It is getting wintry around here, so a ‘year tick’ (in birding terms, a species of bird that you have not seen this year) is very welcome. Marsh Wren is considered to be mostly a transient or vagrant bird in Nova Scotia, with only a few actually nesting here. Added to that, they live deep in reedy marshes and can be reluctant to show themselves well, so I hadn’t actually caught up with one in Nova Scotia at all and Mark was missing one for the year. Therefore a bird found in Broad Brook Park in Yarmouth a couple of weeks ago was a tempting target as part of a shopping trip to the big metropolis (well, they do have Canadian Tire and Walmart there- invaluable for stocking up on bird seed, cat food and toilet paper!).
The bird was readily heard but difficult to see, especially as there was a keen, blustery wind blowing and the reedstalks were in constant motion. Fleeting glimpses were obtained, although no good photos, and we were satisfied with the ‘tick’ obtained. Not satisfied enough, however, since other visitors were obtaining much better views, so we headed back to the park a few days later for another look. This time, we had better luck and Mark took a number of very nice photos. One was of the bird in a pretty standard pose for Marsh Wrens, but that seemed more unusual for a painting, so I was immediately drawn to it.
Lots of fun to be had with this!
I determined to stay with the watercolour pencils for this picture, and firstly drew out the picture with 2B graphite. As per the tip I picked up from a YouTube video, I then went over the picture with a kneadable eraser to lighten the marks and prevent them showing through the final painting. I started, as usual, with the eye since I find that I can relate to the picture as soon as the eye is in place-it’s all about the ‘personality’ of the bird. if I don’t get that right, there’s no point carrying on. I did take a couple of ‘WIP’ pictures of this one…
Part way through painting the bird.
Just started the reeds.
and this is the final piece:
‘Legs Akimbo’, Marsh Wren, 9 x 12 inch watercolour pencil (Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer, Caran d’Ache Supracolor, Derwent Watercolour) on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL).
The new set of watercolour pencils, the Albrecht Durers, have integrated nicely with the older two main sets and I am really enjoying working with them. However, it has caused a bit of an issue in my studio (a posh name for a corner of our shared office!) because I was continually hauling out and laying out the contents of three tins of pencils all over the adjoining desk. It was blocking access to a sunny window for our two cats and, because I tend to leave the pencils out during a piece, I actually lost some pencils into the wastebin when one of the cats tried to pick their way over the desk (I found them before any waste got discarded!). Clearly, I needed some sort of better system.
Well, I think I have found it. I came across this nice little cabinet in IKEA (we have one in NS now!), with a series of shallow drawers that seemed just made to lay out pencils in. It meant a trip to Halifax, but it was raining so why not?
It’s called ‘Alex’ and has three shallow drawers and three slightly deeper ones. I arranged it so that my most used pencil sets were laid out inside each drawer for easy access, starting with the watercolours, of course.
It is not quite big enough to lay out all of my pencils, but the most used sets are all there.
Of course, I don’t want to keep the drawers open all the time, so I devised a ‘work in progress’ tray to keep the pencils, etc., that I’m working with at the time all corralled and safe.
It worked very nicely on this piece, and keeps me much cleaner and tidier! No more lost pencils and brushes in the wastebin. Now, if only I can stop the ex-pickle jar water pot from releasing a powerful whiff of vinegar, every time I take the lid off-but at least it stops the cat from trying to drink it!