Bird Art, Nova Scotia bird art, Watercolour pencil

Whisky Jack-two ways

The Grey Jay, also known as ‘Whisky Jack’, is an engaging little bird, inquisitive and busy but not always easy to see, preferring coniferous woods, low trees and bogs. It is found in every province and territory of Canada, which makes it the first choice for Canada’s National Bird, a choice I heartily agree with!

Last year, Mark was privileged to be invited for a day at Ellis d’Entremont’s camp in Cranberry Bog, where he has a group of remarkably obliging Grey Jays that provided lots of entertainment and photo opportunities. I always particularly liked one shot, of a bird looking over it’s shoulder whilst stood in a colourful bare twig and have had a go at portraying this pose on a couple of occasions.

Firstly, last year, it got the pen and ink treatment.


I was quite pleased with the resulting image, since the subtleties of plumage can be difficult to portray in only shades of grey and black, using lines and stippling! My pen of choice is a technical drawing pen with a 01 nib. I bought a box of these (Zebra Drafix) back when we lived in the UK (so 14 years!) and they are still going strong!

I recently decided to upgrade this image to a painting. After using only one set of pencils (the Supracolors) on the Piping Plover portrait, I thought it would be fun to try the same exercise using the Derwent Watercolours. In fact, I realised that I’d never tried to do that before, I’d always subbed in pencils from other sets. Perhaps a picture of a grey bird was not the best choice for using a set that I’d already stated is a bit limited on greys, but it forced me to be a bit less literal in choosing colours! In fact, the ‘Grey’ Jay has quite a few colours in it’s plumage and, again, for fun, I listed the colours used in the picture:

Bird French grey, burnt umber, gunmetal, ivory black, smalt blue, blue grey, silver grey, sepia, chocolate, burnt carmine, raw sienna, raw umber, Vandyke brown.

Twigs Geranium lake, venetian red, burnt umber, French grey, deep vermillion, madder carmine, bronze

Background Olive green, bronze, raw sienna

I also deliberately tried to draw faster and a little looser, as my work has been described as ‘technical illustration’ style, which is fine but I’d like to make it a bit more lively. It was certainly faster, being finished in an afternoon (although it is not as large as the last few pictures). I hope I managed to portray a little of the liveliness of these charming birds.

grey jay 2 rs watermark

‘Whisky Jack’, Grey Jay, 8 x 10 inch, Derwent Watercolour pencil on 90 lb cold press watercolour paper.


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