We spotted about a dozen Dark-eyed Juncos last week. I’m a little fascinated at how the same bird has a range of variations. I’ve been spending more time studying anatomy and the feather map. Juncos make for great reference.
I’ve spent the past few days thinking about this pair of Mergansers that visit a nearby pond each year. A quick internet search will return more photographs of the male and its signature white on black full crest.
Drawing these crests can be deceptive. Male or female I was tempted to draw one big circular form. That ignores what we know about feather groups on the face. When the Merganser has it’s crest down the feather groups are much clearer. The white is essentially the eyeliner. The crown, auricular (feathers covering the ear) and eyebrow are all black.
An easier way to think of the Merganser’s dramatic mohawk-like head is to compare it with Cardinals or Blue Jays. The feathers of the crown are just longer than other birds of the same family. A little knowledge about feather groups goes a long way. We don’t have to draw every feather but knowing direction and volume shifts help.
So why did I choose to draw the female instead? While sometimes subtle, there are more shifts in color with clearer beginning and endpoints of feather groups. The beautiful rusty red is also nice to look at.
I’m late sending out holiday cards stuck on what bird to paint. I remember a friend sent me a photo they saw online of a strawberry finch. A Saturday afternoon watching videos of these dramatic and unique finches resulted in this drawing. I used a little permanent gouache for the bird’s striking spots.
As the name implies this is a smooth looking bird especially when alert. It’s tempting to treat the chest, wing and mantle as one volume. I didn’t get to do much drawing today so this was a welcome meditation.
This was a satisfying pencil drawing and then I decided to try a gouache stain over parts of it. I immediately regretted it but kept going in the hopes of salvaging the sketch. It’s a sketch in a sketchbook. The point is to allow room for mistakes.
They’re fairly common but get confused as just another little brown bird lumped in with sparrows. A little stocker in appearance even when the feather groups tighten up when they are on alert. I didn’t get too deep into showing their barring on the wings and tail. I may have actually played them down a little more. Fun little bird to draw!
I’ve been thinking about the differences between cranes and herons. I love watching Black-crowned Night-Herons and Great Blue Herons fishing or just hanging out. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch Sandhill Cranes but they seem to bring a lot of drama in their movements.