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05-04-2010, 09:17 PM
Hi everyone,

This is a very nice forum addition! I'll throw my hat in the ring with a journal on birds seen in my yard, neighborhood and surrounding area. I hope this forum will be motivation to keep active in this journal - I am very busy with other art, primarily from carrying 15 credits in art school right now (plus playing in a band).

This first entry occurred this afternoon. I was on the computer in our kitchen nook, which is situated to see outside to our yard. We've converted our yard to a 'bird-friendly' yard with only a small amount of lawn, lots of native plants, a small recirculating stream and a couple of bird feeders and bird nests. (I am a certified master birder through Audubon and lead field trips for two of our regional Audubon chapters out here.)

This time of year is migration for many birds, and one of the families of birds I particularly enjoy are the sparrows. One of the species we have out here part of the year is the Lincoln's Sparrow. It is not particularly common, and is a shy bird that tends to stay buried in brush much of the time. But today, one hopped out of our rhodies onto the stream feature and took a bath. I shot a couple of pictures through the window and then sketched it, probably twenty minutes or so in the sketch. The journal is a 'large' (5 1/4" x 8 1/4") Moleskine drawing journal and the sketch is with Faber Castell colored pencils.

C&C always welcome.


05-04-2010, 09:45 PM
John, lovely bird drawing. So nice of you to have a bird oasis. Looking forward to seeing more.

05-05-2010, 01:07 AM
Very nice first entry John. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I'm sure you will have no end to interesting bird species to use as your "live models."

Great work!

05-05-2010, 03:01 AM
Thanks Debbie and Jean!

05-05-2010, 03:28 AM
A great project.


05-05-2010, 07:34 AM
a lovely idea for a book :)

05-05-2010, 11:37 AM
John, thank you for doing this! Excellent sketch of the Lincoln Sparrow. I think I've seen those sometimes, it looks very familiar. Great detail and proportions. I especially appreciate all the background information from your birding experience. This is the kind of nature journal I love so much. Please do work on it often, whenever you catch something new or interesting that you haven't seen fly up before!

05-05-2010, 11:46 AM
Thanks Doug, Vivien and Robert! Robert, I'll definitely keep doing this, although I'll most likely be more active once the current school quarter ends in mid-June. Sparrows can be a tough family of birds to learn to ID because they're mostly all LBB's (little brown birds - :) ) that are not obviously distinguishable from one another until you get familiar with bird anatomy, plumage and noticing sometimes quite subtle differences. I really admire the photorealists who capture a species so perfectly - but don't have the personal patience to do that kind of work. I satisfy myself with sketches or paintings that hopefully capture enough of the characteristics to be identifiable - in fact, I want to start doing much looser bird sketches that really just go for the 'essence' of the bird.

05-05-2010, 11:56 AM
I am amazed at the vastness of subjects that sketchbooks can cover. So good to see your sketchbook dedicated to birds.

05-05-2010, 12:00 PM
John, I can appreciate the difficulty of recognizing the specific markings of little brown birds. I've seen thousands of them in my life and have trouble telling a chickadee from a sparrow -- but they are very cool. Usually if I've got a photo reference I try to be accurate on markings so that someone like you can tell me what it was.

One of the things that can work well for fast, loose but detailed paintings is what I've been discovering with the watercolor pencils. Sketch and wash too or Graphitints. I can do the sketch fairly loosely and then pull color out into midtones and lighter areas with a waterbrush faster than I can fill in light colors and midtones smoothly. It took a little practice to get good at sketch and wash but it was well worth it.

Though there's nothing like taking your time and using colored pencils dry, they are so cool that way.

05-05-2010, 01:39 PM
Wow! So cool to capture this from life :)

05-11-2010, 09:53 AM
Such a pretty little sparrow! Although I live on the other side of the world, I often see that kind of little bird too - wonder if they are of the same breed? (Wikipedia seems to think so :) )

Anyway, I have a question: did you draw the bird from life, sketching it, then drawing the details after memory? I wonder, because the one I see in my parents' garden are so lively that it is difficult to catch a good sight of them :)

I really am looking forward to see more of your works! :) :)


05-11-2010, 10:55 AM
Thanks Hydie, Robert, EP & Sandra! Well, I wish I could say that I draw birds completely from life, but generally that's not the case - they are simply too active. I have done very quick sketches as field notes, but generally my process is to draw from a photo I've taken (I've got decent photos of about 230 species of birds and they are typically my starting point). Familiarity with the species from my birding activities certainly helps as well. What most people who read the beautifully-illustrated field guides that use paintings instead of photos don't realize is that those artists typically rely heavily on museum 'skins' of various species in addition to their experience. Study skins are bird skins (full plumage) prepared by the museums from collected specimens (in the old days) or windows strikes, car hits or other sources currently. David Sibley, the author of the current bible of North American bird species - and a fabulous painter who uses gouache primarily - spent countless hours in museums while he was doing his paintings. People today don't realize that famous John James Audubon, whose name is now associated with bird conservation, was never in the field without a small shotgun and he "collected" specimens for study and drawing by shooting them. (It was a different era, remember...certainly no one is doing this today except on those few species managed for hunting.)

This particular bird was drawn from a photo I took as it was on the little recirculating stream only a few feet from our kitchen nook window.

After mid-June, I will be getting a lot more of the birds drawings done I hope. Right now in the painting and drawing classes I'm taking I'm working on a 30" x 48" master copy of a Winslow Homer painting, six 20x30" homework oil paintings (landscapes, due June 2nd) and completing two 18x24" pastel figure drawings or portraits per week for homework. That, and studying for a very intensive art history class has pretty much sucked up all the time that I would normally spend on these drawings and plein air. But...I'm learning a lot and having a great time in the process! :)

05-11-2010, 12:33 PM
Great idea to keep a bird journal, and if the first entry is any indication of what's to come, we're in for some treats!


05-11-2010, 03:01 PM
Wow, John, you do have a lot of other things on your plate. I was aware that many nature artists rely on museum exhibits and photo references for their bird paintings and animal paintings. I wish I could go to a museum again, sketchbook in hand... back when I lived in Chicago and got to go to them so many times, I couldn't sketch to save my life and didn't bother to try. But even the museums that prohibit photos mostly don't mind people sketching exhibits unless it's an art museum.

The art museum in Kansas wanted you to choose what to sketch first and send in a form in triplicate and set a date to do it, which is why I never went to copy their classics. I could not plan a date and guarantee that I'd actually be able to function that day, especially in Kansas where the changeable weather was so hard on my health. Natural history museums seem to be a lot better about sketches and if I got to go to one now, or a zoo, I would be sketching so much.

But I think a museum would probably be more useful than the zoo even with my recent gesture sketching practice. Still, my own photos and gestures would help!

05-11-2010, 08:18 PM
You certainly are one busy man John. I almost took one art class one night/week, and backed out because I didn't want even that much pressure. :lol: I love sketchbooks with a theme and yours is a good one, I'll definately watch with interest.


05-11-2010, 09:14 PM
Just catching up on this thread, I can completely understand the difficulties. Often just getting a photograph is hard enough, let alone drawing them from life. To cap it off when you get back and actually sit down to start, you often realise that the photograph doesn't always show you the bits you want.

Robert that is nutty about the museum in Kansas. Being the well travelled and sophisticated sort....maybe hahahaha... one thing I like in Europe is the way people really use the museums and things - and are encouraged to. It was actually a nice feeling to walk around somewhere like Kew Gardens and seeing people sitting drawing and painting. I think the general idea is so long as your not in anybodies way, nobody minds. The whole aim of the places is that people can go and study things.

On the other hand the Australian Museum in Sydney used to be wonderful until it got PC and commercial. The Museums in Asia are generally limited - although Singapore does have the world class zoo 10 min from me, the bird park and botanic gardens 30min away. So i can't complain.

Sorry John, didnt mean to hijack your thread ;) It was good to read about the general approaches. I think Audubon after shooting the birds would mount them in the pose he wanted. (One way to get them to stay still!) As you say though it was very different times. Incredible work he did though. I have a repo book of his prints, one of my pride and joys. Sad looking through some like the Carolina Parakeet though.

Funny most non US people want to go visit and see NY, LA or whatever. I went to NY once, and well just another city... I want to see bears - from a distance - the mountains in Montana I think, California Poppies, geese, crossbills, hummingbirds oh and skunks and racoons! I think I watched too much Daniel Boone and Grizzly Adams after school as a kid.

I have been fascinated with the birds since i was a kid - painting them though I need a lot of work, and find them very difficult to do well - in other words I'm crap. So I very much look forward to seeing more of yours.

David - I think you and I could have a competition for who is trying to avoid pressure. My dream job right now would be burger flipping. The less responsibility I can come up with the better! The only bummer aspect of that plan is $$.


05-11-2010, 09:49 PM
Thanks Jamie, Robert, David and Scott. No problem, Scott - I love the input. The only problem I have now is feeling guilty that I haven't done more than one post so far...:lol: ! I promise more to come, at least in a couple of weeks, hopefully before. Yes, bird painting, photography and even watching is a challenge. A good scope helps, but certain species of birds (the warbler family as one great example) are so active that it's pretty much impossible to get them in a scope long enough for a look; it's hard enough to get them with binoculars. When I went through Seattle Audubon's master birder certification program, we spent a lot of time working on 'birding by ear' since there are many situations where you hear many more species than you are able to see.

During the certification program, we were able to visit two major natural history museums in the area and had access to their bird skin collections - in one case, they have skins dating back to the early 1900's. It is a dilemma for the museums on what to allow and what not to allow. In our art history class recently, this topic came up about doing copies of master paintings in the Louvre. In times past, many people did this with canvases of all sizes and few restrictions. Apparently now there are strict limits on when this can be done, and what size canvases can be used - the reason? - well, apparently some enterprising folks would bring in extremely well done copies of master paintings and try to walk out with the original...!

05-12-2010, 10:40 PM
Scott, I think I'll join the "No pressure" team, definitely! The less pressure I put on myself for deadlines and so on, the better I draw or paint.

John, that must have been so great getting to see the bird skin collections. I'd love to be able to sketch from mounted birds someday, and if I got used to drawing birds in general well enough then reconstructing the skins into full bodies in lively poses would be possible. You're tempting me to draw birds more often now too.

05-13-2010, 03:04 AM
That's one interesting theme you have going here. I love birds and I'm curious to see this journal progress :thumbsup:

05-13-2010, 12:52 PM
This is a lovely drawing, and a bird sketching journal is a great idea!!

05-18-2010, 08:58 PM
Thanks Robert, Jamie, Silvia and June! Yes, my life is very busy right now - but doing what I want to do, which makes all the difference. We just came back from a whirlwind 5-day trip to PA to see our two oldest nieces graduate (one day apart) from college - one in Pittsburgh and one in Philly. Since I couldn't bring the materials needed for my class projects, I took my bird sketchbook and worked on it while waiting for the plane, while in the plane, while in the car, and whatever other time I could fit in. We managed on two mornings to fit in some quick birding at Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, very close to Philadelphia International Airport, which gets a tremendous variety of birds despite its proximity to a major airport and a major city. So I expanded my definition of "Local Birds" to include birds that are local to areas I visit as well as around my home - :) . I picked up a couple of life birds (first time ever seen) and drew them and several other birds.

So here's the first post of several to load the drawings from the trip. All the drawings are in the Moleskine notebook. All the drawings were done using photo references from either guidebooks or bird magazine articles.

The first two were done in the airport in Seattle before the plane loaded, about half an hour in each one.

The first one is a Varied Thrush, which is a bird that only exists in the western part of the US, so is a prized find for easterners who come out and visit our part of the world. The good old American Robin is a thrush, so this species and some other species share some characteristics with the robin. This species is quite shy, and is generally a winter visitor to my yard. They breed at high elevations and migrate to lower elevations in the winter. The males (drawn here) are beautifully colored, and the females are not that much more drab than the males. This drawing was done with outlines in Sigma pen and then using Derwent Inktense pencils.


The next image, also done at the airport, is of a Band-tailed Pigeon. This is another species that only is present west of the Mississippi River, in a couple of areas. These are native birds, not feral invasive species like the common city pigeons that we are all familiar with. These birds are shy as well, and are flocking birds. Once they discover a feeder, however, they are daily visitors and have a huge appetite...! We have a group of about 15 visiting our feeders every day as I write this. This image was done with a Sigma pen and Derwent Inktense pencils.


C&C's always welcome.

05-18-2010, 09:09 PM
The next two drawings were done in the car driving from Philly to Pittsburg for graduation ceremony number 1. These two species were drawn because they were both seen at the Heinz National Wildlife Refuge the morning I flew into Philly on a red-eye and we took a couple of hours to bird the refuge before the long drive.

The first one was a life bird (first time seen in the wild) for me - a Black-throated Blue Warbler male, which is about as distinctive a warbler as you can find - pretty much unable to be confused with any other species. The tail is drawn too long here, but everything else is pretty much accurate. This was done in Sigma pen and Polychromos colored pencils.


The next one is another Warbler - a Magnolia Warbler - that I had on my life list previously, but only from having heard it while on a trip to Tennessee. This time, we got great looks at multiple birds because we pretty much hit the peak of the spring warbler migration. Done with Sigma pen and Polychromos.


C&C always welcome.

05-18-2010, 09:13 PM
The next pair of birds are common ones, found throughout the country. The first is an American Goldfinch, which happens to be the state bird of Washington State. (We also have some Lesser Goldfinches in limited parts of the state, but the American Goldfinches are the typical ones seen.) Again - Sigma pen and Polychromos.

The second painting is of your basic Song Sparrow, found all over the US. For those of you who live in the eastern half of the country, you will probably look at this drawing and think it's too dark. That is because the subspecies of Song Sparrow we have out in our neck of the woods is substantially darker than east coast birds.

American Goldfinch


Song Sparrow Singing


C&C always welcome.

05-18-2010, 09:32 PM
The next two birds were lifers for me on this trip, in the National Wildlife Refuge. The first is a type of warbler, called an Ovenbird (for reasons I do not know). It is common within its habitat, but tough to find - it is a ground feeder in the woods, and so is often heard rather than seen. I grew up with these birds in PA, but wasn't a serious birder then, so this was the first time that I got a good look at one in a number of years. The image is Sigma pen and Polychromos pencils.



The next bird, another warbler species, is the Northern Waterthrush, also a tough bird to find. We do not have this species out in the Pacific NW, except for a very small area in Oregon, so I was pleased to see two of these on this trip - for another addition to the life list. These birds have a very specialized habitat - slow moving or still water surrounded by vegetation and they feed on the ground, so can be tough to find. Sigma pen and Polychromos pencils.

Northern Waterthrush


C&C welcome.

05-18-2010, 09:41 PM
The last two birds I drew on this trip were done on the airplane this morning flying back to Seattle from Philly. Both were done in Polychromos pencil (no pen outlines this time).

The first species was another lifer for me - a Carolina Chickadee. These are very common back east but don't exist on the west coast where we live, so it was nice to pick one of these up on the trip. They're essentially identical visually to Black-capped Chickadees.

Carolina Chickadee


The final bird of the trip was drawn not because I saw one on this trip, but because I really like raptors - and particularly falcons. This is a small falcon called a Merlin. Merlins were the falcon of choice for women of the royal court in England when falconry was a standard sport of the royalty. Being a smaller bird, it was considered easier for women to handle. Interestingly, the term "off on a lark" originated with this bird. Falcons were used to hunt gamebirds (grouse and similar birds) but sometimes a Merlin would chase after a lark and thus the term "off on a lark" as meaning that someone is engaged in a less-than-useful or time-wasting pursuit. There are several subspecies of Merlin. This drawing has some color issues but overall is a pretty good general representation of the bird.



05-18-2010, 10:46 PM
Absolutely gorgeous. I am so glad you include information on your birds. It's always great to learn new things.

05-18-2010, 11:50 PM
John, wow! Thank you for posting so many gorgeous, accurate and detailed birds. Your mentioning it when a tail's too long or the colors might be a bit off helps too, I might recognize them if I ever see them. The information is so valuable and your drawings are so detailed and beautiful. I love the backgrounds you place them in too, the berries with the chickadee and the tree trunks around the wood pigeon, the leaves with the goldfinch -- the different poses they're in are so lively too.

I love your birds journal! Thanks for continuing and seizing the chance to draw more birds -- and congratulations on all those new life birds you've drawn. Looks like you had a wonderful trip! Well done!

05-20-2010, 01:26 AM
Thanks Debby and Robert! I will definitely be keeping at this journal as I'm enjoying it tremendously. Birds are really great creatures and great sketching subjects.

05-20-2010, 05:44 AM
I was really looking forward to see your updates!

I especially love the Carolina Chikadee, this must be the cutest little bird I ever seen!

Also, thank you for the useful comments and description :)

05-20-2010, 05:50 PM
Thank you, Sandra! I'm very happy that people are enjoying the journal even though I'm still pretty new at art. Chickadees are always winners in the 'cutest little bird' contest. There are at least five species of chickadees in the US (may be one more in the southwest that I'm forgetting off the top of my head). The one we don't have in Washington state is the Carolina Chickadee. We have the other four (though several are not easy to find), which are: Black-capped Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee and Boreal Chickadee. Thanks for looking. :)

05-20-2010, 08:19 PM
The chickadee was one of the most familiar to me, along with the goldfinch. All of them were so beautiful though. I love your birds book.

05-21-2010, 04:20 PM
For what sounds like a very busy person you're certainly accomplishing a lot in this journal. And, you've chosen a difficult subject. Birds don't sit still for very long! You're doing a great job of it. Love your sketches!

05-21-2010, 07:37 PM
Thanks Judi and Robert! Birds are challenging subjects, Judi, but at this stage of my art training, I am making use of photographic references - these are not done fully from life. I hope someday to get to that point, but am not there yet. However, these are all species I have seen in the wild, generally close to when I've sketched them, so I do have live observations to go with the references. :)

05-21-2010, 07:56 PM
Just getting the reference photos is challenging enough! You might be able to try life studies of some that keep coming back to the same feeder, but they'd still most likely be quick one minute or less gestures. The photos can give the right proportions and anatomy better until you're so used to them that you can take in the individual's details at a glance -- and in essence do it from fresh memory while its head is down in another pose.

05-30-2010, 01:16 PM
Hi everyone,

Well, one of the purposes of keeping a sketching journal is to do lots of work, and learn from the process regardless of the quality of the outcome. So I decided to go ahead and post the first major clunker I did in this journal (surprising that I haven't laid an egg or two earlier - :lol: ). There are a couple things to like about this one, but the bill is awful compared to what it should be. And since this species is an Evening Grosbeak (gros - big, beak - bill) if there's one thing you should draw correctly it's the bill, oh well! :( I'll try this species again for sure, as grosbeaks are great birds, and this particular species has been on the decline for a number of years now. Surprisingly, this year (at least out here in the Pacific NW) people are having larger flocks (they are a gregarious, flocking species) show up, and stay longer than normal. I have had a flock of up to 36 birds visiting my backyard feeders for over three weeks now, whereas usually a flock of 6 to 10 pops in for a day or two in migration and that's the extent of it. Don't know why, but it's giving me lots of time to observe them - unfortunately that didn't help with the bill drawing here.

This bird is the male of the species. The female is much more drab - more light olive greenish overall.


05-30-2010, 03:11 PM
Excellent bird sketches!

05-30-2010, 04:06 PM
all very exotic to me :) Drawing birds from life isn't easy as they move so quickly. It's worth having a go though as you'd learn a lot from it that would help when working from photos.

05-30-2010, 05:57 PM
Thank you Michelle and Viven! I am definitely going to be sketching from life as well as photos.

05-30-2010, 07:09 PM
These are great! I am a bird person and have 3 feeders going all the time just so I can see my birds! The evening grossbeaks are so pretty. We have the rose breasted grossbeaks too! My favs are the cardinals and the goldfinches( we have alot of them here). Keep em coming!


05-30-2010, 08:56 PM
Thanks, Reggie! I very much enjoy getting to see the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks when I travel back east (I'm from PA originally). A Rose-breasted out here draws people in from many miles away - they are a rarity in my neck of the woods. Earlier this spring a woman had one show up at her feeders and it stayed for almost two weeks. She sent a note out on the local birder listserv and invited people to come down and see it. Even though she's in a very rural area, she had a couple hundred people show up to get a look at it while it was there.

05-30-2010, 08:57 PM
John, it's all about learning and having fun. Even tho' you say the beak is off, I can probably identify the bird from you sketch. I'd count it a success.

05-31-2010, 02:43 AM
I agree, Debbie!

06-01-2010, 12:28 AM
Great Evening Grosbeak! Thanks for the details about the bird as well as the beautiful ink and watercolor painting. This book is gorgeous. I don't have a bird feeder, so this is a lot of fun for me seeing them as you paint them.

06-01-2010, 08:41 PM
Thanks again, Robert!

There's a little story behind this one. This is a male Lazuli Bunting. This species is common in the western half of the US - except for the western side of the Cascade Mountains in Washington state where I live. It is not super rare here, but is uncommon enough that it's always good to see them in our area. Until today, I had never had one in our yard. I was working at the kitchen nook table when I saw a flash of blue fly from our neighbor's yard into ours, which can mean only a couple of species here. I looked out and on one of our birdbaths sat a beautiful male Lazuli Bunting! I got a great look but of course he flew before I could get the camera ready for a picture. This is painted using a magazine photo reference. I drew an outline first with sepia Sigma pen and then painted it with gouache. This was my first attempt using gouache in a Moleskine drawing sketchbook. It didn't behave as nicely as on Moleskine's watercolor paper, which in turn isn't quite as good (in my opinion) as Arches or other standard watercolor paper. However, Moleskine said the sketchbook was good for tempera, which is similar to gouache in consistency, so I gave it a go. I'm happy with how it turned out overall for a sketch. I probably put half an hour into this one, at most.

The eastern part of the US has Indigo Buntings, which are very rare out where I live (though we had one near here for almost a month last summer and people came from all over the area to see it). The east also has Painted Buntings, which are spectacular, tropical-looking birds in coloration.

The Lazuli Bunting is small - pretty much sparrow or finch size.

As always C&C welcome!


06-02-2010, 12:34 AM
John, that is fantastic! I drew one once from The Artist's Photo Reference: Birds, was fascinated with it - and recognized it before even reading the text. So cool that you live somewhere you had one in your own yard. That's an incredible day. You captured its bright colors and delicate build well.

Actually I think it was in the second birds book, the Songbirds & Other Birds one that had lots of little birds. I've got them both, I just remember studying the Lazuli Bunting in great detail to do it in colored pencils and it really stuck in my head.

06-02-2010, 03:19 AM
You are so lucky to have such pretty birds

Have you ever looked at Gayle Mason's blog, Fur in the Paint (http://pencilsbrushesdogsandcats.blogspot.com/)? she sometimes does birds and it might interest you?

06-02-2010, 09:54 AM
Wow, such beautiful subjects that visits your place! Love the Lazuli Bunting!

06-02-2010, 10:21 AM
Thanks Raymond, Viven and Robert!

Robert - not surprising you picked the Lazuli to draw; it's definitely one of our standout birds out here. The female, as with many species, does look quite different and more drab than the male, but I find them all fun to draw and paint.

Vivien - we live in a good part of the world for wildlife, definitely. I will check out the blog link you provided.

Robert - we have lots of more plain birds, jokingly referred to as LBB's (Little Brown Birds) that are much less photogenic and harder to identify, so I'll have to paint a bunch of them as well! :)

06-02-2010, 01:02 PM
Lovely subject for a journal. I sometimes wish I was a bird :D
Great sketches and drawing so far. I particularly liked the chickadee.. so cute! And the Bunting on the previous page looks a lively fellow :D

06-02-2010, 01:18 PM
I like the little brown birds too. I've seen them everywhere I lived and don't know what species of sparrow or finch they are, but have seen differences among them that are subtle in their patterns. They're beautiful too.

06-02-2010, 04:48 PM
Very pretty fellow you drew there. How exciting to see one that is so rare in your area.

06-04-2010, 09:03 PM
Thanks Aiylah, Robert and Debby!

Here's another very quick sketch - about ten or twelve minutes - of an Eastern Bluebird. Out here we have Western Bluebirds, which are almost indistinguishable from the Eastern species, and I had a magazine photo of the eastern for a reference, so here it is. :) One more week of classes and then I'll have more time to do a more thorough job on sketches - or do some more serious paintings of some species.

In the drawing, this bird may look a little similar to the Lazuli Bunting, but there are noticeable differences. The bluebird has no black or white markings on its back (that view doesn't show well here) and is a darker blue color overall. The male is shown here. As in many species, the female is more drab in coloration and markings.

The blob obscuring the bird's feet is supposed to be snow...:o . The drawing was done with a quick Sigma outline sketch, then finished with Polychromos pencils and some white gouache for the snow.

C&C always welcome!


06-04-2010, 09:28 PM
Nice! The gouache does read as snow, not just a blob. He looks fluffed up against the cold and again very recognizable. Same "Songbirds and Other Birds" artist's photo reference volume had the Eastern Bluebird in it, so I recognized this chap too. Eerie, running into someone who's seen the birds I drew in person that way. Awesome really.

I love the Polychromos pencils, they have such a great texture and blend so well.

06-04-2010, 09:30 PM
Thanks Robert. Yes, although I have Prismacolor pencils and use them as well on occasion, I far prefer the Polychromos. In addition to the benefits you mention, they don't seem to have the issue that Prismas do of having the 'lead' break in the wood barrel when dropped and then continuing to break off until you reach the internal break.

06-04-2010, 09:36 PM
No, they're a lot tougher than Prismas! There are two things I've found that help reduce the internal breakage on Prismacolors. Three really.

One is to get all replacements mail order from Blick where they have such high turnover that they don't get handled (and dropped) much, and will replace any pre-cracked pencil as soon as I tell them it had internal breakage.

Always using a brand-new pencil sharpener on Prismacolors is important. If it starts to drag at all, it's time to bump that sharpener down to other pencils and open a new one for Prismacolors and pastel pencils. I buy the cheapest ones by the dozen to get them cheaper.

Then once I have them in my hands, house them in an elastic-band case like my Global Classic leather cases. I love those, partly because I'm really into leather but also because they're so handy -- and they protect Prismacolors from dropping and breaking inside. I got in the habit of always shoving it through at least one of the loops when putting one down, instead of having a dozen on the table where a cat might play Drop Things.

ASW and Jerry's have pencil easel cases that are cheaper and a bit larger, spread out more but you can see all the colors at once with them. They're handy too and protective in the same ways. Tran makes a case like the leather ones but with nylon and a stiffener that's comparable too. It just has to be something like that and then never leave the poor delicate things loose.

Polychromos live in a leather case too but that's just to keep them handy. They don't need it as much as the Prismacolors do. I'd have no problem tossing a handful of Polychromos into a regular pencils bag to go out sketching with them instead of taking the whole set.

06-04-2010, 11:37 PM
Nice bluebird. I like the Polychromos better too. Wish I had more of them.

06-05-2010, 02:24 AM
Thanks Robert and Debby. Robert - I also keep my pencils in a leather case, but I don't remember who the manufacturer is.

Here's another bird I did tonight while (sort of) watching TV in the background. This is one of my favorite duck species, or I guess I should say the drake is one of my favorites. This is a Hooded Merganser, a small diving duck species in which the male is spectacular in breeding plumage, shown here. The 'hood' can be expanded as is shown in this image, or relaxed and it lays down a little flatter, making the white area seem smaller. The bill is long and thin because the mergansers (there are several other species) are fish eaters, and the bills and tongues have serrations that help them hang onto their prey. These birds are common in our area in fall, winter and spring, though they move higher up in elevation or further north for their nesting and breeding. We do get to see the drakes in their spectacular plumage before they leave, though.

This one again was done in Polychromos pencils, this time without a Sigma pen outline to start.

C&C always welcome, of course!


06-05-2010, 03:58 AM
nice one :)

I much prefer Polychromos and Lyra - I like the oil base

06-05-2010, 11:46 AM
The duck is lovely. (Can you say that about male ducks?) Love the reflection in the water.

06-05-2010, 09:42 PM
Oh wow. I've seen hooded mergansers in art before and even did one from a WDE reference once, but never like this in full display. That's extraordinary. Beautiful colored pencil painting with great textures and depth of color. Well done! You keep doing birds I'm familiar with and it makes me smile to see them done so well. The pose on this is so cool with its hood extended.

Thanks for the details on its habits and diet too. I never knew that.

06-05-2010, 11:49 PM
Thanks again Robert, Debby and Viven. And yes, lovely can certainly be used as a term for male ducks - I doubt they would mind at all, considering how much they appear to like to primp before and during breeding season! :)

I was initially going to just include sketches done after this forum started but looked back through the ones done before and decided to post a couple.

This one is a Black-capped Chickadee - the standard variety of chickadee most folks are familiar with. This was done in Prismas from a photo I took at a place I worked a couple years ago. (My office window looked out at a greenbelt and I had feeders set up and got an amazing variety of birds to show up.)


This next sketch was done with Sigma sepia pens. It is a Bar-tailed Godwit, a shorebird that we see only rarely on the Washington state coast. We have a large flock (several hundred) of very similar Marbled Godwits that always winter over in Tokeland on the Washington coast and occasionally one of these Bar-tailed Godwits will be mixed in.


The final image in this post is a Great Horned Owl gliding in to grab some prey. This was done in Sigma sepia pens from a magazine photo.


06-06-2010, 02:10 PM
The chickadee I recognize. I may learn birds yet. :lol: Great pen drawings. That's a great angle on that owl.

06-06-2010, 02:29 PM
Beautiful. All three of these are so great. I love the chickadee, I've seen those many times and you have it so perfect. The feather texture is excellent and that pose is wonderful. Gorgeous pen drawings of the owl and Bar-Tailed Godwit. Well done!

06-08-2010, 12:01 PM
Thanks Debby and Robert! Here is the one I finished last night - another fairly quick sketch. This bird is a male Yellow Warbler, one of the most common warbler species found pretty much in the whole US. The male in breeding plumage has the faint reddish stripes on the breast and is a beautiful bright yellow - thus the name :) ! This bird's song is one of the easier warbler species songs to recognize - it is characterized as SWEET-SWEET-littlemoreSWEET.

The background is pretty scratchy - I decided to put it in because otherwise the coloration of the bird washed out too much against the beige Moleskine drawing paper. However, I didn't spent much time on it - would have been better to do a watercolor or gouache wash, but at least it did pop the bird forward a bit. Done from a photo reference in a magazine.


06-08-2010, 12:32 PM
Isn't he a pretty one? Great job.

06-08-2010, 12:37 PM
Your Yellow Warbler is great! So much detail. Beautiful proportions and I trust it's accurate. Love the feather structures and shading. The background was a great idea to make him pop forward too. He really would've vanished against the cream Moleskine paper.

I also know how hard it is to get a smooth colored pencil background on that paper, did one colored pencils sketch in mine and am going back to pen and ink because it was too frustrating. This came out wonderful. Well done!

Vivien Maloney
06-08-2010, 02:18 PM
Like your latest bird sketches and the duck one is great. I love its flection in the water. These birds are all different species than what we get in NZ - very interesting.

06-08-2010, 08:38 PM
Thanks Debby, Robert and Vivien! Actually Robert, I may have drawn the warbler ever so slightly too long proportionally - not much, but a tad I think. I've started to sketch them from life (haven't had the courage to post the results quite yet - soon) and they really are challenging. Warblers in particular are tough because they are constantly in motion, and usually in brushy habitat or high up in trees. In addition to binoculars, serious birders use spotting scopes (ours is a 20-60X variable power Leica) to get excellent, close-up looks even at distant birds - except most birders won't even try to get a scope on a warbler because it's basically impossible and becomes more frustrating than helpful. :)

Vivien - It is always interesting to compare birds from very different locales. I haven't really done much international birding at all, but New Zealand is at the top of my list if I ever do. My wife is from Hawaii and I remember a couple years ago she went there on a business trip and stayed with her mom while there. I went birding one of those days and found a rare (for around here) American Golden-Plover. When I talked to my wife that night on the phone and told her, she nonchalantly said, 'Oh, that's nice. There are several of them feeding in mom's backyard right now.' :)

06-08-2010, 09:25 PM
I can imagine how crazy it would be trying to follow a warbler with binoculars or a scope. I have a set of binoculars and they're cool when I see something in the yard -- but not if it's moving fast. Then I lose it way too easy having to follow with my whole head rather than just my eyes.

06-09-2010, 02:14 AM
This one was done tonight while watching TV in the background. I took more time on this one than the previous sketches - probably 2 1/2 hours here, using Polychromos pencils. The reference image is a photo I took at a pond near our house several years ago. This is an adult female Red-winged Blackbird, a very common denizen of marshy areas everywhere in the country - it's actually one of the most populous species in the US. There is a pond about a quarter mile away from us that has a number of these birds and they pop in on our backyard feeders regularly. They are very athletic in their ability to perch on flimsy or very small or cramped perches. The males, of course, look much different from this bird - they have the bright red-orange epaulets with everything else jet black that give the species its name. The dominant males have larger and brighter epaulets, which they display to potential rivals that stray into their area.

This drawing covers both pages of the Moleskine sketchbook so is about 8 1/2 x 11 inches.

C&C always welcome, of course!


06-09-2010, 02:17 AM
I absolutely love the blackbird. It pops out realistically on the whole page! Keep them coming.

06-09-2010, 02:28 AM
An ambitious project and one the rest of us will enjoy. What a good idea.

06-09-2010, 08:57 AM
I've always loved chickadees. I don't think that I've actually ever seen one, but they are so cute, so I'm glad that you included one. I love the owl and the redwinged blackbird.

06-09-2010, 03:24 PM

the best yet - a lovely one :)

06-09-2010, 03:45 PM
Your female red-winged blackbird is awesome. Definitely in the "finished" category rather than "sketch" category.

06-09-2010, 07:51 PM
Thanks Raymond, Nancy, Michelle and Vivien!

06-09-2010, 09:36 PM
This one was done tonight while watching TV in the background. I took more time on this one than the previous sketches - probably 2 1/2 hours here, using Polychromos pencils. The reference image is a photo I took at a pond near our house several years ago. This is an adult female Red-winged Blackbird, a very common denizen of marshy areas everywhere in the country - it's actually one of the most populous species in the US. There is a pond about a quarter mile away from us that has a number of these birds and they pop in on our backyard feeders regularly. They are very athletic in their ability to perch on flimsy or very small or cramped perches. The males, of course, look much different from this bird - they have the bright red-orange epaulets with everything else jet black that give the species its name. The dominant males have larger and brighter epaulets, which they display to potential rivals that stray into their area.

This drawing covers both pages of the Moleskine sketchbook so is about 8 1/2 x 11 inches.

C&C always welcome, of course!


Wow. This one is your best yet. I love the detail and her feather textures and patterns. Taking your time with her produced incredible results. If she wasn't a two page spread, you ought to frame her. Magnificent accuracy and beauty on this female red winged blackbird.

There were a lot of them nearby when I was a kid and I remember seeing the males a lot more often because they were more visible, but the females were out there too. I just didn't recognize they were the same species at that age. They do balance on incredibly skinny or wobbly things and somehow manage not to fall off or bend it too far.

Brilliant colored pencils painting. Well done!

06-11-2010, 01:37 AM
Thanks, Robert! Tonight I did this bird - a Common Yellowthroat male, in one of the warbler families. These birds are summer breeding residents in much of the US, then they migrate south for the winter. The male is unique in having the black 'mask' across his eyes, which the bland female lacks. This species prefers marshy and fairly open habitat, and is often only found by its song (WITCHitty-WITCHitty-WITCHitty) because they tend to stay deep in the brush.

The bill is a tad too long, but not too bad. It's interesting that bills would seem to be relatively easy to draw well, but they are proving to be my bugaboo when it comes to drawing birds.


06-11-2010, 10:18 AM
What a great idea, to capture the bird life around you in a journal! I think using pictures you have taken is such a good idea as well...as you can maintain some accuracy of colour and form. I look forward to following this journal!

Joan T
06-11-2010, 10:46 AM
Wonderful, impressive collection of birds!!! Great job!

06-11-2010, 10:56 AM
John, this is great! Thanks for mentioning the tail's a little long, it looks natural but I don't know what's normal for the species. You did the bill great, it's gorgeous. Wonderful proportions other than the tail and the flowers help give scale to this tiny bird. Beautiful painting.

06-11-2010, 11:39 AM
Cute little fellow sitting among the flowers. Good job.

06-11-2010, 11:13 PM
You inspire me! I've been wanting to learn to do birds so I think I'll start a journal too. At least right now we live near the water so have lots of large birds who pose patiently.

06-12-2010, 09:06 PM
Thanks Brincrish, Joan, Robert, Debby and CJ!

CJ - I'm very glad you find this journal inspiring - though I feel like I'm really still stumbling along as a relative newcomer to drawing birds (and art in general, actually). :)

Here are two more I did. The first was done last night and the second this morning. I've come down with a bad cold (we're having a very cool and wet spring in the Pacific NW this year - today was the first day we've hit a high of 75 all year, the latest date on record for Seattle weather) and so my energy level is pretty well shot.

The first one is a Pileated Woodpecker, the largest woodpecker in North American, and the one on which the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker was based. We have one of these visit our backyard feeders once or twice a week, and they are always nice to see. They are about crow sized, and although they are 'common' in our area, you don't see them that often. That is because they have very large territories, so even if a given tract of woodlands is completely full of these birds from a territory viewpoint, in total there aren't that many around. The coloration and bill on this drawing is pretty good, but the profile is a bit too round and the neck too short for these birds. I will try again later, perhaps on a different medium. This one and the next are both done in Polychromos pencils from magazine photo references.


The next bird is an American Coot, a waterbird that looks weird, and also acts kind of weird. They are a species which likes marshes or other water bodies that have lots of vegetation around the edges for cover and nesting. Their bill is an ivory white color and fairly long, and their feet are a very odd green with a hint of orange. They have a bright red eye. They are prolific and lay so many eggs that it is rare for all their hatchlings to fledge successfully. They are the size of a small duck (a teal for example) and make a variety of not-very-pleasant croaking sounds for their calls. One of their most interesting habits is their territorial display. Two males will meet at the corner of their two territories and bluff and posture aggressively toward each other, and then for the grand finale - they flip upside down so their head is in the water and they 'moon' each other. It is pretty comical. They build very well-hidden floating nests out of sticks and other vegetation and periodically add to them as they become waterlogged and begin to sink. Because the nests are often damp, their eggs sometimes become colored in greens or rusts from the plant matter that winds up dying the eggs green or rust colored from the decaying vegetation.

Again done with Polychromos colored pencils.


06-12-2010, 10:04 PM
John, great drawings and great stories. The Coot is fascinating. I knew of it but not what it looked like or that much detail on its life -- that's so interesting. Beautiful sketch of it in its natural environment. I like the way your shading captured its glistening back so well.

Good drawing of the female Pileated Woodpecker, thanks for the note about her neck length. I've seen those occasionally and you're right, but you got her markings well and the story was interesting too. I think these Polychromos are inspiring you, they're a good medium for your birds every time you use them. Well done!

06-12-2010, 11:20 PM
Nice woodpecker. I've not seen one of those in real life before.

The coot definitely qualifies for weird bird. That ivory colored beak is wild. Great information, splendid drawing.

Vivien Maloney
06-13-2010, 12:17 AM
Your red-winged Blackbird is awesome! I like the others also, especially the Woodpecker. We don't have those in New Zealand. But we do have some of the most endangered bird species in the world. Our Kakapo have been brought back from only 3 in 1960 to now nearly 100. A wonderful success story for Conservationists in NZ. I would like to sketch this bird myself and intend to do so (but only from photos of course), but I'm sure I wont make such a good job of it as you are doing here. Well done!

06-13-2010, 11:27 AM
Your coot is very well done and he definitely is a weird duck!!!


06-13-2010, 11:34 AM
Vivien, that's incredible about the Kakapo. Awesome. I think it's fine sketching birds from photos, it helps to get the word out about them and keep people interested in saving them. Not everyone can get out in person every time and even then it helps to have photos to fill in details after it's flown off -- it's crazy trying to draw fast moving creatures when you only see them for a moment.

06-15-2010, 10:55 PM
Thanks Robert, Debby, Viv and Reggie!

Nice success story on the Kakapo, Viv. Unfortunately a lot of species worldwide aren't doing too well, primarily due to habitat loss. The huge projection for population increase doesn't bode well, unfortunately, so any good stories like yours is welcome news.

This bird is a small (8" in length, smaller than an American Robin) owl species that defines cute - the Northern Saw-whet Owl - although it is quite a capable predator, as are all owls. This owl is not rare (in the right habitat) but struggles to compete with the much larger Barred Owl, which is very aggressive and has expanded its range into the western US over the past couple of decades, to the detriment of other owl species (most notoriously the Spotted Owl, the species responsible for shutting down many logging operations in our part of the world).

Polychromos colored pencils and a magazine reference photo again...

C&C always welcome as usual.


06-16-2010, 12:18 AM
Cute is definitely the correct accolade. Nicely done.

06-16-2010, 11:12 AM
john, just had to comment. this is a very interesting thread, love your drawings and that you have done them all with polys is amazing. you have gotten such detail and captured the atmosphere as well.
the birds you have drawn in your journal are all new to me, so i have thoroughly enjoyed following along. great work. thanks

Vivien Maloney
06-16-2010, 02:44 PM
Love the expression on this Owl's face! A lovely sketch of him/her.

06-16-2010, 06:50 PM
The owl is great. I love the way you've gotten almost a watercolor look with your colored pencils. Well done!

06-17-2010, 11:59 PM
Thanks Debby, Janine, Viv and Robert!

This bird is a Tree Swallow, one of seven species of swallows that we have in Washington State (Tree, Bank, Cliff, Barn, Northern Rough-winged, Violet-green and Purple Martin). I picked the Tree Swallow because they are one of the most commonly-seen species (along with Barn and Violet-green) in my area. And, for the third time since I put up some nest boxes in our yard, we have a pair nesting in the yard this year. I'm hoping they're successful, because the very unseasonable cold and wet weather we're having is keeping the bug numbers down. So far, so good, though. Tree Swallow nests are interesting - they strongly prefer feathers as the primary nest material. Two years ago, we had a hawk catch a bird in our yard and there were a bunch of feathers left. About half a dozen swallows discovered them and swooped down to pick them up, head to their nest, and then come back. I stumbled onto this scene by accident when I walked into the yard and the birds were grabbing the feathers only a few feet from me.

I've been experimenting a little bit with gouache, which is what the famous bird identification guide author David Allen Sibley uses for his amazing illustrations. So...this one is in gouache. I did a very light basic pencil sketch first. The reference photo is one I took a couple of years ago on a trip to Tennessee.


06-18-2010, 10:10 AM
Your swallow is beautiful. How do you like the gouache, compared to the colored pencils you have been using?

06-18-2010, 12:06 PM
Thank you, Debby! The gouache of course handles completely differently being a wet medium. I started out in art with watercolor though with classes have been doing more oils and pastels recently, and don't have a huge amount of experience with gouache. The Moleskine I'm using for this journal is their sketchbook paper, not their watercolor paper, and so it doesn't handle either watercolor or gouache all that well compared to the right type of paper. (A thin wash tends to bead and pool on top of this paper - applying the gouache thicker is needed to get it to adhere right away.) I think I will be doing more gouache, though, as it has some of the beneficial characteristics of oils - the opaqueness and a more substantial 'look' to it as a result. You can't beat the colored pencils for convenience though, and they don't smudge and smear like regular graphite or charcoal would.

06-18-2010, 03:06 PM
Your tree swallow is beautiful. I like the gouache, you handle it beautifully. Well done! Thanks for the details about the tree swallow's background and about how to get gouache to work on the Moleskine sketchbook paper. I have one too and so far the only thing that's worked in it is pen drawing.

06-18-2010, 05:49 PM
What a beautiful blue on that tree swallow. I like the gouache on the brown paper.

06-20-2010, 11:33 AM
Thanks Robert and Michelle,

I'm definitely going to experiment some more with gouache, and on better paper as well. I've only done a handful of gouache paintings, all small. Several people on WetCanvas (Ralph - Old Tex, and Larry Seiler come to mind right away) who do great landscape work with gouache.

Here's the next installment. Despite what the writing says in the book (I must have not had enough caffeine this morning when I finished this and wrote the notes) this is a House FINCH (not a House Sparrow). House Finches have declined a bunch across the country due to a devastating eye disease that has hit their population in recent years, although it is waning now and I haven't seen an infected bird for quite some time. I went looking through my archives of bird photos to pull some others out for painting materials and found this 'headshot' of the House Finch and so decided to do it. I suggested feather detail, but didn't have the time (nor the intent, or patience) to replicate all the feather details exactly. I finally did a bill that I'm pleased with, and the eye and overall shape came out pretty well also. Done with Polychromos pencils again.


06-20-2010, 01:44 PM
Pretty little bird with the red and brown. Suggesting feathers, looks like feathers to me. Very well done.

06-22-2010, 10:53 AM
Thank you, Debby!

This bird is a flycatcher - specifically, a Willow Flycatcher. It is in the genus Empidonax, which is infamous among birders for difficult-to-ID birds. The Empidonax flycatchers share very similar structure and features (or lack of features) and birders must be very familiar with slight differences in features in order to ID them if they are not singing. Fortunately in our area (as opposed to areas where these birds migrate through earlier in the season) these birds are often vocalizing. The Willow Flycatcher has a 'song' that is compared to a sneeze - they do a wheezy FITZ-bewww frequently. As the name implies, this particular flycatcher species tends to like brushy or marshy habitat, as opposed to some of the flycatchers who specialize in feeding niches higher up in the canopy. The Willow Flycatcher is a common summer resident and breeder in our area.

Done with Polychromos pencils from a photo I took.


06-22-2010, 11:02 AM
Lovely birds John! The saw-whet is awesome, love those little guys! Your tree swallow is very nice! Regarding the House Finches, I took part in the cornell survey for the eye disease for several years. Thankfully it HAS died down somewhat over recent years. I've not seen any here with any problems for quite some time, and I did have several. The house finches here in my neck of the woods have greatly increased... just yesterday I must have had about 10 of them around here chatting away, probably with young. Its a nice sight!
Haven't seen a willow for a while... need to get out and bird a bit more! (oh - and Spotted Owls are Awesome!!). Well done on all your bird drawings / paintings :-)

06-22-2010, 11:03 AM
Your Tree Swallow is majestic!! The feathers on the House Sparrown are done so well! You really know your birds! I have only been watching and feeding them for 2 years but just love them. There are always some new ones showing up at the feeders. My favs are the Goldfinches and Cardinals. The Rose Breasted and Evening Grosebeaks are gorgeous too!


06-22-2010, 06:16 PM
Thanks Rachel and Reggie!

I've done the Project FeederWatch for Cornell for probably five years now, which I find a great project. We definitely had a few House Finches here with the eye disease, but never a large number. Willow Flycatchers are almost ho-hum birds here in the summer, at least in the right habitat. Because of their behavior, they are also easier to observe than some of the other flycatcher species that are either more skulky or are high-canopy species (Hammond's comes to mind as one that is heard rather than seen generally). Another one we have that is everywhere but much tougher to see than hear is Pacific-slope - they sing all over the place but I can count on one hand the times that I've had really good looks at one.

I definitely miss the cardinals from growing up in PA (and the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks). We had a very unusual spring for Evening Grosbeaks in our yard (and in the area as a whole). Usually I get them at our feeders a few times a year in a small flock (4 to 8). This year, they showed up the first week of May, and were here on a daily basis until two days ago. They started to dwindle in numbers about a week or so ago, and the past two days I saw none. However, at their peak, I counted 42 birds in the yard at one time once, and had counts of 30 or more probably a dozen times. They were hanging out in the fir trees in our back yard and their churrring and other vocalizations were constant from sunup to sundown. This seemed to be the case in the rest of the Seattle area as well, with many people reporting higher numbers and longer stays. Hopefully that means they are experiencing a population increase, because they have been a declining species for a number of years.

Right now, we have Black-headed Grosbeaks here - they are a local breeder. We have had as many as six in our yard working the feeders, which is surprising since four of them were males. I would have thought they would be more territorial since this is in their nesting area.

Thanks again! :wave:

06-22-2010, 08:40 PM
John, your House Finch is beautiful. I love the feather texture. Less is more sometimes, this looks better than if you'd tried for precise feather detail. You succeeded in a perfect feathering texture.

The Willow Flycatcher's an interesting bird. I love the shading you got on him and the wing patterns, the unique proportions. Beautifully rendered.

Polychromos are really one of your best mediums! What you're doing with them is great!

06-22-2010, 08:53 PM
Love those evening grosbeaks! Would love to get those down here! :-)

06-22-2010, 11:56 PM
Hi John!

I had to Google "Polychromos" as I was not familiar with them. You certainly do a beautiful job with them. I've never spent enough time with them to get near the beautiful results you are getting.

I'm playing catch-up commenting on the journals in the forum, so I can't comment on all of your pictures, but you have really done a great job with all of your "Local birds." The Willow Fly-catcher is mesmerizing and I also love the House Finch and the Tree Swallow.

Very nice work!


06-24-2010, 05:53 PM
The Willow Flycatcher is wonderful. Love the description of a wheezing-sneeze for the sound they make.

06-29-2010, 01:10 AM
Thanks Robert, Rachel, Jean and Debby!

This species is a seabird called a Rhinocerus Auklet, which is in the Alcid family. Alcids are adapted for diving for fish, and tend to be open ocean birds that don't visit land except to nest. I picked this species because my band played on Lopez Island in the San Juan Island chain (NW corner of WA state between the state and Canada) and on the ferry ride to the island, we saw multiple Rhino's (as they're called informally) flying back and forth, many with fish in their mouths for feeding young. They are fairly nondescript birds except for the yellowish-orange bill (in breeding plumage) and the 'horn' on their bill which gives them their name. They are probably the most common Alcid in our marine waters.


06-29-2010, 07:09 PM
What a lovely keepsake and reference this sketchbook will become. I find birds quite difficult to get the proportions right and admire your dedication to the subject!

06-29-2010, 07:40 PM
Wow! I love the drawing and the background information both. I'd never heard of the Rhinoceros Auklet. It's wonderful. I've been fascinated by open ocean birds anyway, but it's something special that you came up with one I hadn't even heard of. Beautiful drawing of it. Love the soft shading and the cool grays.

06-29-2010, 10:43 PM
You know, I've probably seen the Rhinoceros Auklet and didn't even know it. I've lived and visited all up and down the west coast, including visiting the San Juan islands. Thanks for painting and sharing this bird. The little horn on the bill is too cute.

06-30-2010, 05:33 AM
Wow, even more beautiful birds and an aquatic bird this time. Wonderful colors!

07-07-2010, 07:30 PM
Thank you Jackie, Robert, Debby and Raymond!

I had knee surgery a week ago, so haven't been quite as active (it's a bit harder to sketch while lying on your back with your leg elevated and under a pile of ice!) but finally got back to this journal today.

This mega-cute little bird is a Chestnut-backed Chickadee. All chickadees are right up there on the cute-o-meter, whether with serious birders or folks that aren't into birds that much.

What a lot of folks don't realize is that there are a number (SEVEN!) of species of chickadees in North America - Black-capped (the one most commonly seen), Carolina (east coast only), Chestnut-backed (western US only), Boreal (only in northern part of US, found mostly in the boreal forest in Canada), Mountain (western US at higher elevations), Mexican (barely gets into US in southern New Mexico and Arizona) and Gray-headed (Alaska and northern Canada).

My state of Washington is unusual in that we have four of the seven species of North American chickadees - something most states can't say. Our most common is the Black-capped, which I posted earlier and the next most common is this species - the Chestnut-backed Chickadee. We also (in a few northernmost and mountainous spots in the state) have Boreal, and in higher elevations throughout the state we have the Mountain. Chestnut-backed Chickadees are popular with out-of-state birders who come here - if it's there first visit to the state, this is always one of their target birds. In the right habitat they're easy to find. We get visited by both this species and the Black-capped at our backyard feeders. The Chestnut-backed has a different call but is easy to ID because of the color when you see them. They tend to be found in or near coniferous forests, or at least near conifer trees (which we have tons of out here) and are not so common in mostly deciduous forests. The key identifying characteristic is, of course, in the name - the color of the bird's back and flanks.

I debated whether to use a watercolor wash for the background here, but for now decided to leave as is. Polychromos pencils again, and used one of my photos for reference.


07-07-2010, 08:42 PM
John hope the knee is coming along well. I am learning so much from your journal, it is wonderful. Great drawings and all the info you share is fantastic. I really like your latest entry. The feathers look so soft and real.

Vivien Maloney
07-07-2010, 09:31 PM
That Chickadee is one cute bird. Well done.

07-07-2010, 09:47 PM
Hope you are well on your way to recovery after knee surgery.

The little chickadee is so cute! (But you knew that.) I think you did well to leave off the background.

07-08-2010, 04:49 AM
Hi John, good wishes for a speedy recovery. Your chickadee is indeed rather cute, I like it as it is.... a background might detract. Those reddish browns are very rich, he/she is lovely!

07-08-2010, 01:52 PM
Yikes! Hope your knee surgery helps you a lot. It has for several people I know, so even though you're recovering, maybe once it's over you'll walk a lot easier and get out for even more birding.

Thanks for posting the Chestnut-Backed Chickadee. I didn't realize how many species of these there are. I've seen little brown birds all over the country and this one does look a bit like the others -- but very striking with that chestnut coloration, a bit more colorful. It's gorgeous. I love the detail you get with these when you're drawing from your own photos, that's awesome.

07-19-2010, 10:42 PM
Thanks Robert! My knee is coming along ok, but still swollen and a bit sore. Not too bad, though.

I just finished a 9-day soft pastels workshop yesterday, so haven't had time to be on WetCanvas or to do anything other than the workshop paintings. Nice to get back to doing some bird sketching.

This bird is a Cedar Waxwing, a gorgeous bird when seen in nature. It has an exceedingly 'smooth' look to its feathers, which are difficult to duplicate in a pencil sketch (this was done in Polychromos again). The bird's name derives from the bright red 'wax spot' on its wing, reminiscent of the old sealing wax stamps used many decades ago. This species is primarily frugivorous, meaning fruit-eating, although they also will avidly 'flycatch', sallying out from a perch to grab a bug and then back to their perch - as the actual flycatcher family of birds does.

These birds are summer visitors to my area, though the other North American species of waxwing (Bohemian Waxwing) reside further north and are winter visitors to eastern Washington state.

We have several Serviceberry trees in our back yard specifically to attract birds that like fruit, and when those berries are ripe, the Cedar Waxwings usually are the first to find them and descend on the tree (usually in a small flock) and quickly gorge themselves on all the berries.

This sketch was done while waiting for my car to be serviced today, in about a half hour, using a field guide as a reference.

C&C always welcome.


07-19-2010, 11:35 PM
I love chickadees!

Hope your knee feels better soon!

07-19-2010, 11:44 PM
Ooops - I forgot to also thank Jacqui, Viv, Debby and Jackie, and now Michelle! :)

07-20-2010, 04:28 AM
he's lovely :)

07-20-2010, 05:53 AM
sounds like you have been busy John! Great use of normally "wasted" time waiting for your car :)

07-20-2010, 01:27 PM
Glad to hear your knee is progressing well after surgery.

The waxwing is beautiful. Thanks again for the background information on the bird.

07-20-2010, 02:50 PM
Congratulations on the successful surgery and what sounds like a great workshop. Love the Cedar Waxwing. It's beautiful and the information on it is fascinating too.

Look close at it in life. If the smooth feather texture is at all reflective, there may be patches of soft highlights that turn whitish and washed out from the sun or even very shiny bright white highlights on contours. That might help establish texture -- or not if the feathers have a smooth but matte surface. I know birds with shiny feathers will have those highlights similar to the ones on my apple drawings, but not all of them do. It might be tricky, but colored pencils lend themselves to realism.

07-20-2010, 03:52 PM
A very beautifully done waxwing John, perfect shape. I'm wondering how you got those tiny little white marks on it tail. Very useful carwait time.

07-20-2010, 04:38 PM
Thanks Vivien, Jackie, Debby, Robert and Xina! :wave:

Xina - the white spots on the tail (and the white on the chin) were done with white gouache. I wrote this in my handwriting on the sketchbook page, but forgot to put it in the post. The Moleskine sketchbook paper is actually a cream or ivory color, so to get white, gouache seems to be the best way to do it. White Polychromos doesn't look all that great over the yellow paper.

08-09-2010, 06:44 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm back from my 25th annual raft trip down the Deschutes River in central Oregon, and saw some nice 'local birds' from that area that are not real common in my home area. So, I did a couplde of small drawings in Polychromos pencils.

The first is an Ash-throated Flycatcher, which was quickly found when I heard its confident and loud call... ka-BEEER, ka-BEEER. The rusty colored undertail coverts (the feathers under the tail and rump) are a major field ID point for this species, which at about 8.5" in length is bigger than many of the flycatcher species, which are around 5.5".


The next species is a Townsend's Solitaire, which is in the thrush family (along with the familiar American Robin). It has a very noticeable white eye ring, which unfortunately I did not do a good job of depicting in my drawing. It also has a long tail for the size of its body, and a short, stubby bill for its size.


Again drawn with Polychromos from field ID references.

C&C always welcome.

08-09-2010, 07:44 PM
Sounds like you had a great raft trip. The drawings are marvelous. Glad to see you back.

08-09-2010, 07:49 PM
The ash-throated fly catcher is very pretty with those delicate colours, once again two more great additions to your sketchbook

08-09-2010, 09:11 PM
Thanks Debby and Jackie! Yes, the raft trip was excellent and in addition to the bird drawings, I did two pastel plein air paintings of the Sisters, Oregon area before we put on the river, and five watercolor plein air pieces during the trip itself.

Good to be back as well, though!

Vivien Maloney
08-09-2010, 09:57 PM
Sounds like a great raft trip and very productive as well! You're doing great work with the polychromos - another 2 good sketches to add to your Journal.

08-10-2010, 02:38 AM
Thanks, Viv, and yes, the trip was excellent! :)

08-10-2010, 03:16 PM
a raft trip sounds brilliant

and the little flycatcher is a charmer

Carole A
08-10-2010, 03:43 PM
John ~ Was there much pollution from the fires? Nice birds. I know that I've heard birds over there whose songs I don't recognize, but rarely get a view of them.

Carole A

08-10-2010, 04:57 PM
John, the flycatcher is elegant! I love the soft transitions on its feathers. So elegant, beautifully shaped and shaded. The Townsend's Solitaire is good too, thanks for mentioning its long tail so that I didn't think the proportions were off. These are fantastic. Two of your best.

Pastels in plein air are fun too, sounds like you had a wonderful time on that trip. Nothing like getting out where everything is beautiful and drawing it in person. I tihnk the Polychromos are a great style for you. You handle them with confidence and get such good transitions of hue and value.

08-10-2010, 05:43 PM
Thanks Vivien, Carole and Robert! I have really been enjoying drawing the birds, though I still feel like I'm barely started in terms of the vast subject. The big next challenge is going to be drawing from life with minimal use of reference guides.

Carole - yes, the air was quite hazy in the Sisters area when we finished the trip. I originally intended to stay in the area for two days after the trip, but the smoke was one reasons I left when I did. I have seen it worse in terms of breathing - and it wasn't too bad this time, at least when I was there - and one year we were on the trip when the fire threatened Sisters and Black Butte Ranch had to be evacuated. That was pretty scary. Actually a good part of the way back to Seattle (on the east side of the mountains) it was hazy from smoke to one degree or another. There was a fire or fires up toward Wenatchee/Leavenworth and smoke from there was drifting down into the Ellensburg and even Yakima areas.

08-12-2010, 12:17 PM
Here's another sketch I did last night. This is a male American Redstart, which is a rare bird on the west side of the Cascades where I live. The last three years, though, have had one or more birds that showed up for the summer in the valley near my town. The males are highly animated and continuous singers during breeding season. This one is Polychromos, and done from a reference photo a friend of mine (Gregg Thompson - a self-described bird photography addict) sent me. I have a treasure trove of his images, and he's given permission to use any of them for paintings in addition to my own collection of photos. This should keep me busy for a couple more years at least...! :)


08-12-2010, 05:42 PM
John, that little American Redstart is incredible. This is your best bird portrait to date. It's not just that you got a good reference to work from, it's how you handled that reference. He's perfect. Singing his heart out, throwing his head back and fluffing himself up to look big, he's like an operatic tenor hitting his peak. Wonderful, evocative bird portrait. He probably got the girl.

08-12-2010, 06:21 PM
Thanks so much, Robert! Birds when they are singing are truly amazing - it's a whole-body effort. Winter Wrens (recently split so ours in the west are now called Pacific Wrens, a different species from the east coast version) have their chests heave in and out and their entire bodies vibrate when they're singing. Also, birds' vocal structure is very different than humans - we have a larynx, with one voice box. Birds have a syrynx (I think that's the correct spelling) which has two voice boxes. Consequently, birds can sing two notes at the same time and operate the two voice boxes somewhat independently of each other - this gives them the ability to have such incredible complexity in their songs.

There was a female in this male's territory this year, and I believe there was credible evidence that they nested, though I don't know if anyone observed fledglings to confirm a successful nesting.

08-12-2010, 07:33 PM
What a wonderful drawing. The bird in full song.

08-13-2010, 05:03 AM
lovely and such glowing colour

08-13-2010, 11:00 AM
Thank you Debby and Vivien! :wave:

08-14-2010, 12:17 AM
Wow, John. That makes sense. I know it's incredibly hard to imitate bird song and now I know why it takes whistles and other tricks to do it. Very cool. Thanks for telling me that he did get the girl - he's awesome.

08-14-2010, 09:56 PM
The orange breast is beautiful, a lovely piece of work John.

08-24-2010, 10:34 AM
Thanks Robert and Jacqui!

Robert - imitating bird songs (or even the simpler call notes) is pretty much impossible for humans unless the bird in question has a vocalization that lends itself to our vocal anatomy. There are a few I can do ok, but they are the very simple ones - nothing complex.

This bird is a wading bird called a Green Heron. Everyone is pretty familiar with the Great Blue Heron (in the US, at least) but the Green Heron is much less known for a couple reasons. It is not that uncommon - although requires the right habitat of course - but it is much more skulky, and also significantly smaller, than the Great Blue Heron. Like the Great Blue, this heron can remain absolutely motionless for long periods of time waiting for a fish or frog to come by and then in a lightning quick strike it has lunch. Whereas the Great Blue tends to wade and then stand statue still, the Green Heron tends to hunt as this one is shown - on a log or a rock, hunched forward to be near to the water.

This image is in the Moleskine notebook again, and with Polychromos pencils. It was done from a picture I took several years ago right outside our work building. We had a small mitigation pond a stone's throw from the front door, and it attracted an amazing number of birds because there was a greenbelt butting up against the other side of it. This bird is a juvenile based on its coloration. An adult has more striking coloration - a deep, almost irridescent bluish-green top and a deep rusty or rufous red brown neck and chest. Juveniles have a more understated top coloration, and streaking on the chest and belly as drawn here.

Sorry about the greenish color cast on the fringes. This was taken early this morning outside, but in deep shade. My camera's automatic white balance function doesn't work so well in those situations. I removed it as best I could in Photoshop. The colors on the bird itself are fairly representative.


08-24-2010, 03:44 PM
Splendid sketch. You really captured that "waiting for breakfast to come along" look.

08-24-2010, 04:31 PM
Thank you, Debby!

08-29-2010, 09:22 PM
Hi everyone,

This is another Polychromos piece in the Moleskine sketchbook. This one was done in a couple of hours between last night and today. Last night, I worked on it a bit while waiting for my band's turn to perform at a local mini-festival put on by the owner of a landscape nursery. Then today, there was the last round of a Champions Tour (read 'senior' or 'masters') tournament at our local golf course. As a resident of the area, we get tickets to attend, and so I went and camped out at a spot on the 4th hole where I could watch both the tee shots and the approach shot. In between groups, I sketched on this piece and put the last few minutes in it once I got back home.

This is a Redhead (called this for obvious reasons - :) ), a duck that is a standard resident in eastern Washington state. It is quite unusual on my side of the mountains, but usually shows up on the Christmas bird counts done each year by the Audubon groups. This was done using a reference photo taken by a friend of mine. The water was a challenge here - it was showing interesting reflection patterns that I didn't capture all that well. But the duck came out decently. And, yes, I didn't plan ahead too well and had to give the subject's head a little crewcut at the crease in the sketchbook - :o !

C&C always welcome!


08-30-2010, 12:32 AM
The Green Heron is gorgeous. I've seen photos of it and your colored pencils painting is beautiful. Thank you for the detailed description of its habits and where you saw it, the stories add to my appreciation of your bird art. Wonderful little painting.

It seems odd to me that the green heron doesn't have the long neck of the blue heron or egrets, but it seems to do fine without it! Unless that's just the pose and its neck is longer but tucked up like that. Either way, it's so cool to see one of the less commonly painted birds in your book! Do let me know if its neck is short or medium or long, I'm very curious.

Love the redhead duck! You got the sheen on its neck and head feathers beautifully, and the range of cool and warm neutrals on his back are beautiful. I like the reflections you did, even if they're a bit simplified that worked effectively. Cropping his head was a good thing. Very often a bird in profile will look static, but a good crop like that can be more interesting in composition. It doesn't hurt the overall painting, though I can see how you might arrange him differently if you did a large painting of him from this one in the Moleskine.

His head looks a little large in relation to his body though. I'm not sure if this is a species difference and the Redhead has an extra large head compared to a mallard or other type of duck, or if that's a proportion error. If it is, then his head at proportional size might have kissed the crease and looked worse than the crop though. It's about that much.

Given how hard it is to lift colored pencils it'd be better to move on even if it is overlarge, just watch for proportions and block in lightly on the next one before doing details. All those gestures you're doing from life are so great, I think you'd have less trouble blocking in than I did getting used to it.

08-30-2010, 12:44 AM
Thanks, Robert! You are correct in that the Green Heron does not have the long neck of Great Blue Herons or egrets. Its neck is longer than their typical pose, however. I would characterize it as medium, relative to long-necked birds. Its neck would be long relative to warblers or sparrows, but short compared to Great Blue Herons, so I guess that makes it medium...! I have seen some good photos of them with their neck extended, but I don't offhand have a link to one. If I find one, I'll post the link.

The anatomy of birds is interesting. Their bodies from the base of the neck to their tail are relatively inflexible - which helps their ability to fly. They use their legs to maneuver their body where they want it. On the other hand, their necks are very flexible. Unlike humans, they don't have a fixed number of neck vertebrae. They all have more than humans (we have 7), but how many more varies substantially. If I recall correctly, some birds have as many as 21 neck vertebrae.

Sorry if this is a repeat of earlier info - I sort of recall posting it before, but can't remember if it was here or another forum...:) .

08-30-2010, 03:05 AM
Love the Redhead. :wink2::lol: It's a lovely drawing and you handled the water part well.

Vivien Maloney
08-30-2010, 03:21 AM
Lovely "Redhead" drawing, of both the duck and the water!

08-30-2010, 11:32 AM
Thanks Viv and Debby!

Robert - I realize I didn't address your question about proportions. I think the head may be a little too large relative to the body. Here is the reference photo. If the head stayed as I drew it here, the body should have been a bit longer, and the height of the rump above the water is not enough (or put another way, I made the back too flat).

I like this image, so I'll do it again sometime, probably in another medium, so I'll get another chance at it! :)


08-30-2010, 12:20 PM
John, thank you for the information! I don't think you posted that before, about the number of vertebrae in birds' necks. Stands to reason though, they're descended from dinosaurs who had variable numbers of neck vertebrae. I still love the blue heron's poses that you did. Fascinating about their anatomy - that will help me a lot when I'm drawing birds either from life or photos.

On the Redhead, it looks like the difference wasn't as extreme as I thought it was. You did exaggerate it, but the head's larger in relation to the body than for some other ducks and water birds. I would love to try sketching or painting this one, if this is your reference can I draw him? He's beautiful and I don't think I've even heard of this species. That shiny russet head is gorgeous, as beautiful as a male mallard's head.

08-30-2010, 12:46 PM
Hi Robert,

The reference is a photo from a friend of mine who is an outstanding (probably obsessive, by his own admission) bird photographer who has amassed a fantastic collection of images in only the couple of years he has been doing photography. He has given me permission to use his images for painting and drawing, and actually distributes small JPEG's (like the one here) of them to a very long list of interested birders in our area, so I think it should be fine to use this. I have been focusing on making art, not photography, but I was serious about bird photography for a number of years. When I first started, like everyone else, I thought maybe I could make some money at it, but most people quickly realize that's pretty much pie-in-the-sky. So I got to the point where I would get requests for use of images in books, brochures, etc. - but inevitably they were for good causes that couldn't afford to give anything but photo credit. (In fact, I just sent two files of my photos to a fellow in the area who is publishing an update to our local county birding 'bible' through Seattle Audubon. They will be used in the book - my compensation will be a free copy of the book (maybe!) and seeing a couple of my images in print. Long answer to a short question...:) . The photos for the book, just as an FYI, were chosen by the author because they were both of species that are rarities in our county and so of significant interest to folks in the 'it could happen to you' category. One of them showed up for a day at the feeders at work that I had set up for several years at my last job before I retired. One showed up at a big multi-use park that has become famous for rare species, partly because it is birded every Thursday for a good half a day by a fellow who has birded it for almost 16 years, and extends an open invitation to other birders to walk with him. Ten or fifteen pairs of experienced eyes in good habitat equals some pretty excellent birds on occasion.

08-30-2010, 12:51 PM
Thank you! I love the photo and think your friend is doing something great by distributing these photos.

08-30-2010, 01:09 PM
it's interesting to see such a variety of such different birds (from those we have) - this is going to be a lovely book when it's finished

08-31-2010, 08:17 PM
I'm in agreeance with Vivien, I have never seen some of these birds before (being on the other side of the world to you!) so it is fascinating to see some of the different shapes and colours. That photo is great - the Redhead is a beauty and the colours reflected on the water are so different.

09-02-2010, 11:43 AM
Thanks Robert, Viven and Jackie!

Here's another duck done in Polychromos pencils in the journal. This clownish-looking fellow is a male Ruddy Duck in breeding plumage. The blue bill is rather incongruous-looking to me, but they certainly make for an interesting sight when you find one or more of these. The females have the same basic head pattern (dark top, light bottom) but the body and bill are quite drab compared to the male. This is a diving duck, meaning it dives below the water to obtain food, rather than just 'tipping up' and eating what it can reach from the top of the water. It is very squat and stocky in build, particularly if it is resting and a bit puffed up as this one is. This was done from a friend's photo.

Sorry about the paperclip in the lower right, but I reached a point in the Moleskine sketchbook where the book pages didn't want to stay open easily.

C&C always welcome.


09-02-2010, 08:18 PM
John, he is magnificent! I love the angle you captured him at and his brilliant blue beak. He's so showy! Thanks for the detailed background on him too, one of the things I always love in your birds sketchbooks.

One thing that's really working well for you is contour strokes to create feather patterns. Following the direction of the lay of the feathers looks much more natural than just filling in an area with horizontal, vertical or angled strokes - unless all the strokes are at the same angle throughout the painting, which is another attractive look that I mean to try sometime.

The smoothness of that beak is a wonderful contrasting texture to the fluffy feathers and his dimensions are spot on perfect from your description. He does look fluffed up. He's probably sleeker under water.

09-02-2010, 08:39 PM
Thanks again, Robert! I think ducks are a bit higher on my radar screen now because it won't be too long until they start moving south. Our resident summer ducks will move further south, and some other species we don't see during the summer will show up and - depending on how hard the winter is - stay around until next spring. I was pleased with how the Ruddy Duck (and the Redhead) came out for the most part.

09-02-2010, 08:53 PM
That must be fascinating watching the parade of ducks coming and going, each on its own schedule. They're so beautiful any time of year. The only ones I've seen often are mallards but I know the others are out there.

09-02-2010, 09:16 PM
Yes, the migratory habits of many birds make the hobby of birding even more interesting. I keep a 'life list' of birds seen or heard from our yard, and another life list for the whole development that we live in. Our yard list only has a few duck species because the nearest water is a small pond a couple hundred yards away and we only see a few species flying toward the pond. However, in the development as a whole, there are quite a number of mitigation ponds that the developer had to put up to offset the effects of the development. One of these is really a 'lake' although not a particularly large one. These ponds - at least some of them - draw a surprising amount of birds, and I try to check them frequently during migration. Also, we are near a valley that serves as a 'flyway' for ducks heading south, so we occasionally can identify a few species as they fly over.

Counting ducks and geese, in the six years I've kept track in the development, I have accumulated 18 species of birds. Some are common, a number I've only seen once or twice, but they're definitely out there if you take the time to look.

Mallards, of course, are the most common species - and they breed here as well, so we always get to see groups of ducklings in the spring.

Counting all bird families, not just ducks and geese, my life list for the whole development currently stands at 127.

09-02-2010, 11:26 PM
Wow, that fellow's beak is amazing. I had no idea that any bird had a blue beak. Very nicely done drawing.

09-07-2010, 11:19 PM
Thanks, Debby!

Yes, the Ruddy Duck drake's bill in breeding plumage is rather...bright! It is visible from quite some distance away. Except for the Wood Duck drake, which is so colorful it's hard to believe (in breeding plumage), you have to look hard to find anything more gaudy than the Ruddy's bill!

This bird is an adult California Gull. California Gulls are summer residents and migrants through our area, although this image was painted from a photo I took at Mono Lake in California several years ago. California Gulls breed at Mono Lake, and that colony of birds is thought to be the source of the famous seagulls that showed up during the grasshopper plague experienced by the Mormons when they settled in Utah near the Great Salt Lake.

I forgot to include an important field mark on this painting before I took the picture - that is a red spot on the lower bill, just a bit back from the front tip of the bill. I've added it now, but didn't want to re-shoot the photo. This is done in Polychromos colored pencils after an initial graphite sketch. Sorry about the paralax in the image.


09-08-2010, 09:05 PM
Ah, now this bird I'm familiar with having lived a good portion of my life in California. Very well done.

09-08-2010, 11:03 PM
John this gull is fantastic! ;)

09-09-2010, 10:35 PM
John, I love the California gull! He's spot on - even with the spot not included in the post. The pose is so elegant, he's turning to look at something - lively, not just the static profile I'd probably do. Wonderful painting. Parallax happens in photos, good of you to mention it though.

09-10-2010, 03:06 PM
Thanks Debby, Jackie and Robert! Gulls are one of the better bird subjects in that they (sometimes) sit still much longer than most other species, although in this case, this guy was drawn from one of my photos.

09-12-2010, 11:42 AM
Since this journal [Moleskine 5.5 x 8 inches] is titled 'Local Birds' I figured it was time to put a really common bird in here. This is your basic American Crow, from a photo that I took some time ago. This is an initial graphite sketch and watercolor. It was a challenge getting the darks here, because I had no black and had to mix black as best I could with the colors I had. However, the original photo was in very warm early-morning light shining on the bird from over my left shoulder here - so it had a lot of dark brownish looking colors. And, as Richard McKinley (and others as well) says - 'Black in sunlight is lighter in value than white in shadow.' The other nitpick I would have is that the feet aren't all that well done. (I'm finding in birds, particularly sketches in which I don't take all that much time, that bills and feet are the hardest things for me to get 'right'.)

[This is an edit - Ooops - I just realized I should have posted this in my Watermedia Birds thread. But I can't figure out how to delete it and put it there, so it'll stay here since it clearly fits the title of this thread as well. :o ]

C&C always welcome.


09-12-2010, 10:13 PM
You did very well, mixing black. Love the beady eyed look.

09-13-2010, 01:49 AM
John, that's a great mixed black. Beautiful proportions on the crow - I get them around here and see them all the time, so this brought a smile to my face. My life list is pretty short around here (especially with dogs in the yard) but crows are on it. The beady eye is great!

Beaks and feet are tricky, you remind me that it wouldn't hurt to get out my birds reference book and just do some foot studies of different birds in there where the references show feet.

09-18-2010, 01:03 PM
Thanks again Robert and Debby!

This cute little guy is an Anna's Hummingbird, guarding his territory. It is done from a photo I took near work a few years back. Hummers are very feisty and aggressive birds - their behavior does not at all reflect their size or the 'awww, aren't they cute' reputation that they have because of their jewel-like appearance. This species is actually non-migratory (the only hummer species that is in the US, to my knowledge) but has slowly and steadily expanded its range northward, and now winters over in the Puget Sound area and as far north as Vancouver, BC. This has been possible because as the population of our area has increased, more people are landscaping with non-native, winter-blooming plants that provide food (and, to many people's surprise, hummers will also catch and eat bugs - and our climate here is mild enough that there are some bugs around most of the year). Also, as they've become more common in the winter, a lot of people leave feeders out year-round, and keep a spare in the house to swap out immediately in the morning if we have a freezing spell.

Anyway, this one was done in Polychromos colored pencils in about an hour while watching TV, in the Moleskine sketchbook.

C&C always welcome.


09-18-2010, 06:07 PM
Aggressive or not, it's still a cute little bugger. I just discovered that hummers eat insects this last summer while watching a live webcam of a hummingbird nest.

09-18-2010, 09:50 PM
Your hummer is absolutely gorgeous! I love the feather texture and flashing iridescent color, the Polychromos pencils really are your best ones! Perfect hummer. I love doing them but I don't think I've done this one ever, I'd remember those colors.

09-23-2010, 07:29 PM
This next bird is a Golden-crowned Sparrow. This species is found only in the northwest corner of the US, up from there into Canada and Alaska - so it is a bird eastern birders who haven't been out here yet are always excited to see on their first visit. At our house, they are winter residents, and they started showing up a couple weeks ago. This bird is shown in non-breeding or juvenile plumage, meaning that the 'golden' color on the crown that gives the species its name is not as vivid as in breeding season. In breeding plumage, the top of the head has a solid bright yellow/gold cap. In non-breeding or juvenile plumage, the black is pretty much completely gone, and the remaining yellow is more 'diluted' than in a breeding bird.

Done in about a half hour in a Moleskine 8x5" sketchbook using Polychromos pencils.

C&C always welcome.


09-23-2010, 10:50 PM
This is gorgeous. I like the modeling on the body and that lively pose, it's beautiful. Thanks for all the information on it too, that's one of the things I always enjoy with your bird pieces.

09-23-2010, 11:16 PM
Cheeky little bird. Very nice pose on this one. Thanks for the info. I'm learning so much about birds through you.

09-24-2010, 04:47 AM
This one is lovely - your fluidity and confidence is really growing with these as you go - he's full of life

09-24-2010, 09:10 PM
Thanks Robert, Debby and Vivien! I do feel like it's getting a bit easier to get the birds reasonably accurate - at least in the journals where I'm not drawing from life. Even with the from-life birds, I'm getting some more confidence. Practice works...!

This bird I decided to draw after finding a very big and fun 'mixed flock' of migrating birds this morning at the nearby natural area. A lot of birds (to people's surprise) migrate at night. Then what they do is land around daylight and spend the morning feverishly moving through the vegetation finding food and stocking up for the next flight. In the afternoon they tend to rest up before leaving. So I went out this morning and found a flock with six warbler species in it (a really big number for out here, where we have fewer warbler species than back east) plus another four non-warbler species, it was a fun half hour or so watching them. I'll be drawing the other warblers for the next few birds as well.

This one is a Yellow-rumped Warbler, which is one of the most common warblers in the US, across the country. Here the folded wings obscure the yellow patch on the rump that gives them the name - it's very visible when they fly, inspiring their birders' nickname: Butterbutts. This is the Audubon's subspecies, with a yellow throat patch. The Myrtle subspecies is identical to this except it has a white throat patch. The reference here was a photo that I took several years ago. Done with Polychromos colored pencils in my A5 Moleskine sketchbook.

C&C always welcome.


09-25-2010, 02:10 AM
John, loving the details in this one!

09-25-2010, 02:59 AM
Thanks, Jackie! I felt pretty good about how this one came out. However, it needs a small streak of white eye ring - actually half a ring above and below. I need to add it with gouache.

The bird sketches from life are helping with the ones I'm doing from references as well - the ones from photos seem like a piece of cake because they don't move...! :lol:

09-25-2010, 03:10 AM
I agree with Jackie. The details are great. Pencils really can give you that level of detail.

09-25-2010, 09:20 PM
I have spent the last four hours reading this thread and LOVED every minute of it.

You keep stating that you are only new to art, yet your AZRT BELIES you totally, you are an AMAZING artist, and the information that you are providing at the same time, makes me want to become a "birder" too, but physically that is just not possible, so instead I go over to my Aunties place and watch about 40 rainbow lorrekets feed at there feeders. It is sooo beautiful and next time, I am taking the camera..... YOU HAVE MADE ME WANT TO TRY PAINTING THEM!!!!!!

THANKYOU for all of your hard work and information, and KEEP GOING, I LOVE it!!!!!

09-25-2010, 09:55 PM
I love the detail and accuracy on the little yellow-rumped warbler. That's so beautiful. You got in the lower white eye ring anyway, but I can see that you'd want to put in the rest. Thank you for mentioning that along with it. The feet and bill are exquisite, you're really getting better with feet and bills. Gorgeous!

09-25-2010, 11:33 PM
Thanks Debby and Robert!

And thank you, Stacey! Wow, that's a lot of thread-reading to do - glad you enjoyed it. Birds are one of my primary passions, and they are a great fit with art as well - when I'm out painting plein air, or sketching nature subjects (and birds, of course) the birds are there to observe as well. :wave:

09-26-2010, 12:43 AM
I am soooooo glad that you are doing these, and are giving the information at the same time.


09-26-2010, 11:29 AM
Thanks, Stacey!

These birds are Wild Turkeys, a bird that almost became our national bird instead of the eagle (Benjamin Franklin considered the Bald Eagle to be 'lazy' and 'a bully' - anthropomorphizing two traits of eagle behavior). Wild Turkeys are nothing like their domesticated distant relatives, and are very tough and wily birds. Wild Turkeys are now in more parts of the US than they were when the colonists arrived, for a variety of reasons, and in some areas have actually become pests. Tom (male) turkeys during breeding season sometimes get aggressive toward people, and a twenty pound turkey with large spurs can be a bit intimidating. Here is a link showing one that chased me back into my car when I was doing a volunteer bird survey for a wildlife biologist in a watershed. http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=8407897&cat=38976. If you click NEXT from this image, you'll see several more of the bird 'strutting' - their mating display, where they fan their tail, puff up their feathers, drag their wings on the ground to make an intidmidating sound and generally make fools of themselves like males everywhere when looking for love...! :lol:

This image is done with Pitt artist pens in an A4 Moleskine sketchbook, using a reference photo from the Sep 24th WDE. It took about an hour. I opted not to add any additional background since I was ok with how the birds came out and didn't want to chance making the drawing worse rather than better. :)

C&C always welcome.


Carole A
09-26-2010, 01:02 PM
OMG John ~ I would not want that guy charging me. I tried unsuccessfullly last fall to get a photo of a wild turkey up near Mt. Hood. He or she would have none of it, ran into the brush and hid. I could hear it in the brush later but never saw it again. When is their mating season? Just so I'll know to avoid them then.

Your warbler in post 184 is so great. You did a great job on the colors, and the eye.


09-26-2010, 06:45 PM
Yup, those wild turkeys are everywhere. Great job on the sketch.

09-27-2010, 08:31 AM
FANTASTIC drawing of the Turkeys, though I have never seen one, I am fascinated by there antics that I have seen in doco's and on utube.
THANKYOU again for the info about them too!!!!!

09-27-2010, 11:42 AM
Thank you Carole, Debby and Stacey! :wave:

Carole - Breeding season for Wild Turkeys is in the spring, from about mid-April through May in the Pacific NW (and a good part of the rest of the country). That's when the toms become (or attempt to become) dominant toward the other toms, and do their strutting displays as in my picture link.

In the summer after nesting, you'll see the young ones with the hens, and the toms are usually pretty solitary, but not always. In the fall they start to flock together with toms, hens and juveniles and stay in small to (sometimes) very large flocks over the winter.

A lot of ground-nesting birds are in trouble in this country because of habitat loss and predation by an increasing coyote population, but turkeys are an exception for a number of reasons - one of the major ones being that they roost in trees at night, which precludes any nocturnal predators.

09-29-2010, 12:42 PM
Here is one I did last night in about half an hour, using one of my photos as a reference. It is in Polychromos colored pencils and the 5 x 8" Moleskine sketchbook.

This little guy is a Golden-crowned Kinglet. This species and another kinglet (the Ruby-crowned Kinglet) are widespread across the US, but are winter visitors in most of the country as they are for us. So it's always fun when they show up, but unfortunately you know that colder weather is not too far behind. Kinglets are smaller even than chickadees, and are as active as chickadees or warblers, so they are very tough to get good photos (and certainly sketches from life!) of. This is complicated by the fact that they tend to forage in the middle to top canopy layer, and here where we have 100 foot fir trees many places, that makes it tough. The Golden-crowned is easy to locate in a given area by hearing them if your hearing is still good enough to hear very high pitched short whistles or squeaks. But often you'll hear a good-sized flock (they tend to forage together, or mixed in with chickadees and other small birds) all around you and you have to look and look and look until you finally see movement and can get a glimpse of one through the binoculars.

I was lucky with the reference photo here, as this bird showed up at my work feeders a few years ago. I actually took the photo through the office window because I figured if I took the time to go outside, the bird wouldn't be there.

C&C welcome.


Carole A
09-29-2010, 02:24 PM
John, I'm going to have to keep my ears tuned for this little guy. And thanks for the great rendition of him.

Today on our walk, we heard an owl, but I'm not educated enough in bird calls to know what kind. Probably a horned owl though as we saw a nest in the spring with a young one in it. He/she was so very cute. Mom flew out of the nest to distract us; it didn't work. :)


09-29-2010, 03:07 PM
John, this golden crowned kinglet is perfect! I love the accurate detail and beautiful textures. He's got a perfect shape. Great shining eyes and well shaped beak, the pose is beautiful too. You do so well with all these birds!

09-29-2010, 03:18 PM
Thanks Carole and Robert!

Carole - The two most commonly-seen (and heard) owl species in the PNW are the Great Horned Owl and the Barred Owl. When they're doing their full vocalization (more on that later) they have easily recognizable hooting cadences. The memory aid that most birders use to differentiate these is to think of the cadence as:


for the Great Horned Owl.



for the Barred Owl.

It may sound silly but when you get used to hearing both calls, it really captures the feeling of their vocalization.

As usual with birds, things are not always 100% cut and dried, and on occasion, the adult birds will shorten or lengthen or otherwise modify this a bit - but 98% of the time with adults, this will immediately tell you what you heard. Where it gets tricky, particularly with Barred Owls is when the young owlets are in the "brancher" phase (can't fly yet, but are scrambling all around the tree and out on branches, including sometimes falling to the ground and having to scramble/flap their way back up the tree) or have just fledged but are still being fed by mom and dad. The young (and to some degree adults) at this period let out some just really bizarre sounds, some of which (to me) sound a bit like monkeys or chimps hooting. At this time of year, however, all that silliness is over, the owlets are on their own and the vocalizations should be normal.

Common wisdom, of course, is that all owls 'hoot'. Not true. Many species of owls have a much different vocalization. However, most of those species are not heard or seen nearly as frequently as the Great Horned and Barred, which are at the top of the pecking order within the owl family. These two big owls will actually kill other owls or drive them out of their territory sometimes.

Birding by ear as it's called is a very useful skill to have as a birder, but it takes many years and continual practice to know anywhere near all the species even in one area. They have songs, contact calls, chips, scolding vocalizations and alarm calls that are different from one another - and many of the 'chips' (to me anyway) are very similar so it takes a lot of practice to differentiate them.

09-29-2010, 05:52 PM
Great pose on the kinglet. You have some wonderful photography skills as well as drawing ability.

09-30-2010, 11:23 AM
Thank you, Debby! :wave:

Here is the 'other kinglet' species - the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Since I have been sketching birds from life, I've been trying to loosen up my sketching (and painting) style...always puzzles me why this is SO hard to do (for me at least). So what I did here was to get two of my photos of this species (actually I think my only two photos, given the difficulty of focusing on something this small and this active) and sketch them using woodless graphite. There is about ten minutes in each of these and they still look a bit too tight, but overall it was helpful for what I was trying to do.

These are in an 8.5 x 11 inch Robert Bateman recycled sketchbook using woodless graphite - 2B, 4B, 6B.

These birds are a yellowish-olive color overall, with small cream/ivory wing bars and a darker brown area below the second wingbar (an important field mark for separating from Hutton's Vireo). One interesting thing that I tried to show here is that they have yellow 'boots' for feet. The 'leg' is a brownish-gray but the 'feet' or technically speaking toes are a fairly bright yellow. You have to get very close to see this, but it's kind of interesting when you do. Hutton's Vireos do not have the yellow feet.

C&C always welcome.


09-30-2010, 12:23 PM
Great work on the turkeys! They look like they're on the move.

09-30-2010, 06:32 PM
I love the Ruby Crowned Kinglet! That's magnificent! Love the little bright yellow feet. Gorgeous! That second pose is so powerful, so natural. Wonderful detail and accuracy. Thanks for the story too!

I would love to see this one in color, any chance of doing a color version?

09-30-2010, 06:56 PM
Thanks Raymond and Robert!

Yes, Robert, I'm pretty sure I'll be doing a color version at some point. They are pretty basic in that department, though. Pretty much monochrome except for the wing bars, and the 'theoretical' ruby crown from which it gets its name. I say theoretical because it is not often seen. There is a patch of ruby-colored feathers on the top of the head, but normally it just lays down against the skull and is barely visible. When the bird is agitated or you are in exactly the right spot, then you can see it. But except for the crown, the yellow feet are the most colorful part of the bird. Still, it's worth doing, and I will at some point.

Oh, I also thought it might be of interest to people to tell you the nickname another bird artist who I know from another website dedicated to bird art gave this species. He calls it 'the flying hiccup' because it flits around in a constant, herky-jerky manner and it often impossible to get a good look at, let alone a sketch from life.

09-30-2010, 08:59 PM
That's cool! I'll be looking forward to the color version, though I see what you mean about the ruby crown only being visible if you're looking down at the little guy. Whether it shows or not I think it'd be beautiful in color with the yellow feet. Great story about the flying hiccup! Must be crazy to try to follow!

09-30-2010, 10:25 PM
The little birds are so lively. It's no wonder this little one is hard to follow and photograph. But, you've done a marvelous job on it.

10-08-2010, 04:34 PM
Thanks Robert and Debby! Well, with my focus of late being on the October sketchbook challenge, the other threads have been slipping. So last night I sketched - from one of my photos - a Fox Sparrow using woodless graphite. The Fox Sparrow winters in our area, and during the breeding season is found further north or at higher elevations in our state. It lacks the more significant striping on the head found in a lot of other sparrow species, and is immediately recognizable from the chevron-shaped markings on its breast and belly. Plus it has a very distinctive and loud 'chip' sound when it is vocalizing - which is helpful because it usually stays buried pretty deeply in brush.

C&C always welcome.


10-08-2010, 06:23 PM
Beautiful work!

10-08-2010, 08:15 PM
Good work on this one. Thanks again for the background information.

10-08-2010, 10:07 PM
You found time for a sketchbook other than the October challenge?! Good stuff!

10-09-2010, 01:31 AM
Hi John,

I think EACH and EVERYONE of these drawings and sketches are just BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!! I LOVE them ALL!!!!

Gentle Hugs, Stacey

02-19-2011, 01:29 PM
Thanks Jeanne, Debby, Jackie and Stacey for looking!

Well, I decided to resurrect this thread since I just did a couple pieces that fit here more than any of the other journal threads I have going on.

After making it almost through the winter without catching the nasty crud that has been going around, I came down with it last Monday and am still fighting it. With almost no energy, I did manage to do a couple of drawings while resting in the recliner. These two are both 9 x 12 graphite drawings on Canson Mi Tientes pastel paper (smooth side) and each have probably two hours in them. Both were done from photo references of mine taken over the last couple years.

The first, the good ol' American Crow, I liked as a graphite project because the photo was taken with the bird mostly in bright sunshine and so the details of the feathers showed up, rather than the bird being all totally dark. The second, a Blue-winged Teal, is a fairly difficult duck to find in our area so I was pleased to get a nice profile shot of a bird on a friend's pond during nesting season. I'll probably do a color version of the full bird on the water later as well. The crow is on a middle gray tone paper with some mottling, and the duck is on an off-white sheet.

C&C always welcome.



02-19-2011, 05:09 PM
Sorry you have been sick, John. Hope you are all recovered soon.

That crow is just beautiful, the feathers are magnificent. The graphite on that gray mottled paper is very cool looking. Nice work on the duck as well.

02-19-2011, 09:01 PM
Sorry you've been ill. Feel better soon.

That crow is magnificent. Good choice of paper and media.

The duck is something I'd love to see in color. How can you go wrong with the name blue-winged teal? :)

02-20-2011, 12:22 AM
I like them both John, but the Crow is super! The dark shadows under a few wing feathers really make it look so 3 dimensional! I love the beautiful black birds in my neighborhood, and they have interesting loud calls. Not many crow fans around, guess you & I just have good taste in birds. I need to learn the difference between crows, blackbirds, and other species. My first bird drawings are not so hot but I want to keep at it. You would like Ernest Ward's threads- do you know his work?

02-20-2011, 02:15 AM
Thanks Rainy, Debby and Candace!

Candace - I am definitely a fan of crows (and other Corvids, the family to which crows belong). Yes, I checked out Earnest's threads (he does very nice work) when they first started. One of the wonderful things about WetCanvas is the fact that the vast majority of folks take the time to show interest in and comment on other people's work as well as expecting people to show interest in their own...

02-20-2011, 11:32 PM
Hi John, I just paged through your bird sketchbook, glad you decided to resurrect the thread. The crow is outrageously good. Duck is good too, he definitely would be quite cool in color in the pond. I hope you are feeling better soon. You certainly kept your pencils busy even if you are stuck in the recliner. The birds are massing around here, I imagine they are making their way back up from wherever they winter. I was sitting on the deck watching whole flocks land in the trees around me today, and I thought of you, like wouldn't it be cool if John were here, he'd know what these birds are! I decided it was time to take the binocs back out with me whenever I go out there as you never know what might be coming through, but if I run for eyes, they are gone.

02-21-2011, 12:50 AM
Hi Margo,

Thanks for checking the thread! And yes, I would enjoy being in your neck of the woods this time of year. There are signs of spring happening up here already, although we have had very cold (for us) nights the last three days - mid 20's. However, it's been sunny and in the 40's during the day, with the days getting longer, and a bunch of the male birds have started staking out territories and singing - always great to hear! The early nesters (Anna's Hummingbird, a winter resident here, believe it or not) and multiple owl species are already incubating, and raptors are pairing up. There is a pair of Peregrine Falcons that has nested on the cliffs at very famous Snoqualmie Falls about a mile (as the falcon flies) from our house for six years now and looks to be getting ready for a seventh. They have successfully fledged around 20 young already, which is an amazingly productive pair. The beauty of that pair is that their nest (actually a 'scrape' because unlike most bird species they don't actually build a nest, they simply scrape out a depression on an inacessible ledge somewhere) is always on cliffs directly across from viewing areas for the Falls. So the local birders often set up scopes to watch the progress of the eggs, and then the young, and we offer tourists a chance to see the birds if they're interested. Most people are blown away when they see the all-white downy chicks flapping around 150 feet or so off the ground on a skinny ledge.

We get the migrants in our area starting in March, with a peak from mid-April through the end of May. May is the 'gotta get out and bird' month for the serious folks here...I try to get out every day.

If you ever get a picture and are curious about what a bird is, let me know and I'd be happy to ID it.

02-21-2011, 03:18 AM
that crow is great :)

02-21-2011, 08:58 AM
I agree, the crow is outrageously good. Really a drawing of light.

02-21-2011, 03:31 PM
Thanks so much John. I would be one of the tourists glued to the spot watching the Peregrines. There was a pair that nested in a tower in downtown Austin when I used to do research down there. We'd sit outside the courthouse watching for them. It was such a thrill. I had red tail hawks nesting in a tree behind my house last year. Unfortunately the tree was cut down so I don't know where they will be nesting this year. I did get to watch the young hawk quite a bit when he made his first few flights. I was thrilled beyond belief!

02-24-2011, 12:46 PM
Thanks Vivien, Kema and Margo!

Here is a 10 1/4 x 14 inch watercolor version of the Blue-winged Teal. It is not a great effort, having some significant issues, but it gives a bit of an idea about the color of the bird at least. The name, by the way, comes from the blue 'speculum' which is a group of feathers at the trailing edge of the wings. Generally the speculum is not visible unless the bird is in flight so if you saw this species sitting as shown here, you would wonder where the name comes from.

C&C always welcome.


02-24-2011, 03:29 PM
Hi John. . . I like the colored version of the duck, good that you mentioned about his shading as I was wondering that about the blue wings :)

02-24-2011, 10:00 PM
Great painting of the duck. I was hoping for blue wings. Thanks for explaining why I don't get to see them.

02-27-2011, 10:56 AM
Very nice John.

I got a very cool book last night. Birds Their Life, Their Ways , Their World. I'm stoked. The illustrations are very nice and will give me something to practice from so when I see birds in life I will be better able to sketch them without trying so hard to figure out structure. I think you may be influencing us all with your fab drawings and paintings, more than you imagine!

02-28-2011, 02:07 AM
Thanks Rainy, Debby and Margo!

Margo - Congrats on the book! There are lots of great bird books out there...it's sort of like art supplies: always something more to buy. So, don't get hooked too badly!

This is tonight's sketch of a Short-eared Owl. It is 9 x 12 on Mi Tientes pastel paper, in graphite, done from a reference photo. Owls are great birds, but tough to see typically, as most (but not all) of the species are nocturnal. Short-eared Owls often hunt in the daytime, so when they're around they're not hard to see. These birds are winter visitors to our area, mostly about 60 to 80 miles north of where I live, although a couple years ago there was one in the valley about two miles from our house.


02-28-2011, 08:50 AM
wow, that is a lovely drawing, John! nice foreshortening on the body and love the pose/composition of it. very well done!!

02-28-2011, 11:32 AM
Gorgeous John! Such a magnificent job on his face.

02-28-2011, 07:42 PM
Marvelous. Got the hunter look in the eyes.

03-01-2011, 08:47 PM
Thanks Rainy, Margo and Debby! I'm going to do a painting of this bird, hopefully fairly soon.

Joan T
03-02-2011, 01:03 PM
John - I am constantly amazed by your bird sketches, and the information you have about them. Great to see these!

03-02-2011, 01:17 PM
Well I'm eager to see your painted version John!

03-02-2011, 08:11 PM
Oops, just catching up!:D Lots more nice birds, John. :clap:

03-03-2011, 01:45 AM
Thank you Joan, Margo and Chris! :wave:

03-03-2011, 11:00 PM
Great owl, such odd faces they have. I had the pleasure once a few years ago to see one quite close about dawn, apparently flying home low & slow for some shut-eye. Wow they are wonderful and huge and dramatic birds! Do the painting and definitely post it for us!

03-03-2011, 11:58 PM
Thanks, Candace! Yes, these guys are slow and low flyers. They remind me a lot of Northern Harriers, and in fact in areas where both those species are wintering together, the harriers will often try (and succeed) in stealing prey from the owls.

03-15-2011, 07:43 PM
Here are a couple of sketches done from photos before classes I'm taking - not much time spent on each. Because of traffic issues, I always leave myself plenty of time to get to school and so often arrive early, and try to sketch for a few minutes before class.

The first one is a couple of nuthatches, drawn from a photo in Tim Wootton's wonderful new book Drawing and Painting Birds. The next two were done before my Art Business class. The first is a Rufous Hummingbird, done from a photo I took a few years ago. The second of these two is a Barn Swallow, again from a photo of mine. All these were done in a Handbook 'Travelogue' sketchbook - 5 1/2 x 8 inches, started in sepia Pitt pen, and then using Pitt markers.

C&C always welcome.




03-15-2011, 08:05 PM
Cool sketches John! I'm waiting for my hummers to return, nice to have a quick siting here.

03-16-2011, 01:14 PM
Great sketches. Awesome that even with your busy schedule you are finding time to sketch.

03-16-2011, 01:42 PM
Thanks Margo and Debby!

The good news is that I'm busy because of art and art classes...! And, as of next Tuesday, no more classes (I've opted not to take any in the spring quarter) and a lot more time to go outside to sketch and paint (assuming the really wet spring we're having dries out at some point).

03-16-2011, 05:35 PM
wonderful pen sketches, John! I really like the handbook journals. . . glad you are making time to sketch and enjoying classes

03-16-2011, 11:22 PM
Love the little Nuthatches. Always a pleasure to see your work.

03-18-2011, 01:01 AM
These are a nice addition, John. The linework in the first one give the nuthatches a sense of movement, if that makes sense. I enjoy seeing little birds like this - they seem to be curious when they land near you before darting off on more important business.

04-14-2011, 11:41 AM
Thanks Rainy, Candace and Chris!

As usual, I have too many irons in the fire and haven't been keeping up with some of the projects as much as I would like to. So last night I pulled out the sketchbook and did a quick graphite version of a Sage Thrasher from a friend's photo. In this case, 'local bird' means in our state, as this is a dry-side-of-the-mountains species, as the name implies. Right now is the best time of the year to see them, as the males sit on the top of a sagebrush bush in their territory and sing away. After breeding season is over, these birds stay hidden in the brush and are very tough to find. They are unfortunately declining in numbers significantly as well, as much of the 'barren' sagebrush habitat in our state continues to be lost to development or farming.


04-14-2011, 12:42 PM
Pleased to have met such a well rendered bird.

04-14-2011, 03:32 PM
Love the Nut hatchersAnd the thrush.
The crow in blue though takes the cake.

04-14-2011, 05:29 PM
nice drawing, John. I picture him as brown since he's a sagebrush/desert living dude? Is that right? Too bad a about them become fewer . . . that is always so very sad.

04-14-2011, 05:44 PM
Thanks Margo, Elain and Rainy!

Yes, Rainy, you are correct - this species is pretty much slight variations of brown, lighter brown, darker brown, and buff. On the more colorful species, I'll try to do a watercolor version, not just a pencil sketch. :)

04-14-2011, 06:26 PM
Great sketch. I agree, sad about the declining numbers due to loss of habitat.