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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making a Marsh Painting Better

'Home'              11x14             pastel           ©Karen Margulis
 We could smell the salty air mixed with the unmistakeable smell of low tide.  Ahhhh, we felt our spirits lift as we rolled down the car windows and breathed in deeply. We knew we were close.  It was time to go on the lookout for the whitebirds.  That's what we call egrets of any kind.  We are always a little premature with our sightings though. Calling out "White Bird!" only to discover it is a white plastic bag hung up on a bush.   "It's only a bag bird."  Such is the conversation on a road trip to the marsh.

What is a marsh without birds? A beautiful landscape to be sure. But part of what makes a marsh so special is the life it contains. Birds, crabs, fish....they all add to the sights and sounds of the wetlands.  I love to paint the marsh but it occurred to me that I rarely include any signs of life. My marshes are deserted. They need a hint of this hidden world.

So today after finishing this march painting I decided to add some life. I needed a white bird or some kind of egret or heron. But how should I go about it?

My painting with a few of my bird photos for review

What kind of bird should I paint?  Where should he go?  I decided I wanted my bird to be hidden in the grasses perhaps somewhere in the foreground. I took out a few of my own bird photos. Since I print them out as small contact sheet size photos it was easy to line them up and visualize how they might look.  I knew I didn't want my bird to be too detailed....just a hint.

I chose to put in a snowy personal favorite. I mage a small mark of pale blue for the shadow side of my snowy and then a mark of a pale yellow (almost white) for the sunlit side. I use a small piece of Girault pastel to paint the orange and black beak. I painted in some more grasses to hide him better.

close up of my white bird!

This is the marsh I know and love! I think I like a little bit of life in my landscapes!

What about you? Do you paint only pure landscapes or do you like to add signs of life...either animal or manmade? 


David King said...

I've never put an animal in a landscape, perhaps I should work on that. I often paint pure landscapes, but I also often paint landscapes with barns or sheds in them. Even my "pure" landscapes will often have a path or old dirt road, so just a hint of human activity, they make good lead ins.

Carmen Beecher said...

This is such a gorgeous painting, I feel that I am there. Beautiful technique.

robertsloan2art said...

I love this! Beautiful egret and more detailed than I would expect from the description, he's so perfect. I do sometimes, occasionally put an animal into my wilderness landscapes. I always love them best if I do. But more often the animal or bird is keylighted and is the focal point if I do that. Your hiding the bird in the grasses was wonderful! I should do that more often, because sometimes it's not the focal point and this worked so well.

Your snowy egret is a pointer sending the eye up the stream and off into the distance.

One painting I did years ago has some compositional flaws and is way too stiff, I didn't understand how to get depth so it's all close focus Prismacolor realism. But I had a frog in there, a small snake sneaking up on the frog, some bugs and a snail all in the same painting and just filled it with small creatures in every major area each where it'd naturally be. It had the tension of the frog being the focal point and then you see the snake coming up toward it, sort of a Lady and the Tiger effect. You don't know who's going to move first and win. I had it balanced exactly that way.

You've reminded me now to try something like that again with birds and animals in a landscape, perhaps this time with a bobcat and a rabbit or squirrel that's in reach but might be alert enough to jump away in time - with some birds in the branches of the tree that aren't being hunted, know it and could easily get out of the way if the cat changed direction.

It's not as easy as a landscape without animals or birds but it's so rewarding and complete when there's more than the plants in the picture. I love that hidden egret, literally did not see him at first glance because I was looking at the grasses and then into the distance back and forth admiring the whole thing - then saw the egret and wow!

Well done! Keep doing these, it's great!

Karen said...

Thanks Robert! I always enjoy what you have to say! I appreciate your feedback and encouragement! I think I will try to sneak more wildlife into my paintings!