As I confessed in the intro I haven't done a lot of sketching as a daily practice or even a slightly regular practice. Now I do seem to love the idea of sketching regularly in sketchbooks. I always seem to be buying new sketchbooks. I start them with great intentions, but I do a few sessions and then quickly seem to get derailed as I dive deep into a new painting project. It is tough to add a new practice in ones already busy life.
But when I was coming to Australia, I was looking for a way to keep on painting. I had new sketchbooks at home, so I brought them with me, as well as gouache paint.
I came with the idea that I would do 1 or 2 larger paintings that would about 40x50cm (16x20) in size. But I very quickly discovered with the touring we are doing and spending time with our son, (which is the reason that we are here) I needed to take a look at my unrealistic expectations.
I have thought about the time that is available to me each week while Alexander is working from Monday through to Thursday. With that in mind, it seems to me that it is far more practical to create smaller paintings in a sketchbook. It is a nice small convenient place to work in.
I am excited about doing a bunch of different paintings from my birding adventures here. I often take a lot of reference images of a wide range of birds which I never paint from. Working in a painting sketchbook I could do birds that I would generally not paint in a larger format.
This sketchbook has 27 spreads. This simply means that when a sketchbook is opened up fully the two pages that you see are called a spread. Now the goal is to see and photograph as many different species of birds as I can. I want to have far more than 27 different birds to choose to work from! After being here for 3 weeks I have already captured images of 27 different types of birds.
I'm still waiting to see other parrots, gallahs, cockatoos and rosellas. All of which are very colourful and totally cool birds. Wish me luck on my hunt for these amazing birds.
I have been out doing lots of birding since I have arrived. I have met some new friends and really enjoyed their company. I went to a Birding NSW (New South Wales) meeting in the first week we were here. I have joined that group on a birding day in the Royal National Park. Thanks to Elisabeth for picking me up. Unfortunately, it had rained heavily the night before and was very windy. The birds were rather quiet that day. The other adventure I had was into Sydney’s Centennial Park with an avid birder named Steve. It was a hot sunny day. I was able to get some really great photos from both the trips.
I am excited about some of the reference images that I have been able to get. Luckly I have seen birds that are new to me. When I was here in 2018, I went on a couple of birding day trips and got photos of amazing range birds. So it is exciting to see ones I hadn’t seen before.
I'm working in a new medium – gouache. I have worked with Watercolour for years and though they both are activated with water that is where the comparison ends. Gouache is opaque and the first thing I'm discovering is it dries way darker than what it looks like mixed on the palate or when it's wet. Interesting. I guess I will figure it out by the end of this sketchbook and I will have a much better understanding of gouache as a result.
Just days after arriving in Australia we went to Wollongong for a day trip. When we were there, we stopped at a winery. While taste testing a range of wines, I noticed a rainbow lorikeet had landed on the wires holding up the grapevines. The winery must completely cover the grapes as they get close to ripening, or the lorikeets come and eat them all. As I was photographing it, the bird flipped upside down, used its beak to grab the lower wire, then brought its feet down to it. It made me laugh.
A small bird would just hop down, but not a lorikeet. It was such a fun reference image that I just had to add it to this title page. It just seem to fit the idea of a Great Australian Bird Adventure.
So far I have some fabulous pictures of kookaburras, fairy wrens, swamphens, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, Noisy Miners, and a White faced Heron that was hunting Skink Lizards right next to my son’s place. So amazing!
Just a few days ago I was out on an evening walk with the guys when I discovered Rainbow Lorikeets on a lime tree! I could have stayed there until the birds left but I did think that everyone was being ultra-patient with me, so best not push it too far.
If you have been following me, for any period of time, you know that I like to work rather large. Check out facebook or Instagram (linked below) to see images.
So, working small will be a huge challenge for me. I need figure out which brushes work best and how to manage them as well. It will come in time.
As I started to work on the tail of the of the rainbow lorikeet, I kept thinking that I don’t have the colours right. It seemed to be fighting me. I decided to take a break, to continue on later.
The sun was shining. It is February and it is so deliciously warm here! I went outside into the glorious heat with my camera right next to me, just in case a bird comes close by.
It wasn’t long before there was squawking above me in a very tall tree next to my son’s place. I got my camera trained onto the pair of lorikeets sort of goofing off and being a bit argumentative (one had the others foot in its beak while they were both hanging upside down). It was quite comical to watch.
When I downloaded the photos, I discovered that the underneath of the rainbow lorikeets tails is yellow. I didn’t know that. I thought that it was the same green that was on the back of the bird so I had been using a green which meant I was completely using the wrong colours.
With that discovery I realized that I needed to make a low chroma yellow mixture. I pulled out the raw umber to go with the Cadmium Yellow Light, then I mixed a neutralized grey in several values. From there it was easy to create the correct colour for the underside of the tail.
I thought it would be fun to put some bubbles drifting across the spread.
I feel like I have a great start to my Great Australian Bird Adventure.
Shawna is capturing moments of beauty from the world around her.
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