New Series in Progress

I've started a new series of paintings to celebrate the birds that frequent my backyard. 

I've always loved birds but never made a deliberate study of them until last year when my backyard became my safe and happy haven.  We put up a few feeders and suddenly we had a lot of company on our patio!  I painted some last year, but this fall I decided to be a bit more deliberate in creating an actual series of paintings that are all the same size and have a similar background base.  And they also all feature decorated backs with hand-made envelopes filled with poetry and information about each bird.

The first in the series is the Black Phoebe.  This little black and white flycatcher hangs out on our clothesline and darts after flying insects.  The acrobatics are incredible and they almost always get their bug.

Since this is a black and white bird with chestnut highlights in the sun, I decided to limit my palette to 3 colors: blue, brown and white.  Mixed together in varying amounts, I was able to get all the shades I needed to paint a not quite monochromatic portrait.

I darkened the edges with black gesso, then softened them with charcoal (which was very messy and smudgy!)  Then I added in the sketch of the black phoebe.

Once I added in the underpainting, I realized it needed a bit more to balance out the composition.  So I took a piece of clear mylar and sketched a branch on it to test out placement.

Still not convinced, I painted the sketch and tried that...

Finally, I had the composition the way I wanted it.  Time to sketch in the extra branch and start painting paper...

And once I had my paper, the collage went very quickly.

I was thrilled to find a few poems about Phoebes on, so I printed one out and included it in the envelope on the back.

The next bird I painted was a male Anna's Hummingbird.  These birds live year-round in San Diego and are daily visitors at our feeder.  They are sociable and let others share the feeder.  Unlike the Allen's Hummingbird, who when he visits in the Fall, chases everyone away. 

After I sketched him out, I decided to do a color study.

I had originally planned to paint him with just 3 colors (plus white) -- yellow, magenta and cyan.  But the orange created by the yellow and magenta didn't vibrate beautifully so I added in pyrolle orange.  And I was able to get all the colors I needed from just these 5 bottles of paint.  It's pretty amazing!

And then I painted paper to match, using maps and other local ephemera.

I had a lot of fun printing this paper and embellishing it with shimmery interference paints that color-shift the way hummingbird feathers do. (I learned a cool thing about hummingbird feathers!  They have special cells called melanosomes that are kind of like soap bubbles in that they are colorless, but reflect a rainbow of colors.  Hummingbirds have flatter and more oval melanosomes so their colors shift more dramatically and have such rich colors.)

And the flower starts to go in. They are a popular variety in our area: Mexican Vermillion Bluffs Sage (Salvia darcyi). 

Finished with the flowers and adding in the head and body feathers.

I was on a roll, so I stayed up late and finished him!

And as soon as I posted him on Facebook, I got a text from a collector in Ohio who had to have him!  So, Mr. Anna's Hummingbird is on his way to Ohio!

There are two more birds in the series that are currently in process.  I'll showcase them in the next post.

What are your favorite backyard birds?