautiful area!

09-21-2011, 11:16 AM
You really know how to capture their attitude! Gulls always have a lot of attitude.
great job!

09-22-2011, 12:12 AM
Thanks, Pat! You're correct - gulls definitely march to their own drummer.

Here is a quick sketch I did yesterday when an adult Cooper's Hawk serendipitously showed up on the 'raptor snag' a hundred yards from our house. Out came the spotting scope and sketchbook and I had a couple minutes to sketch this before the bird flew off. About two hours later, it roared into our yard low to the ground and grabbed an unlucky smaller bird (Cooper's Hawks feed entirely on other birds) for lunch.


Vivien Maloney
09-22-2011, 02:32 PM
Great quick sketch John! Hawks are very tenacious when chasing prey aren't they? Our native NZ Hawk will even chase and attack larger birds.

09-22-2011, 08:07 PM
Well, lunch by any other name... it's part of nature. You got a great sketch in only a couple of minutes.

09-23-2011, 03:11 PM
lovely quick drawing, John! Too bad about the other bird being eaten but such is nature, I know. Yesterday after work, I let my dogs outside and one ran right up to the pole that the old outside antenna is on and started sniffing. . . I shooed her away and found a rat carcass that a bird or prey must have dropped while lighting on the antenna. . . they sit there a lot since the property overlooks a big canyon. Glad I got it before the dogs made a snack of it. . . UGH!

09-24-2011, 11:50 AM
You're so good at capturing those forms and proportions and markings in a jiffy!

John, if you haven't seen this video, I think you'll really love it!


09-24-2011, 10:15 PM
Thanks Viv, Debby, Rainy and Jamie!

Jamie - I'll take a look at the video. Got in late and saw how long it was so decided not to watch tonight. Thanks for the link!

09-25-2011, 06:47 PM
Thanks Viv, Debby, Rainy and Jamie!

Jamie - I'll take a look at the video. Got in late and saw how long it was so decided not to watch tonight. Thanks for the link!

I know it's long, but it's a must see for anybody who enjoys wildlife, and especially birds! I was riveted!


09-27-2011, 06:52 PM
Hi everyone,

Here's one from last night while sitting in the recliner (sort of) watching TV. This one slightly stretches the definition of this thread, since it's usually a bird found on the other side of the mountains from our place. On rare occasion, we will get a couple of these nearby, but not very commonly. The bird is a Redhead (yep, that's its official non-scientific name), a beautiful duck species. Obviously this one is done all in pen (Noodler's Violet, using fountain pen), so doesn't show the actual colors or even the values in some cases - I was just trying to get a decent drawing of an in-flight pose. This is in the Stillman & Birn 8.5 x 11 inch Alpha sketchbook. The reference photo was a recent Ducks Unlimited magazine photo.

Post #152 in this thread shows a colored pencil sketch I did of this species, if you want to see the actual colors instead of monochrome pen. And Post #157, I just re-discovered, is better yet - it's a photo. :)


09-27-2011, 07:04 PM
Very cool duck in flight.

09-27-2011, 09:47 PM
great action shot, the beak and head are so well done

Vivien Maloney
09-28-2011, 09:28 PM
Wonderful action shot John. Does he actually have a red colored head? Sounds beautiful.

09-28-2011, 10:18 PM
Viv - yes, indeed he does. Check out posts numbered 152 and 157 earlier in this thread. One has a colored pencil version I did, and the other is a photo a friend of mine took.

Joan T
09-29-2011, 10:44 AM
Your last two are great! I know that one was from a magazine, but to do one live is just spectacular in my opinion. I much prefer subjects that stay put when I sketch them. lol

09-29-2011, 12:15 PM
cool :)

09-30-2011, 07:41 PM
Thanks Joan and Vivien!

09-30-2011, 08:11 PM
Awesome ,It's a great idea to have birds sketchbook.I want to see more. Keep up good job

10-10-2011, 08:25 PM
Thank you, Mary!

Here are two pages in an 11 x 8.5 inch Pentalic Nature sketchbook that I did. These are quick ballpoint pen sketches with watercolor added. Sparrows are one of my favorite families of birds - this bird is a Lincoln's Sparrow, which move into our area in the fall, stay through the winter and then leave in the spring. The watercolor was done pretty quickly, so not intended to be anything really accurate, just give a halfway decent impression of the bird. The color on this species is tough for me to replicate - it is a buffy clay brown sort of color, very distinctive when seen in person.


10-10-2011, 09:54 PM
omgosh, what adorable little birds those are. I've always loves sparrows but not sure if those are the same as the ones we have.

10-11-2011, 10:07 PM
Darling sparrow sketches.

10-11-2011, 10:11 PM
Thanks Rainy and Debby! I really do love sparrows, they have a lot of endearing characteristics. I added up the number of sparrow species we've had in the yard in the nine years we've been here - added up to 13! They are a tough family for beginning birders, though, as most of them fall into the category of LBB's or LBJ's - Little Brown Birds, or Little Brown Jobs. There are a bunch of other sparrow species in the US that I haven't seen, but would love to.

10-12-2011, 04:48 AM
those sparrow sketches are lovely and some of your very best :)

We have a little flock of them that visit and sit in the apple tree shouting for breakfast in the mornings :)

Joan T
10-12-2011, 12:19 PM
Super sparrows, John!!! Great color and just enough detail.

10-14-2011, 05:41 PM
Thanks Vivien and Joan!

10-18-2011, 06:37 PM
Here are a couple more recent ones.

The first is a sketch of a kingfisher, using a reference from this month's Pen & Ink challenge. It was done quickly (about ten minutes) using a Pigma Micron pen for the start and then Pitt brush pens to finish.

The second one is a sketch of a Western Screech Owl. This one I clearly took more time on, and it is all done with Pigma Micron pen. I decided (for now, anyway) to leave it unfinished, as I kind of like the look as it stands. I will probably come back to this one (or re-do it in a larger format), completing the pen work and then adding watercolor washes.

Both these are in an 11 x 8.5 inch Pentalic Nature Sketch sketchbook.



10-18-2011, 09:57 PM
This is marvelous. I love seeing notes in sketchbooks.

10-19-2011, 05:31 PM
Great owl and kingfisher!

10-19-2011, 05:35 PM
Lovely work.

10-19-2011, 11:17 PM
Beautiful use of the brush pens on the kingfisher. . . very nice! But that owl is just amazing and beautiful with just the pen alone, I think.

10-19-2011, 11:52 PM
Thanks Debby, Robert, Zoe and Rainy!

10-22-2011, 03:20 AM
Here are a few more quick sketches from the last couple days. The first two pages are sketches of a Lazuli Bunting that showed up in our yard last year. It is a relatively rare bird on the west side of the Cascades where I live, so it was a real treat to have it around for a couple days. All these are in an 11 x 8.5 inch Pentalic Nature sketchbook and used photos I took of the bird as a reference. The final page includes an American Pipit in the top half of the page, and a Black-capped Chickadee. The Pipit was sketched from a photo a friend of mine took on a recent bird survey, and the chickadee was from a magazine photo.




10-22-2011, 07:34 AM
I love the bunting. You capture the character of those birds really well!

10-22-2011, 08:41 AM
Well done, John! I especially like the 3/4 view of the Bunting (great gesture there with the circular motion of the body going one way and the head the other), and the Pipit.

I got that bird book you recommended by TW. It arrived yesterday and looks great. Did you make a paper/cardboard model like he shows? I think I'm going to do that.


10-22-2011, 12:08 PM
Thanks Jennifer and Jamie!

I should have mentioned that the buntings were done with a ballpoint pen then color added with Pitt brush pens. The pipit and chickadee were all in pen, with some Noodler's brush pen brown added to the pipit (Caran d'Ache Cafe de Iles, if I recall). The pipit coloring in my sketch is not really accurate to the species...I was settled in on the recliner and decided to be lazy and not go grab the watercolors...:o .

Jamie - you'll love Tim's book, especially given your interest in plein air and sketching from life. Plus, his (and certainly the other artists) sketches and paintings in the book are marvelous.

10-22-2011, 03:07 PM
Ah, that's what that blue bird is that I've seen. Thanks. I probably should get a bird identification book to keep around when I see something and wonder what it is. :o

10-22-2011, 03:24 PM
Debby - Yes, they should be in your area, so that's probably what you've seen. Western Bluebirds are similar. The one I drew here is a male - the females are much more drab, same with Western Bluebirds.

10-22-2011, 08:41 PM
Lovely birds drawings, such variety of species in birds! I love the different poses of the one with blue head.

Joan T
10-25-2011, 02:56 PM
Great job on the different poses of the birds. You seem to be our bird master.

10-25-2011, 09:14 PM
You're very good at the bird shapes, the two times I tried to incorporate birds in my sketches they turned out horrible. I thought a crow would be easy enough, well, not for me.

10-25-2011, 09:27 PM
Thanks Rainy, Joan and cat1lady!

With birds, it really helps that birding is one of my two major interests (art is the other). I lead field trips for several Audubon field trips in the area, and have spent a lot of time staring at various species through binoculars and a spotting scope...!

10-25-2011, 09:51 PM
Always enjoy your bird drawings and I love birds.

Can you recommend a good spotting scope and binocular that are not too dear and for use with a novice?

Thanks, John.

Thanks Rainy, Joan and cat1lady!

With birds, it really helps that birding is one of my two major interests (art is the other). I lead field trips for several Audubon field trips in the area, and have spent a lot of time staring at various species through binoculars and a spotting scope...!

10-26-2011, 12:17 PM
Thanks, Zoe!

Your question is always a tough one to answer because so much depends on how far you might go with the hobby, your budget, the conditions you'll be birding in, etc. I'll do the best I can here, but much will need to be general philosophy for you to then do some homework with.

First of all, if you are at all serious about birding, buy the best optics you can afford because if you stick to it, you'll eventually want top-of-the-line gear, which does make a huge difference. (Of course, that might argue for getting very basic gear initially and then if you find yourself really in love with the hobby, you will know more about what to buy in terms of top gear.)

Second, there is no replacement for physically trying out optics gear personally - how it feels in your hands, how your eyes work with the particular eyepieces, etc. may differ from brand to brand with individual people. Don't know where exactly you live, but if you're near any major city, there should be an optics store where you can try a fairly wide range of things out.

Now, about binocular terminology, which is important regardless how much you spend. Let's say you are looking at binoculars and you see pairs labeled 8 x 30, 10 x 42 and 10 x 50. What do those numbers mean and which is 'better'? The first number is the magnification power - 8 means 8X normal size and 10X means magnification by 10-fold. The second number is the size of the primary lens in mm. So if you have a 10 x 30 pair and a 10 x 50, both magnify the image the same amount, but the 50mm lets in more light...which all other things being equal means better low light condition performance and more definition in what you're looking at. So more light is better, right? Maybe. 50mm vs. 30mm will mean a significant difference in weight hanging around your neck, and in the price of the binocs. Currently, I'm using 10 x 50 Leica binoculars which are waterproof (nothing is truly fully waterproof, of course, but these are as close as they get). I often wish I had bought a pair of 8 x 42's (which may be as close to a 'standard' size for birders as you can find) because the 10 x 50's get really heavy on a long walk. But, they are also excellent binocs and I've ID'd birds I wouldn't have with a less powerful/smaller lens pair.

Waterproof or water resistant versus not water resistant will make a difference in price as well. Serious birders only get waterproof binocs because otherwise you stand to ruin your optics. If you're never going to go out on rainy days, or just bird from your kitchen window, non-waterproof ones are fine, and will be lower price for an equivalent set of optics.

Ultimately, though, the big difference in price between a $50 pair of opera binocs and a $1,500 pair of binocs is the quality of the optics. The top of the line binocular and spotting scope manufacturers are Leica, Zeiss, and Swarovski in my opinion. (There are Kowa and others which are pretty close.) My Leica binocs and Leica spotting scope cost about $1,500 each, but I view them as lifetime investments and the optics are outstanding. It's a world of difference looking through a functional but not high-end set of optics once you get used to a great brand.

Spotting scopes are not all that different - you will have a power of magnification (15X, 20X, 60X) on the eyepiece (or you can buy variable-power eyepieces; mine is 20X to 60X) and a lens size (60, 70, 77, 80mm etc.). The additional factor with a spotting scope is whether you want a 'straight' eyepiece or an 'angled' eyepiece. Straight means that the eyepiece is physically lined up with the long axis of the scope. Angled means that it is angled away from the axis of the scope. It's harder to get used to angled eyepieces initially, but I prefer them because I can get a bird in the scope, set the tripod at the right height and then sketch very comfortable with just a slight lean of my head to look into the eyepiece. They also more flexible if you have multiple people of different heights using the same scope - less fussing with the tripod height adjustment.

So...with that info, do some online searching (Cabela's, even though it's theoretically a hunting/fishing store) has quite a decent selection of optics from lower level to middle level, with a couple at the high end. Many major camera stores will sell scopes as well because the manufacturers of good camera lenses also obviously have the capability to make good optics lenses.

Feel free to send me a PM if this isn't enough to get you started.


10-26-2011, 03:25 PM
John, what wonderful info and so exacting. I so much appreciate it and will be reviewing and comparing and contrasting brands and prices in the weeks ahead.

Unfortunately, I am home bound for several weeks post-surgery and really would want to touch, feel both the binoculars and the scope (in person). I am heading to Pittsburgh for the holidays and believe I may have more access there.

I do own 2-3 binocular but I don't believe any have the magnification you recommend, and my eyesight is not 20/20.

We have a new Eagle family up the road and while I can see them without magnification, I can't really make them out or any of the other local birds.

As you are familiar with my region, you also may recall we have far fewer avian life in this region than you appear to have, but some species are appearing here and there that surprise me -- a blue heron flew right over my head one night. :)

When I get to the shop(s), and see the scope and binocular, I may send you a PM or email to get your advice.

Again, many many thanks for this thorough response. Also, I do so hope your sister is settled or settling in after our Irene nightmare.

Best wishes and warm regards.

10-26-2011, 03:36 PM
You're welcome, Zoe - no problem.

My sister is getting close to being settled in...she found an apartment which needed a couple touch-ups before she moved in. She may be there now, as I haven't talked to her for a few days. She was staying with a friend up until about a week ago, then moved into a motel because the friend needed the room back, and the motel is closer to her house. Her house was not officially condemned, so she is doing the bare minimum to fix it up, then will attempt to sell it. There is actually a market for flood-prone houses there - for a young couple who can't afford anything else and is willing to take the risk of future floods (and more physically able to deal with the effects if it does happen) it's a great bargain. You can get a house back there for the price of a car in some cases. My sister's just physically and mentally done with the aftermath and wanted to move into an apartment, so that will work out fine.

10-26-2011, 05:48 PM
So glad, John, your sister is finding ways to settle in. We are still seeing some folks in need, but in general the community seems to almost be back to normal.

Again many thanks for all your advice and great suggestions.

Joan T
10-27-2011, 11:47 AM
Glad to hear that your sister is close to being settled in. I can understand how she doesn't want to go back and risk that again.

11-01-2011, 05:25 PM
Your work is wonderful! It's really interesting seeing all the birds you have in your area (especially as many of them are so different to the birds that are local here).

11-01-2011, 06:02 PM
Thanks Zoe, Joan and Mishi!

12-02-2011, 07:16 PM
(x-posted from SW Forum December sketch challenge thread.)

Well, two days ago a Cooper's Hawk came charging into our backyard looking to make a meal out of one of the smaller birds that frequent our bird feeders. The hawk landed in a tree only about 30 feet from where I was working on the computer, so I got some great photos of it for reference while it was completely engaged in studying the ground and vegetation for any sign of an unlucky bird. It even flew down onto the ground in one of our planted areas and went charging around through the brush trying to kick up a bird to then chase. This time it went away empty-handed. I did four head studies from the photos, and two quick sketches of the birds feet and talons. This is in an A4 Moleskine notebook, done in ballpoint pen in an hour total for the page.

The second page was done from reference photos provided by Deb (mtnrunner) for the same monthly challenge. I sketched the hen Bernice and the rooster Fritz, the former in fountain pen and Fritz in ballpoint. Total was about 50 minutes between these two chicken sketches.



12-02-2011, 07:40 PM
John, they are beautiful sketches. You're so good with the proportions and markings, and those talons are super! Makes me want to break out the binoculars and spend a morning looking out the windows!


12-02-2011, 09:22 PM
Great sketches John. . . especially love the details on the feet. Bird feet as hard to get just right I think - at least they are for me.

12-02-2011, 09:24 PM
Great head studies on the hawk.

Marvelous chickens.

12-03-2011, 10:17 AM
great sketches - you are getting better and better :)

12-10-2011, 01:41 PM
John, your last piece of penwork is superb. Got to love that silly looking owl at post 227. Your teal rendering of the crow at post 213 is very inspirational. Despite the fact that the color couldn't go any darker, you gave it good contrasts. The viewer's left hand side wild turkey at post 192 looks hilarious. It's like a grandma turkey with a head covering! :thumbsup:

I'd definitely would love to see a flock of the blue bill ruddy ducks in your post 163. From your drawing, it would have been quite a sight. He does look clownish.

Your tree swallow at post 95 is very good. Almost oriental in looking. It's the claws that make it so. In most brush painting, the claws have extreme importance.

12-10-2011, 06:51 PM
Thanks Jamie, Debby, Rainy, Viven and Sandra!

Sandra - I am planning on doing some pieces with a flock of birds in them, and the Ruddy Ducks would be a good choice for sure. The Tree Swallow was done in gouache, and my wife also commented that my (few and far between) gouache paintings tend to look like they have an Asian influence. So, I need to spend more time working on that medium, I think.

12-11-2011, 02:24 AM
John I have just spent some wonderful time browsing through your journal. Your sketching has improved so much, it is great to see. Love the pen sketches. Such an informative thread as well. Great to see all the poses and personalities of the birds showing through. I will remember to come back more frequently. Great work.

12-11-2011, 02:35 AM
Thanks, Jacqui! Here is one of your local birds that is cross-posted from the December Pen and Ink challenge - it is a Rainbow Lorikeet by pazza. It was sketched in pencil, then painted with watercolor, followed by some details in pen, including white pigmented ink from a Signo pen.


12-11-2011, 03:25 AM
The lorikeet is lovely, I also like the feathery look of the bottlebrush flower (I think it is?).

12-11-2011, 05:21 AM
The lorikeet is lovely, I also like the feathery look of the bottlebrush flower (I think it is?).

close! its a Banksia.

Nice work John.:)

12-11-2011, 07:54 AM
Beautiful job on the Lorikeet, John. They are among the most beautiful parrots. I've seen many of them in the bird stores. They say they make quite a mess, so I've never been tempted to get one, but they sure are gorgeous to look at. They seem to have very entertaining dispositions too!


12-11-2011, 08:14 AM
lovely and a great job on that Banksia

- and a lovely mix of media to get the marks you wanted :)

12-11-2011, 09:50 AM
Beautiful lorikeet.

12-11-2011, 10:45 AM
BRAVO, John. I love that one. I liked the bird but could not quite figure how to get that flower thing he's on to be right so didn't attempt it. . . you solved that very well. Lovely.

12-11-2011, 01:23 PM
Thanks Jennifer, Jamie, Vivien, Debby, Rainy - and especially thanks to Pazza for the wonderful reference! And being from the rainy Pacific NW, I had no idea what the flower was, other than as Rainy mentioned, I hesitated for a while to try the image because I wasn't sure how to represent the flower. Then the idea of the opaque white Signo pen occurred, and it worked decently, though certainly isn't a close enough representation to satisfy a botanical person! :)

12-23-2011, 01:42 PM
This post could have been in either this journal or the Three Forks Natural Area journal...but since the bird species in question is a bit unusual for our area, I opted to put it here.

This bird is a Northern Shrike, which is not super rare in our area, but is quite uncommon and is only here in the winter after having moved south to have better hunting. Yes, I say hunting even though this bird is only about the size of a robin (American Robin, to be more specific) and isn't technically a raptor. But it is carnivorous, preying primarily on smaller birds, but also some rodents. Note the hooked end of the bill, which is a partial giveaway to its food preferences. This species is referred to as the 'butcher bird' because it has the peculiar habit of impaling prey that it catches on thorns or barbed wire and caching it there to come back and eat later. It is always a bit disconcerting sight when you're out in the middle of a ranch somewhere and come across a sparrow or mouse hanging on the barbed wire - once you understand who's responsible for that, it is useful info to tell you a shrike is around. We have another shrike species - Loggerhead Shrike - that is almost entirely a summer species on the eastern side of the mountains that looks quite similar to a Northern Shrike. To non-birders, they probably look completely identical, but there are telltale field marks that can be used to differentiate them if you have a sufficiently good view.

These are in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon 11 x 8.5 sketchbook which I'm planning on dedicating to sketches 2012 birds in chronological order of the species I see starting January 1st. I couldn't wait to get started on that project, so I decided to include any 'first-of-the-year' species that I find in the remaining short time until the calendar clicks over. My sighting of this species a couple days ago was the first of the year for this somewhat rare species. Sketches were done from reference photos using Pigma Micron pen and Pitt brush pens.



12-23-2011, 03:44 PM
Didn't realize which bird when you wrote shrike. But do know it as "butcher bird". Great sketches.

12-24-2011, 07:10 AM
Beautiful Northern Shrike. I love your bird sketches.

12-24-2011, 12:10 PM
Thanks Debby and Robert!

And...have a very Merry Christmas!

12-24-2011, 01:18 PM
very nice John. They have an unsual looking beak, like a raptor. . . is it a kind of raptor?

12-24-2011, 01:28 PM
Thanks, Rainy. Nope, not technically a raptor - it's in its own (small) avian family of non-owl, non-raptor shrikes. See my description in the initial post for its behavior. Most of its prey is small birds, but also some rodents. Definitely an effective hunter, and kind of an odd combination of a small passerine (perching bird) but yet taking large prey relative to its size (lots of passerines are carnivorous but with much smaller prey, like insects, grubs, etc.).

12-25-2011, 12:03 AM
Here's a piece I did tonight from a reference in this weekend's WDE - reference photo from mbeckett. This is a Great Gray Owl, which I have not been fortunate enough to see in life yet, despite multiple tries. They are winter visitors in our state, and only in the NE corner. They are referred to as the gray ghosts of the forest. Maybe one of these days I'll get to see one in real life.

This is 11 x 14 inch watercolor on Fabriano Watercolor Studio pad paper, done in about 1 3/4 hours. The eyes are too orange here, unfortunately, and I may try to make them more yellow with gouache - haven't decided yet. I do want to add a background, which I hope to do tomorrow.


12-25-2011, 06:14 PM
Owls are the most unusual looking birds. Great painting.

12-25-2011, 09:04 PM
The owl is beautiful! It might look cool to just highlight the eyes with a touch of yellow gouache rather than cover them completely, that would make them luminous. Gorgeous painting. You could just keep it as it is, since eye color varies a bit and photos are rarely true to color.

12-25-2011, 09:43 PM
wonderfully done, John! esp. like the feathers. Owls must be popular this month as I did Angie's owl today from the inspirations pictures thread in markers.

12-25-2011, 10:34 PM
Thanks Debby, Robert and Rainy!

I'll be doing the owl in this week's inspiration thread as well. :)

12-26-2011, 12:49 AM
Thats a very nice owl. Well done IMHO.

12-26-2011, 11:24 AM
What a perfect WDE image for you, and what a sketch! FWIW, gouache is still watercolor, even if it's not transparent, and I never hesitate to use it whenever I feel it will improve a painting. I've found the best glow comes from a single layer of very high grade, transparent watercolor pigment on the white paper, so the light is bouncing off the white and through the pigment. But if I screw up that first pass, I'm better off with gouache than trying to salvage my efforts with more watercolor. I've managed to salvage some pretty hideous watercolor paintings with gouache. :D

But this one isn't anywhere near that category. LOL... I think it's very exciting, and I love the textures on the body of the bird. You can almost feel those feathers. REally well done, John.


12-26-2011, 12:09 PM
Thanks so much, Jamie! Yes, I was pleased how well this one came out, and my inclination at this point is to leave the eyes as is - the color isn't that much off. I still haven't put a background in, but I definitely want to do that as well. I've always struggled with feathers, but (finally) figured out that for most of what I do, trying to realistically represent the feather patterns just takes too long, and photo-realistic painting isn't what I want to do anyway, AND (interestingly) unless you are really good at photo-realism, the result looks worse to the viewer than suggested feathers. In the WDE thread on this painting, half the commenters said they were amazed at how much detail I put in. That made me chuckle, because I did much less real detail here than on many of my earlier bird paintings. It's really suggested detail with some blobby fairly wet painting, and a lot of quick dry brushing. But at least in a quick view, it looks like a ton of detail. I've conceptually understand the 'less is more' concept for some time, but I'm finally (hopefully) learning how to use it. Interestingly, this came up and was reinforced most recently in the portrait class I took - they stressed proportions first, values/shadows/shading second, and edges third. If proportions are accurate and the other two are decent, the portrait will look like the person without much detail added (or just suggested detail). Anyway, I am pleased with how this one turned out. Now if I only could find one of these birds in the wild and add it to my life list...!

12-26-2011, 01:20 PM
I like the eyes as they are, they are striking. You captured a nice pose, I think no other owl lets its wings droop like that when perched.

12-26-2011, 03:22 PM
Thanks, fidgement (we must have cross-posted, I missed thanking you in my last post)!

Thanks Jennifer! Yes, this particular species is known for being VERY long, skinny and yet fluffy. (At least versus North American owls - I'm not an expert on European species.) Side-by-side, the Great Gray Owl seems much larger than our Great Horned Owl, in terms of physical size. However, much of that is an illusion of its length and thickness of feathers - the Great Gray weighs significantly less than the Great Horned (Great Horned is about 3.1 pounds versus 2.4 in the Great Gray) and yet is much taller (27 inches for the Great Gray versus 22 inches for Great Horned) and has a longer wingspan (52 inches for Great Gray versus 44 inches for Great Horned).

There are a couple of theories about why this is true. The Great Gray is a very northern species, meaning that it hunts much of the year when there is snow covering the ground, and covering the small rodents that it preys on. So it has a very large facial disk (around the eyes) presumably to help it hear prey moving under the snow, and the very long wings and light body relative to length of both wings and the body may allow it to fly or glide more slowly over the snow, giving it incrementally extra time to detect and successfully capture its prey. It routinely catches prey under depths of snow, so another reason for the extra covering of feathers is probably for insulation - both from its normally cold environment, but also possibly to keep it drier and warmer when it plunges into damp snow after a prey animal.

12-26-2011, 05:56 PM
John, it's so hard for me to think of a Great Horned Owl as weighing three pounds. Goes to show how many feathers those things have! LOL... We see them out here in our trees or even on our lawn hunting something down from time to time, and they are so huge. I'd have guessed they weighed closer to 8-10!

The thing about the whole "less is more" concept is that every line, value, etc. has to be correct. This is where the benefit of sketching practice comes in. If every line is accurate, our eye can fill in the rest. If it's not, then it looks like a scribble. In researching my favorite plein air painters, it initially surprised me that most of them had backgrounds in illustration. They had fabulous drawing skills and a knowledge of highly detailed rendering. I came to realize that knowledge base gave them the skills to know just where to place the most important lines and accents, so when they wanted to work in a looser style, everything was still in exactly the right place. Your knowledge of birds and bird anatomy feeds right into that, so you can put down less and it reads as "correct".


12-26-2011, 07:20 PM
Thanks, Jamie.

Yes, birds are amazing. They have largely 'hollow' bones, which of course makes sense given they need to fly. They also have an extremely efficient respiratory system, which reduces the weight of internal organs. Also, a very short and efficient digestive system. And, very interestingly, they are not completely covered in feathers - that is, not all of their skin grows feathers. Only patches of their skin - called feather 'tracts' grow feathers, which then reach out to cover the bare skin where no feather tracts are, and overlap with the next feather tract. So they even save weight with feathers.

To get to a 10 pound bird, you're talking a Golden Eagle, which averages right around 10 pounds. A Bald Eagle averages about a half pound less than that, at 9.5 pounds. And yet a Golden Eagle has a wingspan of 79 inches - 6 feet 7 inches! Amazingly adapted creatures, are the birds. :)

Most of the hawks don't even weight 3 pounds. Ospreys are a little over 3 pounds, but most Red-tailed Hawks weigh under 3 pounds.

12-26-2011, 08:35 PM
that is amazing about how much birds weigh. . . I knew about the size of some of those wingspans but never had considered the weight!

01-08-2012, 06:23 PM
Well, several of my previous posts here got caught up with the 'missing posts' issue recently. So, I've reposted the missing images, plus added some additional new ones. These are all again 2012 bird species seen, in the order seen.

The first page is Dark-eyed Juncos, seen along the highway as we were driving to an annual CBC (Christmas Bird Count) about two hours north of where we live. Right after seeing the juncos along the road, we came across three Bald Eagles in a tree by the road, so they are the second species. Then the next pages (not posted before, newly drawn) are Rock Pigeon, American Crow and Trumpeter Swan.

Oh, and the four-letter acronyms on the robin page are 'banding codes' that birders use for taking field notes to avoid having to write out the entire species names.






01-08-2012, 08:53 PM
Gorgeous! Thank you for reposting what I would have missed from the missing days of posts. They're so beautiful. The eagle poses are wonderful, the juncos fantastic and I love the trumpeter swans. Well done!

01-09-2012, 07:47 AM
Hi John,

Wow, you have been busy and doing wonderful work. Gorgeous swans! That fluffy dude is so cute. The pigeon is wonderful and just perfect.

Joan T
01-09-2012, 02:12 PM
Awesome sketches!!! All of them are so good...especially the swans! Your work is getting better and better.

01-09-2012, 04:26 PM
Super batch of sketches. Your notes and commentary is so informative. I really like the bird education I'm getting here. :)

01-09-2012, 10:01 PM
Thanks Robert, Rainy, Joan and Debby! I never get tired of drawing (and talking about) birds...

Joan T
01-10-2012, 04:08 PM
I posted a comment yesterday, but it seems to have disappeared. John, your work is getting better and better. Wonderful birds!!!

01-11-2012, 07:06 PM
Oh boy, I love wild birds and these are wonderful! I really like the way you captured the iredescent quality of the feathers on the pigeon's neck :thumbsup: Adding the facts about the birds makes this sketchbook a treat for both the eyes and the mind...I'll be looking forward to more in the coming year.

01-13-2012, 11:53 PM
Thanks Joan and Janet!

Here are a bunch of recent bird sketches for each species seen in order in 2012.

Bird number 7 for the year was a Red-winged Blackbird and I opted to draw a female.


#8 was Snow Goose. There are around 45,000 Snow Geese that winter in our area every winter - quite a sight when they all take off at the same time! They represent the entire Snow Goose population on Wrangle Island, near Siberia if I recollect correctly.


Number 9 is a Northern Harrier (sometimes called a Marsh Hawk). They fly low and slow over marshy areas. They are the only hawk that has a facial disk like owls.


Number 10 was a Song Sparrow, the most common sparrow in our state.


Number 11 is the Snowy Owl. We usually get a couple of these birds in the northeastern part of our state in the winter. Every four or so years, however, we get an 'irruption' of them - and this winter is one of them. They are being seen in quite high numbers in multiple parts of the states. They are also a bit hard to draw, being only basically white.


01-13-2012, 11:59 PM
And here are the rest of the recent sketches.

# 12 for the year was a Spotted Towhee - a member of the sparrow (Emberizid) family. They are skulky ground-oriented birds for the most part, but often respond to an imitation of a chickadee's alarm call and pop up to check things out. The adults have a wonderful red eye, and one of their vocalizations sounds like a cat's meow. They are one of my favorite species, and we see them in the yard at our feeders almost every day. There is a separate species in the eastern half of the US, called appropriately enough the Eastern Towhee.


Number 13 for the year was a Red-tailed Hawk. [We saw over 40 species on January 1st of this year, so for some time I'll still be catching up on first day of the year species seen.]


01-14-2012, 01:00 AM
Wow, what great studies...what a wonderful variety of birds you get there. Do you photograph all the birds you see?

That's a beautiful rendition of the towhee. I see the occasional towhee when they migrate through this area--I guess we get the "Eastern Towhee" here in Florida (never knew that till now).

01-14-2012, 02:23 AM
Thanks, Janet! I used to do a lot of serious bird photography. I still do some, but since I started to do art four years ago, I have been more casual about bird photos. I have a lot of reference photos from the years when I was more active, though - and a friend of mine sends me photos from birds he has photographed. My 'life list' for birds seen or heard in or from our yard is up to 93 species after about 10 years in the house...hopefully we'll get to 100 at some point. In a typical year, I usually see about 250 species or so, but it takes a fair amount of work to see that many without traveling outside of the Northwest. I really focus on west coast/Pacific Northwest birds...Washington state has about 500 documented bird species, but some of those are very rare, with only one or a handful of confirmed sighting records.

01-14-2012, 03:51 AM
I think I missed a whole page of your great birds. Love the colour work. So many different types, is great to see. Really like the predator birds. Cute song sparrow. My fave is the trumpeter swan. Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful images. I love knowing when and where you see them too, makes it so personal.

01-14-2012, 10:41 AM
John, your bird sketches are just awesome. I see your note about the snow owls looking cross eyed. I wondered at that before I saw your note. Strange.

01-14-2012, 11:16 AM
Wow, you've been really busy with those pens, John! Lovely birds. . . I am especially fond of the Harrier (raptors are so cool!) Beautiful work

Joan T
01-14-2012, 11:17 AM
I am always amazed at the detail you get in these...from the beaks to the claws!!! Super!

03-10-2012, 01:25 PM
Thanks Jacqui, Rainy, Debby and Joan! Wow, it's been too long since I've posted anything in this thread. Over the last week while I've been recuperating from my knee scope surgery, I've spent a lot of time in the recliner with my leg elevated and ice on the knee (and often with my pooch Rosie on my lap :) ). Not exactly a conducive position to draw and paint in, but it's boring, so drawing and painting was worth a go despite the difficulties. So I grabbed a few magazine photos, and some I took and did some bird sketches. These were very quick (5 minute) line sketches in fountain pen. When I was able to sit at the table for a few minutes, I added quick gouache washes (another 5 or 10 minutes per sketch, max). Since they were done quickly, the colors aren't very accurate or variegated, and I didn't spend time modeling the forms, so they're pretty flat looking. But they were fun to do. These are all in the Robert Bateman 11 x 14 sketchbook.

A number of my photos used as reference here I've used before, so if they look familiar, you're not imagining things. :)

This first two-page spread is actually done with 5mm graphite and colored graphite sticks. My sister-in-law bought me a nice wood barrel 5mm 'lead' holder for my birthday, and it was handy, so I experimented with it here. These birds really aren't local to me - they are weaverbirds from Africa, using a National Geographic photo as a reference.


These are fountain pen and gouache. The left hand page images are from my photo references, and the right hand page used magazine photo references.


Here the left hand page is from magazine photo references, and the right hand page uses my photo references.


The Tree Swallow here is from my photo reference.


03-10-2012, 01:45 PM
oh, wow. . . a stunning variety of birds and media! Love the last three pages with the splatters especially . .. great pages. Colored graphite sounds interesting!

03-10-2012, 01:54 PM
Glad you are recovering. Rosie in the lap has to be healing, right? :wink2: Great birds done under trying circumstances. :)

03-10-2012, 02:30 PM
Thanks Rainy and Debby!

Well, the splatters were actually me fidgeting with a persnickety fountain pen that wasn't wanting to flow sometimes. Fortunately I had a towel on my lap under my drawing stuff, so it caught any splatters that went wide of the book...! :o

And yes, Rosie is therapeutic and relaxing, even if she gets in the way of drawing and painting! :)

03-10-2012, 04:32 PM
Nothing like having a loving pet in your lap to help you heal and feel better. Great sketches, love the gouache.

03-11-2012, 09:23 AM

07-13-2012, 06:30 PM
Thanks Jacqui and Vivien! (Belatedly...!)
Well, it's been forever since I've posted in this forum, though I have kept myself busy with art - mostly painting landscapes in oil. But I am still sketching and so decided to post a couple recent ones.

The first three were done last night in front of the TV. They are in Pitt pens and are in a HandBook 5 x 8" landscape travelogue sketchbook. Probably ten to twenty minutes per sketch (the second one was probably only two or three minutes). The birds, in order, are Yellow-breasted Chat, Willow Flycatcher and White-throated Sparrow. They were all done using reference photos taken by a friend of mine - Gregg Thompson - who is an outstanding bird photographer. Oh yes, the odd scribbling in the upper right on the Yellow-breasted Chat page is bleedthrough from a value thumbnail sketch on the opposite side. I used Copic markers for that sketch, which shows why I really prefer Pitt markers, which do not bleed through even the thinnest paper, and yet are still archival and lightfast.

The next two sketches are obviously not birds, but since they're critters I opted to put them in this thread as well. These were quickies done this morning while waiting in the doctor's office. He has an aquarium in the office, so I sat across from it and tried sketching a couple of the fish as best I could. These two are done in black ballpoint pen.






07-13-2012, 08:02 PM
Hello John,

Glad you are back with the birds. . . love the sparrow. Great use of time on the fish, must be hard with them moving/swimming all around when trying to draw them!

07-14-2012, 12:11 AM
John, hope your knee will feel better soon. I know exactly how it feels because I've been suffering from a bad back these 2 months and couldn't do everything I want, including sitting steady to draw.

Have you ever seen a trumpeter swan in real life in the Pacific NW? Are they really as big as human?

Great bird studies and especially like the red tailed hawk from the page before. Very intelligent looking.

And what is colored graphite stick? Do you have a photo of it? Does it handle well?

07-14-2012, 12:20 AM
Thanks Rainy and Sandra!

Sandra - yes, we have tons of Trumpeter Swans in our area in the winter. They spend their summers further north unless they're injured or sick and unable to fly. Their name is very appropriate when you hear them calling - it does sound very trumpet-like. We also have Tundra Swans in the area, although right near our house Trumpeters are usually more numerous. Depending on how you want to define as big as a human, I guess they could qualify. Trumpeters average 60 inches (5 feet) long and have a wingspan of 80 inches (6 feet 8 inches), and weigh 23 pounds. Tundras are somewhat smaller - 52 inches, 66 inches and 14.4 pounds respectively. Tundras also have a different call, and a few other relatively subtle field marks regarding the bill primarily are used to distinguish the species from each other. They are very impressive birds!

07-14-2012, 10:35 AM
Very Nice batch of sketches.

It seems obvious that you have a lot of experience
observing birds.


07-14-2012, 10:46 AM
Thanks for stopping by, Doug. Yes, I definitely qualify as a 'bird nerd'. I have a master birder certification through Audubon, and do a lot of volunteer work in the area with field trips, bird surveys, help with identification, etc.

07-14-2012, 11:26 AM
John, Such a pleasure to drop into your thread regularly to catch up.:wave: Your work is beautiful and an inspiration! The bird info is also enjoyable to read. Keep up the excellent work.:thumbsup:

07-14-2012, 02:17 PM
Thanks, Candace!

I realize I didn't answer the questions about colored graphite. Basically they are just thick (5mm) cylinders of graphite with some pigment added. So they slip into any lead holder that is designed to hold the 5mm diameter pencil leads. I had never seen them before - they were part of a kit my sister-in-law found and bought me as a present. Doubt I would use them much by choice, but decided to try them out at least.

Also, earlier in the thread, I started doing a sketch of each bird I've seen in 2012 but didn't get very far. I'm going to try to get back to that idea and keep posting a bunch of sketches of 2012 species. My count is pretty low this year as I haven't been focusing on it as much as in previous years (plus was hampered by my knee surgery).

Thanks again to everyone who has checked out the thread.

Joan T
07-18-2012, 11:39 AM
Wonderful birds, John. Glad you were able to so a few of the fish from the aquarium too .