If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know I’m a Northern girl. So when it comes to birds, I do see a good variety of breeds, but nothing too exotic.
The last Gallery Feature in my Feathered Fauna bird series was the Baltimore Oriole. They’re a beautiful, flashy bird, but alas, there are none in Northern Ontario.
So for my next painting, I decided to look a bit closer to home.
Enter the pint-size, pretentious pontiff of the Northern forest: The red-breasted nuthatch.
There are many different kinds of nuthatch in the wild. The two most common in the North are the red-breasted and the white-breasted.
I have seen white-breasted nuthatches on occasion while walking through the bush, but they seem much more shy than their red counterparts. They’re also a little larger in size.
A nuthatch is an entertaining bird to watch. They’re full of attitude. It seems like they’re always hunkered down and in strut-stance. They turn every which way as they maneuver up and down tree trunks and out across branches. It’s quite comical to see them when they turn upside down and let out their tell-tale “myeh, myeh, myeh” sound.
They don’t like to share, often bossing other birds, like chickadees and woodpeckers, out of their way. That’s when they get mouthy, making a different, more impatient buzzing noise deep in their throats — similar to what Snoopy sounds like on Peanuts when he gets mad.
Brimming with confidence, the black cap and bandit stripe across their eyes often gives them a look of perpetual gruffness, further bolstering their tough-guy demeanour.
And they’re absolutely adorable.
I strive to capture or suggest movement in my bird portraits, so I like to choose a dynamic pose to create added visual interest. Every time I see a nuthatch doing his crazy contortions, it makes me smile.
I previewed this new Feathered Fauna piece in my previous Gallery Feature from August, “The Northern Leopard Frog“. At the time, it had already been sitting unfinished in my studio for a number of months (I began designing this nuthatch painting back in May). A wedding, a commission, and winter wood cutting delayed its progress significantly, but a few days ago, when my new commission was finally nailed down, I knew I had to get this in the “done” pile.
It’s surprising how quickly a painting’s completion can happen… when you have the right motivation. Because in addition to this new commission that I’m finally ready to begin — here’s a little preview of an exciting upcoming project (just in time for Halloween!) — I recently learned about an amazing contest: The opportunity to have an illustration included in a newly designed layout of the original 1818 text of Mary Shelley’s classic monster manuscript, “Frankenstein”.
Typically I avoid art contests, especially if they involve an entry fee. But this contest is to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the novel that almost single-handedly gave birth to the horror genre as we know it now, and you all know how I feel about horror and art, so…
I need to enter this contest.
And that’s all I’ll say about that for now. To be continued.
There aren’t many progress photos with the nuthatch painting simply because the bird and final details were done in three 2-5 hour sessions, and I usually only take pictures when I’m done working for the day.
And voila! Another painting completed!
Fellow artists will sympathize with the unfortunate colour struggles that come when scanning your finished work. It’s so hard when you’re working with a basic home setup to get the colours to translate properly into digital. As the artist, I can tell you that the colour of the leaves in the previous scanned image are not true to life. I still wanted to include the scan though, so the piece could be viewed in greater detail. The colours of the bird and bark are very close to the original, but if you want to get a better sense of the colour of the leaves, definitely go back and view the progression photos again.
Every bird is a work of art, in and of itself. When I see them, I can’t help but marvel at the complexity of their creation. Inside that tiny skull is a tiny brain. A brain which actually functions. And underneath those layers of feathers, inside their small bodies, is a tiny set of lungs, a nervous system, and a miniature-sized heart.
During those unfortunate occasions when a bird has hit the window, as I sit with it cradled in the palm of my hand, I can feel the warmth of its body, and the beating of its little heart. And when it finally opens its eyes and looks up at me as if to say “thank you”, I can’t help but smile because this tiny miracle understands that it is alive.
All of God’s creatures, both large and small — they are truly the most impressive works of art.
“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
~ Job 12:7-12