Category Archives: Artists

Kingdom of Grass

July 12, 2016

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshfield

Daniel Webster Meadows - at 72 dpi

 Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield is truly a ‘Kingdom of Grass’ – acres and acres of it in all varieties, textures and colors.  It’s a little piece of midwest prairie plunked down here in the Massachusetts coastal plain.

At the head of the Fox Hill Trail I’m surrounded by a rollicking flock of goldfinches, attracted to the ripe seed heads of knapweed.  The bright purple blossoms paired with the lemon yellow birds makes for pure EYE CANDY, and I’m struck by the way the morning light rakes over the bird, casting most of the head in shadow.

Goldfinch and Knapweed - at 72 dpi

Goldfinch and Knapweed, watercolor on Arches rough, 12″ x 9″

Purple martins fill the air as I branch off onto the Pond Loop.  This colony appears to be doing well.  I see adults and young birds perched on the sumacs near the ‘gourd colony’.

A unique feature of this Mass Audubon property are the British-style bird blinds – two of them positioned at either end of a shallow, marshy panne.  Inside the easternmost blind, it’s cool and dark.  A bench is mounted below the observation windows to allow comfortable, sustained viewing.  It’s a fine vantage on the wetland, enhanced by the placement of natural-looking perches in strategic locations.  I settle in, and am soon joined by a local photographer, John Grant.  We chat quietly and scan for subjects…

Daniel Webster - View from the Blind - at 72 dpi

view from the blind

I notice a movement at the base of the cattails, and watch a Virginia rail emerge into the open water, followed closely by another, darker bird.  A moorhen or coot???  NO, it’s too small and the bill isn’t right for either of these species.  It’s charcoal black, save for a few fuzzy patches of chestnut, and the bill is dark and thin, with a pale nostril and pale tip.  It is, of course, a young Virginia rail!  It shadows the adult closely, following every movement of its parent with keen interest.   The adult finds what looks like a dead frog or tadpole, and both birds take turns poking, prodding, lifting and tossing.  The show is over all too soon, and the birds melt back into the cattails – but I’ve fired off some shots with my digital camera, and use these, along with a crude memory sketch, later in the studio…

Virginia Rail and Young - at 72 dpi

Virginia Rail and Young, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 10.5″ x 14″

Near the far end of the Pond Loop I pause in the shade before venturing out into the fields.  The day is warming quickly, the skies clear and sunny.   There won’t be much shade once I emerge from the woods. At the edge of the path, I notice an unfamiliar plant – a few tiny, pink blossoms on a tall, grass-like stalk, each blossom attached to the top of a swollen pod or calyx.  I make a simple study in my sketchbook and a friend later identifies the plant as Deptford pink – an introduced species in the genus Dianthus.

Deptford Pink, retouched - at 72 dpi

Deptford Pink, sketchbook study, 4.5″ x 8.5″

Bobolinks are jinking around in the fields.  The nesting season is winding down for them, and the males are in an unfamiliar transitional plumage, with brown napes and chestnut splotches on the head and chest.

Bobolink in Moult 2 - at 72 dpi

I stroll the River Walk (the GREEN Harbor River an opaque BROWN at this time of year) and pause on the boardwalk where the walk rejoins the Fox Hill Trail.  There is a shallow panne here next to the river, with lumps of mud and algae rising above little pools of water.

Daniel Webster Boardwalk and Panne - at 72 dpi

Killdeer are making a racket off to my left, and a snowy egret patrols an open channel.  A small flock of peeps sweeps in and lands – seven or eight least sandpipers.  Sandpipers are one of my favorite groups of birds and I welcome any chance to work with them.  These peeps are feeding actively, but I build up a series of poses in my sketchbook, working back and forth between the various poses.

Least Sandpipers sketchbook page - at 72 dpi

Least Sandpiper Studies, sketchbook page, 9″ x 12″

Least Sandpipers at Daniel Webster - at 72 dpi - Copy

Least Sandpipers at Daniel Webster, watercolor on Windsor & Newton cold-press, 9″ x 10.5″

I hike up to the observation platform on Fox Hill to take in the sweeping view toward Cape Cod Bay.  This is the largest unbroken tract of grassland on the sanctuary – a truly impressive sight.  A kestrel drifts past and a monarch butterfly glides over the grass…

Heading back along the Fox Hill Trail, I like the view back towards Fox Hill.  What attracts me most are the converging lines of perspective – a row of telephone poles in the rear, another parallel line of fence posts in the middle distance, and the wide track of the Fox Hill Trail – all converging on a point just out of the picture on the right.  From this vantage there is virtually no shade, and the afternoon heat is relentless.  I take out a sheet of cold-press watercolor paper and do a drawing, but decide to add the color later in my studio.  Cold-press is not as nice to draw on as hot-press, and in the dry heat, the surface feels like sandpaper under the tip of my 3B pencil.

View Toward Fox Hill, drawing - at 72 dpi

View Toward Fox Hill, pencil on Arches cold-press, 8.75″ x 12.25″

Aside from exaggerating the colors in the ripe grasses, I make one other change to the scene – I move the crossbars on the telephone poles to the tops of the poles.  Perhaps it’s my nostalgic side, but this is the way telephone poles always looked when I was growing up, and it just feels better to me this way.

View Toward Fox Hill - at 72 dpi

View Toward Fox Hill, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 8.75″ x 12.25″

 

Young Artists Take Flight

On Friday September 23rd, many young artists who had their artwork accepted into our inaugural youth bird art exhibition:Taking Flight, were able to see their art displayed, meet other young artists and David Sibley, and celebrate with friends and family. Here are a few pictures from that wonderful evening.

YoungArtists-19YoungArtists-2YoungArtists-15YoungArtists-22

Here is a gallery with more photos

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If you would like to see photos of each piece of art, check out these links. Each page has selected artwork exhibited in Taking Flight:

  1. https://blogs.massaudubon.org/takingflight/selected-artwork-from-taking-flight-a-juried-youth-bird-art-exhibition/
  2. https://blogs.massaudubon.org/takingflight/selected-artwork-from-taking-flight-our-juried-youth-bird-art-exhibition-part-ii/
  3. https://blogs.massaudubon.org/takingflight/selected-artwork-from-taking-flight-our-juried-youth-bird-art-exhibition-part-iii/
  4. https://blogs.massaudubon.org/takingflight/selected-artwork-from-taking-flight-our-juried-youth-bird-art-exhibition-part-iv/
  5. https://blogs.massaudubon.org/takingflight/selected-artwork-from-taking-flight-our-juried-youth-bird-art-exhibition-part-v/
  6. https://blogs.massaudubon.org/takingflight/selected-artwork-from-taking-flight-our-juried-youth-bird-art-exhibition-part-vi/

 

Selected artwork from Taking Flight: our juried youth bird art exhibition (Part VI)

We are extremely excited to display a selection of art from our first annual juried youth bird art exhibition. This annual exhibition is open to any children and young adults age 4 to 18 years old. All selected entries will be on display at the Museum of American Bird Art from September 23 to December 11th. Entries for our second annual exhibition will open in early 2017.

Barn Swallow in Flight, Anna Rose, Age 15

“Every spring, my friends and I visit the infamous Magee Marsh in northwestern Ohio. While we were there, we saw many vibrant and magnificent warblers. Yet, of every single species we saw, I was enraptured by a small flock of Barn Swallows at the edge of a small pond. I watched them for nearly half an hour and quickly sketched their poses. Eventually, my favorite bird became a finished work of art.”

Anna Rose, Age 15, Barn Swallows

Anna Rose, Age 15, Barn Swallows

Orioles and Oranges, Anna Rose, Age 15

“Ever since I was a baby, my mom has been trying to attract orioles to our family bird feeder. Finally, one afternoon this spring, a single male Baltimore Oriole landed on an orange. A few moments later, six more orioles joined the first. It was an amazing few days as the orioles regularly visited us. My mom and I will always remember the orioles that visited us this spring as one of the highlights of our birding experiences.”

 

Anna Rose, Age 15

Anna Rose, Age 15

River Hunter, Aaron Melendez, Age 9

“The bird I painted is a Belted Kingfisher. I painted this bird because I like to go birding. It reminds me of family trips to the Indiana Dunes State Park. I also painted the Kingfisher because it is a great example of a nice dark blue.”

Aaron Melendez, Age 9

Aaron Melendez, Age 9

Selected artwork from Taking Flight: our juried youth bird art exhibition (Part V)

We are extremely excited to display a selection of art from our first annual juried youth bird art exhibition. This annual exhibition is open to any children and young adults age 4 to 18 years old. All selected entries will be on display at the Museum of American Bird Art from September 23 to December 11th. Entries for our second annual exhibition will open in early 2017.

Sage Lemieux, Toucan, Age 11

Sage Lemieux, Age 11

Sage Lemieux, Age 11

Bird Pooping, Neva Hobbs, Age 5

Neva_Age4

Eastern Bluebird, Jamie Davis, Age 13

“The Eastern Bluebird is one of my favorite birds of New England, because I have watched it and fed it and nurtured the nest boxes in our yard and at the Community Gardens in our town. This year Mama and I were invited to be nest box monitors at an old cranberry bog in our town. The Cape Cod Bird Club has 45 nest boxes there, occupied by Eastern Bluebirds, and we take our turn checking on them. I have loved seeing the various stages of growth in the Bluebirds, inspired by Julie Zickfoose’s new book, Baby Birds. I was thrilled a few winters ago to see Eastern Bluebirds in our yard and to watch the males and females at our feeders and bird bath. The males are my favorite color, a kind of Cerulean blue, with the females just slightly duller in color, but not in interest or intelligence. I chose a medium of watercolor for the bluebird because I loved the Cerulean Blue.”

Jamie Davis, Age 13

Jamie Davis, Age 13

White-Throated Needletail, Joseph Jewett, Age 8

“The white-throated needletail is a rare and endangered species. It is a favorite of many birdwatchers because it is one of the fastest birds in the world. In 2013, a needletail got struck by the spinning blades of a wind turbine in the United Kingdom while anxious birdwatchers looked on. My drawing includes a needletail, an airplane, and a wind turbine. It symbolizes the negative impact that modern technologies can have on birds but also how birds have inspired new technologies that create community and help to protect the environment. When I grow up, I want to design turbines that can harvest huge amounts of energy from the wind while keeping birds, bats, and even bugs safe.”

Joseph Jewett, Age 8

Joseph Jewett, Age 8

Gabrielle Ross, Blue Jay Family, Age 7

“I love blue Jays. They are so pretty. I have a family of blue jays in my yard.
Their mom brings the babies food to eat.”

Gabby Ross, Age 7

Gabby Ross, Age 7

Selected artwork from Taking Flight: our juried youth bird art exhibition (Part IV)

We are extremely excited to display a selection of art from our first annual juried youth bird art exhibition. This annual exhibition is open to any children and young adults age 4 to 18 years old. All selected entries will be on display at the Museum of American Bird Art from September 23 to December 11th. Entries for our second annual exhibition will open in early 2017.

Dream Come True, Owen Miyasato, Age 4

“This is a bird flying. I like flying birds and I want to fly.
So this is a picture of a dream come true.”

Owen, Miyasata, Age 4

Owen, Miyasata, Age 4

Great Horned Owl, Bennett Dowers, Age 7

“I started to love birds when I went to Drumlin Farm preschool.
Ever since then I watch for birds in my yard and on hikes.I love great horned owls because they are strong and beautiful, and because they are nocturnal.”

Bennett Dowers, Age 7

Bennett Dowers, Age 7

Northern Saw-whet Owl, Ethan Johnson, Age 12

“Owls are my favorite type of bird because they are nocturnal and see a whole different world than we do. It is fascinating that their necks are so flexible that they can turn their heads up to 270 degrees. They are mysterious because they are rarely seen by humans. I decided to draw the Northern Saw-whet Owl. It is distinct from other owls by its size and ear splitting call. It is very small and has brown and white feathers that help it blend in well with its surroundings. It mostly lives in thick vegetation. They are found almost anywhere in The United States and parts of Mexico and Canada. For the winter they travel to dense forests in central and southern United States. Their diet consists of small rodents including deer mice, young squirrels, small birds, and large insects. In my drawing I first used pencil to sketch it on paper, Sharpie marker to bold the outline of the owl, and oil pastels to bring out the color of the Northern Saw-whet Owl and the background.”

Ethan Johnson, Age 12

Ethan Johnson, Age 12

Selected artwork from Taking Flight: our juried youth bird art exhibition (Part III)

We are extremely excited to display a selection of art from our first annual juried youth bird art exhibition. This annual exhibition is open to any children and young adults age 4 to 18 years old. All selected entries will be on display at the Museum of American Bird Art from September 23 to December 11th. Entries for our second annual exhibition will open in early 2017.

Iris Rosenhagen, Burrowing Owls, Age 11

Burrowing owls are one of my favorite birds because I’ve studied owls a lot and they are very unique. Instead of living in tree cavities, they live in burrows. They are also diurnal as opposed to nocturnal like most other owls. Something very interesting about them, is if they feel threatened in their burrow, a Burrowing Owl will make a rattlesnake buzz sound to scare off predators. Sadly, Burrowing Owls are losing habitat due to construction. I am an avid conservationist and the creator of C.A.R.E., Community for Animal Respect and Education. C.A.R.E. provides opportunities for people to learn about the challenges animals face in today’s world, and inspires people to get involved to help them. I hope to spread awareness about the plight of the Burrowing Owls by submitting my artwork.

 

Iris Rosenhagen, Burrowing Owl, Age 11

Iris Rosenhagen, Burrowing Owl, Age 11

Iris Rosenhagen, B95 Rufa Red Knot

“The Rufa Red Knot is one of my favorite birds because of an inspiring book I read Moonbird by Phillip Hoose. It was about one Red Knot who has lived over 20 years and has amazingly migrated from South America to the Arctic so many times that the distance would be from here to the moon and halfway back. The tag, B95 on his leg allows him to be identified in different places he has flown. I learned a lot of interesting facts about Red Knots. One of the coolest, is that they lose their gizzards when they have a really long flight to make during migration so that they weigh less. When they stop over in Delaware Bay to eat horseshoe crab eggs, they grow it back to digest the food they need for energy to continue their long flight north where they mate.”

Iris Rosenhagen, Red Knot, Age 11

Iris Rosenhagen, Red Knot, Age 11

European Starling, Cayla Rosenhagen, Age 11

“I feel many people don’t appreciate the outer and inner beauty of the European Starling. The amazing iridescence of the starling’s plumage combined with its history of being an immigrant coming to the New World with its plucky, perseverant personality make this bird one of my favorites. The European Starling reminds me of my ancestors coming through Ellis Island, having so much to offer, but not always seen for all they were. People flock to the United States from all over the world…pun intended. Just as the murmuration of the European Starling is so remarkable, the same holds true for all who come to our land in search of a new life.”

Cayla Rosenhage, European Starling, Age 11

Cayla Rosenhage, European Starling, Age 11

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cayla Rosenberg, Age 11

“Pollination and patience. Those are the two qualities that make Ruby Throated Hummingbirds one of my favorite birds. Unfortunately, we have seen such a decline in pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies. We’ve tried to do our part by planting native flowering plants and by encouraging others to do so. But it takes patience to heal the Earth. It also takes patience to spot a Ruby Throated Hummingbird! I’ve been fortunate to see them a handful of times and it brings me such excitement to watch them feeding on the nectar of flowers, my heart seems to beat almost as fast as theirs, over a thousand times in a minute while they feed. Patiently I await the next Ruby Throated Hummingbird who comes to do his part in healing the Earth as he pollinates.”

Cayla Rosenhagen, Age 11, Hummingbird

Cayla Rosenhagen, Age 11, Hummingbird

Selected artwork from Taking Flight: our juried youth bird art exhibition (Part II)

We are extremely excited to display a selection of art from our first annual juried youth bird art exhibition. This annual exhibition is open to any children and young adults age 4 to 18 years old. All selected entries will be on display at the Museum of American Bird Art from September 23 to December 11th. Entries for our second annual exhibition will open in early 2017.

Nathan Martin, A Woody Woody Situation, Age 7

“Did you know a woodpecker can peck 20 times per second? I like woodpeckers because of the Mohawk on their head and the many fun facts about them.”

Nathan Martin, Age 7

Nathan Martin, Age 7

Olvia Colombo, Nature’s Red Lipstick, Age 15

“Much like the pop of color red lipstick brings, the cardinal brightens up nature with their bright red coloring. The cardinal is a very recognizable and well loved bird, being the state bird for seven states. They are leaders of the songbirds, paralleling the Catholic leaders, named cardinals, whom they were named after. Cardinals brighten up mother nature’s trees, and are sure to brighten the days of birdwatchers.”

Olivia Colombo, Age 15

Olivia Colombo, Age 15

Tamirat Jones, Owl, Age 7

“I like owls because they have really good night vision.”

Jones_Tamirat_Age7

Tamirat Jones, Age 7

Ellie Sweeney, Owly, Age 9

Ellie, Sweeney, Owly, Age 10

Ellie, Sweeney, Owly, Age 9

Selected artwork from Taking Flight: A Juried Youth Bird Art Exhibition

We are extremely excited to display a selection of art from our first annual juried youth bird art exhibition. This annual exhibition is open to any children and young adults age 4 to 18 years old. All selected entries will be on display at the Museum of American Bird Art from September 23 to December 11th. Entries for our second annual exhibition will open in early 2017.

Chickadees by Carolina Perez, Age 10

“Chickadees are beautiful. They feed their babies, just like my mom feeds me.”

Chickadees, Carolina Perez, Age 10

Chickadees, Carolina Perez, Age 10

Cloudy Home by Carolina Perez, Age 10

“Sometimes it gets cloudy, but that does not mean colorless”

Cloudy Home, Carolina Perez, Age 10

Cloudy Home, Carolina Perez, Age 10

Kendall Winston, The Kakapo Bird, Age 11

“I chose the Kakapo bird because I think it is adorable. It is very interesting that it is the only flightless parrot in the world. I first learned about the Kakapo while watching a PBS show called Animal Misfits. Someday I hope I can go to New Zealand to see this awesome bird!!”

Kendall Winston, Kakapo, Age 10

Kendall Winston, Kakapo, Age 10

Maris Van Vleck, Wood Duck, Age 14

“The wood duck is one of my favorite birds. I love the way the colors
of the water seem to reflect into the colors of his feathers.”

Maris Van Vleck, Age 14, Wood Duck

Maris Van Vleck, Age 14, Wood Duck

Maris Van Vleck, Two Robins, Age 14

“This painting was based off of a photograph I took in my backyard.
I like the beautifully colored feathers of these robins.”

Maris Van Vleck, Age 14, Two Robins

Maris Van Vleck, Age 14, Two Robins

Lila Yennior, Soaring Osprey, Age 7

“I was inspired by an Osprey nest that we saw near our house.
We watched the osprey soar across the sky.”

Erica Yennior, Soaring Osprey, Age 7

Erica Yennior, Soaring Osprey, Age 7

Hayden Bildy, Peregrine Falcon, Age 14

“I enjoyed doing the detailed work on this sketch as I tried to
capture the feather patterns as much as possible.”

Hayden Bildy, Age 14, Peregrine Falcon

Hayden Bildy, Age 14, Peregrine Falcon

Join Us: Workshop with Barry Van Dusen on September 25th

Join us for Nature Art in Field and Studio a workshop with Artist-in-Residence Barry Van Dusen

Set-up at Hassocky Meadow - at 72 dpi

This one day workshop will focus on Barry’s current residency with the Mass Audubon Society.  Over the past sixteen months Barry has been travelling around Massachusetts, creating paintings and drawings at Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries. Barn Swallow at Stone Barn Farm - at 72 dpi

Barry will show a selection of the more 120 watercolors he has produced for the project and share his residency sketchbooks.

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You’ll learn about how the artist uses optics in the field, and how he organizes his art materials for efficient fieldwork.  He’ll discuss the approaches he uses to create artwork on location and in his studio.   Barry will lead students through basic drawing, tone and color exercises to help them get started with creating their own record of outdoor observations.

Click here or contact Sean Kent (skent@massaudubon.org) to learn more or register for this amazing program. 

Boat Trip!

July 11, 2016

Sampsons Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotuit

Least Tern Incubating - at 72 dpi

Incubating Least Tern, watercolor on Fluid 100 cold-press, 9″ x 12″

 Sampson’s Island is my first sanctuary visit that requires a BOAT.  I meet two coastal waterbird wardens at a rendezvous point in Cotuit, and load my field kit into a small, open runabout.  Brad Bower is the Sampson’s Island “crew leader”, and his associate is Brian Lonabocker.   They are students of biology and environmental science, and this is a summer job for them.  Today, they load signs into the boat, which they’ll be posting in various spots around the island.  During the peak breeding season, boats are not allowed to land on the island, in order to safeguard the birds during this critical period.

Sampsons Island Warning Signs - at 72 dpi

During the ride over to the island, Brad fills me in on the latest news regarding the breeding birds of Sampson’s Island.  He calculates there are between 30 and 40 pairs of least terns nesting on the island, and remarks that some of the tern eggs are just starting to hatch.   This season, seven pairs of piping plovers have also established nests, with six young fledged so far from two nests.  Many nests of both species have failed for various reasons.  Overwash from storm tides has been a factor, as well as predation by crows, a coyote and other unidentified culprits.  So far, less than half of all nests have produced fledglings.  For coastal waterbirds, raising a family is a hit-or-miss proposition.

Incubating Least Terns - sketchbook page - at 72 dpi

Incubating Least Terns – sketchbook page, pencil, 8.25″ x 12″

Once on the island, I position myself for good views of the least tern colonies and get to work.  Incubating birds are wonderful models – very dependable and obliging!  After some warm-up sketching, I take out some watercolor paper…

Least Tern Eggshell detail - at 300 dpi

detail of finished watercolor

As I’m watching one sitting bird, I notice an eggshell near the nest, and suspect that a chick has recently hatched.  The adult bird is abit restless, shifting and resettling on the nest.  Next, I see a tiny bill poke out from beneath the adult’s wing, then a small, fluffy head!

Least Tern Chick detail - at 300 dpi

detail of the finished watercolor

The adult bird’s mate arrives with a tiny minnow, and both adults stand on either side of the nestling, prodding it to take the food, which it finally consumes with a gulp.   I modify the drawing I’ve been making to include both the eggshell and the chick!  A drawing from life, unlike a photograph, can be a composite of many moments.

Least Tern with Chick and Eggshell - at 72 dpi

Least Tern with Chick and Eggshell, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 10.25″ x 14.25″

There were two piping plover nests on this part of the island, but the eggs hatched weeks ago.  Now, the young birds can be seen foraging around a small salt pond behind the beach.   The parent birds are nearby and vigilant.  Several times I watch them chase off an intruding plover.   The pale, plump chicks are in constant motion, and difficult to follow with the scope.   They are nearly as large as the adults, but have puffy white collars around the back of the neck, and none of the crisp, strong markings they will sport as adult birds.  Brad tells me they are 27 days old.

Piping Plover Chicks at 27 days - at 72 dpi

Piping Plover Chicks at 27 days, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 9″ x 12.25″