Happy Draw-a-Bird-Day! I mentioned in my last post that I had started the Cornell Lab Bird Academy Nature Journaling and Field Sketching course and had completed two lessons. Two months later, I’m on lesson 3, which has 3 little assignments, and I’m on the third, which involves comparing two similar entities that I observe in nature. I chose Surf Scoters and White-Winged Scoters because they are similar-looking diving ducks that choose to spend the winter on Lake Ontario near Burlington, Ontario, where I live. I think I’ll have all the scoter drawings and paintings done by next month.
Today’s post is all about the first assignment: Jump Right In! Jump Right In involved drawing or painting a male Yellow Warbler in my nature journal, using a course-provided photo. I bought the recommended 24-watercolour Koi palette box and Moleskine journal, and I watched an inspiring video where different people showed how they used their nature journals, so I was keen to try watercolour painting again, after avoiding watercolours since July 2016. I didn’t jump in though. No way! I got to know the colours in my palette box by making colour swatches. I looked at the Yellow Warbler photo and the dry swatches, and I knew what colours to use!!!
The first watercolours I bought, in January 2016, were Grumbacher tubes – cool and warm primaries and a few earth tones like burnt umber and yellow ochre. These were the recommended paints for a beginners’ watercolour course in Calgary. To me, using tubes and mixing colours from primaries feels scary. Using a field palette box with 24 colours feels much easier. After painting the warbler, I was excited about that little victory, so I jumped into painting another small, similarly coloured bird, a male Western Tanager. I saw a few Western Tanagers in Edmonton, but in Burlington, they are very unlikely to make an appearance. Scarlet Tanagers are more likely sightings here.
The waterbrush that comes with the Koi palette box also simplifies the assortment of necessary painting materials. The handle of the waterbrush holds water which wets the brush bristles when squeezed. I’ve noticed that a lot of watercolour sketchers on the internet use this brush, but I found it impossible to control the amount of water that came out. So after using it for two bird paintings, I took my little assortment of taklon brushes out of retirement and found two water jars and a water dropper (for adding a few drops of water to paint).
My next nature journal bird was also an excursion outside of the journaling course. I can’t remember why, but I drew the Carolina Wrens with non-waterproof ink. Maybe this was when my waterproof Micron pen ran out of ink? Painting over runny, black ink sounded yucky so I thought I’d try using black ink washes. I finally opened the bottle of black ink I bought two years ago! October of this year was my first time seeing Carolina Wrens. I love the way they look and move and sound! I drew the wrens from photos I took in November.
I’m looking forward to doing some nature journalling outdoors this spring, but for now, I’m practicing my skills indoors.