Posted tagged ‘birds’

Books on Painting Water and Bird Photography

July 21, 2017

I want to do up a small watercolour and coloured pencil drawing of a sandpiper to represent a story from my father’s childhood. Now that he’s dead I’d like to get this done and framed. I was going to use Stonehenge paper because I want to do it on a toned surface with minimal background. Strathmore has a new toned mixed media paper that is heavyweight and can take watercolour better but it doesn’t seem to be in Canada yet, so I might wait a bit to see if it shows up in art supply stores in a few weeks, hopefully it won’t take months and months which is the usual way of distributing supplies here.

So for preliminaries I was looking for good photo references. There are several types of sandpipers here and sanderlings as well. Not knowing the particular species, I found a photo of a Western Sandpiper and a Sanderling in books by Glenn Bartley: Birds of British Columbia: A Photographic Journey, published in 2013, and Birds of Vancouver Island: A Photographic Journey, published in 2010 that will be useful.


I like photographic bird books because you can so easily see the exact birds that might be around you. Even my field guide for birds can be confusing, so I loved these two books and see all kinds of references that might be useful for drawing some of my favourite birds.

The other two books I bought are (surprise!) watercolour and pen and ink books on techniques for drawing and painting water and weather, coastal scenes, rivers, rainy streets, rocks, spray, glittering light on water, all kinds of scenarios.


The first is by Claudia Nice, Down by the Sea with Brush & Pen: Draw and Paint Beautiful Coastal Scenes. I have about five of Claudia’s books and they are excellent, and she uses different media. She really covers everything in this, from rough seas to coastal trees, even dogs and children playing at the beach.

The second is by Ron Hazell called The Artist’s Guide to Painting Water in Watercolor: 30 Techniques, and he too has some comprehensive scenes and much information on the way light behaves on water and how to paint that, how to paint reflections.

I just need to wait for the right paper.







Walden and the Brown Thrasher, Which is Not a Thrush

March 20, 2012

I bought myself a Dover Thrift Edition of Walden; or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau for $3.81 CAD. I had an old copy years ago but gave it away and I wanted a copy of my own. I sometimes find Thoreau a bit opinionated and arrogant, even prone to nasty comments about people of foreign culture, but he has some delightful things written about life and nature too.

I turned randomly to a bit and got this in the chapter titled The Bean-Field:

Near at hand, upon the topmost spray of a birch, sings the brown thrasher—or red mavis, as some love to call him—all the morning, glad of your society, that would find out another farmer’s field if yours were not here. While you are planting the seed, he cries,—“Drop it, drop it,—cover it up, cover it up,—pull it up, pull it up, pull it up.” But this was not corn, and so it was safe from such enemies as he. You may wonder what his rigmarole, his amateur Paganini performances on one string or on twenty, have to do with your planting, and yet prefer it to leached ashes or plaster. It was a cheap sort of top dressing in which I had entire faith.

I really liked that. I became curious about the name “red mavis” as we have Brown Thrashers occasionally in our garden so wanted to look this up. “Mavis” comes from the Old French mauvis which has an obscure origin but may come from the word mauve, which makes sense because of the reddish colouring, although mauve is a reddish purple colour rather than reddish brown. Who knows? I knew a fellow who called goldfinches “yellow chickadees;” such strange attachments happen when people take a notion to name things in the natural world.

Another species, the Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos), was sometimes called a mavis, but our Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) is different. The Brown Thrasher is more closely related to Catbirds and Mockingbirds rather than thrushes, as described in Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies.

I can see where in the looser confines of generic description, this might be misidentified as a mavis and then specified as red because of its rufous shading. Mavis is one of those very old and quaint words that we only know today as a name given to girls rather than birds.

Things change, words are lost to time.



What Do We Really Know About Barn Owls?

March 8, 2008

Yeah, well there is the pressing question!

I bought a new card deck called Tarot of Reincarnation which is a silly name since it’s really a themed and fully illustrated deck for the game of tarock, and seems to have nothing to do with reincarnation other than a marketing ploy. I bought it for the lovely illustrations of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles and amphibians–my kind of thing since I like natural history.

The coloured illustrations are set against black and white engravings of habitat. In the little booklet that comes with the deck, some of the subjects are identified fairly broadly. For instance, one is described as a “little owl” when it is really a barn owl as I found out.

A friend suggested that we could study this a bit, and I wanted to more specifically identify the cards and do some research on the animals. He started with the Swordfish on the 2 of Hearts, and I’m doing the Barn Owl on the II High Priestess card.

As a long term study this has possibilities. I love learning, and my favourite decks tend to have illustrations rather than painterly scenes.