Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Our Feeder is Busy Again

12/13/18 Dark-eyed junco

As we did last year, we put our feeder back up on Thanksgiving weekend. Almost immediately, it became a popular place with juncos, chickadees and goldfinches. When we first got the feeder, we were buying 10-pound bags of feed, one at a time, from our local Audubon Society office. This year we went ahead and bought a 20-pound bag at the beginning of the season; we have no doubt the tiny birds will go through it. While we were there, we joined the society so that we could take advantage of the member discount and also support its work.

To sketch the birds, I’m again using a pocket-size Stillman & Birn sketchbook (Epsilon this year instead of Beta). I have two goals this year: The first is to make larger sketches. Last year, I thought that if I drew smaller, I would be faster, so nearly all my sketches were only about one inch long, but I couldn’t capture many details that way. Now I’m trying for at least two to three inches.

12/15/18 Goldfinch
My second goal is to not only capture their gesture – make them look like individual, living birds and not generic stuffed ones – but also to be as accurately detailed as possible. The sketches of the juncos you see here were made over the course of a few days, a few details at a time, because they move so quickly and don’t stay long when they perch. If I can’t capture a detail fast enough in a sketch, I take notes, so each sketch becomes a reference for the next one. The goldfinch sketches were done in one sitting because once they perch, they tend to stay longer.

My pencil of choice for bird sketching is the Staedtler Karat Aquarell, which I mentioned in my post about how I use hard and soft water-soluble colored pencils together. Other than vintage pencils and novelty sets that are hardly useable, the Staedtlers are the hardest watercolor pencils I own. Artist grade and heavily pigmented, they can maintain a firm point for a long time while I try to capture the beautiful chevron pattern that the wings of the male goldfinch form on his back as he chows down at the buffet.

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