Recently, in an email discussing technology, a birder friend of mine said that she had promised herself to get offline and watercoloring by 1:00 PM. So, I asked her about her painting and got this for a response:
A couple of years ago the nature center had a Women’s Nature Retreat which I attended. Nona Estrin was one of the naturalist’s and taught a watercolor/sketching workshop. A week later when hiking, I thought, why not sketch all the things I’m always photographing and checking about in my field guides?For the last couple of years I’ve been sketching (pen and ink, sometimes colored pencils) almost daily and loving it. I never knew I could draw. Perhaps, I wouldn’t have been able to before this time. This fall I decided to expand and learn to paint with watercolors. So, although, I’ve had other work exhibited, I have a little ways to go before watercolors are hanging for the public. Love being focused on nature. My artistic endeavors have helped me in birding, quickly being able to see field marks or GIS.
That last comment about field marks and GIS got me thinking of a book I read a while back. It’s a fine little book by David Sibley called Sibley’s Birding Basics. In it, Sibley recommends field notes and sketching. He says, “The act of doing that is enough to ‘cement’ the memory, even if the sketch or words are a very poor representation.” Of course, Sibley is an accomplished artist but his point is well-taken as it forces us to look for details and get them on paper. Cameras are great but there might be a lower-tech and satisfying way to describe that bird as well.
One of my favorite bird blogs is Red and the Peanut, written by a woman in Cincinnati, who is a fine photographer and very active illustrator as well. Another blogger who is a great painter is Julie Zickefoose whose book, The Bluebird Effect, I reviewed here. A third blogger/artist is Vickie Henderson who has a gallery of watercolors here.
So, we started out with an example of someone who discovered a talent and love for drawing and painting that she never knew she had. Perhaps, as we slog through the rest of winter, it is a good time to think about whether that’s something that you might explore or rediscover. It’s a good way to relax and refine those bird identification skills. Good birding.