When painting a subject that flits around as much as birds, it’s almost impossible to get the right pose, in the good lighting, AND perched on a branch with interesting shapes. Not impossible, but darn close to it. Subsequently, many of my bird paintings are a compilation of several photographs and other reference sources including sketches, direct observation, and color notes. (Watch for future posts where I’ll detail these other sources and methods.)
Inspiration for the painting, Seasons End
Being greeted by the Bluebird’s cheerful melody every time I stepped out the door is one of the things I miss from our old house. They were constant visitors to the yard during the warmer weather months. Every year it was a little sad as Autumn drew to a close and the Bluebirds headed south. But come spring, they’d be back serenading from the Crabapple tree and hunting for bugs in the lawn.
Que the clothespin!
Since birds don’t take direction well, I often use a clothespin as a stand-in, clipping it to a spot on the branch where I’ll place a bird in a future painting.
Two main benefits are…
1. I can decipher the direction of the light by the highlights and shadows cast on the pin.
2. I know the exact measurements of the clothespin and use this to get the proportions correct between the size of the crabapples and a bird.
I carry a clothespin in my purse, several in my backpack, plein air gear, and in Sarah (my Jeep) in the hopes that I will almost always have one with me. On this particular occasion, I’d run to Staples early in the morning for a few errands and was captivated by the early sunlight on the crabapple trees in the parking lot. I snapped lots of photos with my phone and you’ll probably see them used more than once for future paintings.
I often get some strange looks from people wondering what in the heck I’m doing. Sometimes I feel a little self-conscious and wonder if people think I’m weird? By the way, don’t look up weird in a thesaurus – it’ll really make you feel like a freak.
There you have it – the how and why I travel around photographing clothespins clipped to branches. Not that weird, right?