Watercolor of a tulip, loose and free

A watercolor sketch of a fading tulip by Wren M. Allen

Observational art doesn’t have to be tight and detailed! This loose, gestural watercolor sketch offers a strong impression of a dying tulip flower.

I painted this rough sketch of a fading tulip on Tuesday in Lisa Coddington’s class at Santa Fe Community College.

Loose, gestural painting is fun and relaxing, a nice break from the tight and tiny markmaking common to botanical illustration style.

I selected a limited palette for this watercolor: Winsor-Newton’s Permanent Magenta and Rose; Ultramarine Blue (W-N and Daniel Smith), Daniel Smith’s Hansa Yellow Light, and a few touches of Holbein’s Opera and Alizarin Crimson.

Fortunately, I took a few snaps on my phone, so I can have the option to work with this faded beauty in a more detailed fashion at a later date.

The fruit of winter’s labor: A painting of red Indian corn

"Red Indian Corn" colored pencil and watercolor on paper, 30" x 22", by Wren M. Allen.

So many details! Working on this 30″ x 22″ mixed-media (colored pencil and watercolor on paper) painting, “Red Indian Corn,” challenged and developed my rendering skills.

I’m so pleased to share this image with you all! This depiction of an ear of red Indian (or decorative) corn has been challenging me all autumn and winter long. First came the difficulty of composing the contour drawing, with the wildly flying dried leaves of the husk. Then figuring out how to render the glossy texture and subtle colorings of the kernels became an obsession. My final quest was balancing the pale, dramatic movement of the husk against the weight of the darker column of the cob.

This particular ear of corn ignited my inspiration over the other corn cobs I bought at an Española farm stand because of its wild, waving leaves curving around the vertical cob in a perfect example of Matisse’s “arabesque”. My working title, in fact, was “Wild-Haired”.

At the beginning of March, I realized I might actually be able to make an exhibit submissions deadline if I could complete the image. All my creative time this month has been devoted to this beauty, instead of blogging or working on my classwork for Lisa Coddington’s spring bulbs course. Time well spent, I’d say! :-)

A great weekend to all!

Some birdwatching tips

Improve the odds of seeing interesting birds on your hikes.

Not all birds are as cooperative as a mourning dove at a bird feeder! Photo by the Wrenaissance Man.

My tally for the Great Backyard Bird Count was embarrassingly paltry—2 American robins. Hardly worth uploading the results to the website. The towhees, flickers, and pestilent red finches that are usually hopping about our house and yard were nowhere to be seen. Even the ever-present ravens made themselves scarce during my designated 15-minute observation period.

Of course, I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of birdwatching: Go out when the birds are most active. Here are some tips on how to observe more birds, if you were like me and have a hard time seeing birds when you go out hiking or walking:

  • Go out when the birds are most active. Generally, that’s just before sunrise and sunset. Those awesome videos of starlings flying in formation? They were nearly all shot near sunset, as the flock was looking for a roost for the night.
  • Look where birds like to feed and water. Trees and bushes that bear fruit or nuts attract hungry birds. Puddles after rain showers are popular for bathing and drinking. Or you can set up a feeder and birdbath in your backyard.
  • Be willing to sit quietly in one spot for a while. Our human tendency is to talk loudly and move around suddenly. This makes birds nervous. Try just siting and looking around, allowing the birds to get comfortable and start acting naturally again.
  • Learn the different songs and calls of the birds you want to see. You would be amazed just how many more birds you can identify once you learn what they sound like!

Resources:

Now that birdwatching season is starting to heat up, these websites are a great source for info and advice.

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