Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Battling the Page

No new drawing!  Not for lack of trying - I've actually got five here that have been started, but for some reason, none of them are putting the proper effort into getting themselves finished!  Sassy drawings...  More updates as the war progresses! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Drawing - Nazca Booby

Nazca Booby - Graphite on Paper
Copyright 2009, Nicole MacPherson

The Nazca Booby features in many tourist photos taken in the Galapagos Islands.  It's a large, striking bird that doesn't fear humans, so is easily photographed by people with ordinary cameras.  It's an interesting bird, with "interesting" nesting methods - siblicide anybody?

This drawing was done a little different than normally for me.  I have never seen this bird, have never been to the Galapagos.  I also wanted to try a slightly looser drawing, without the necessity of drawing each feather barb!  My Baltimore Oriole put me behind schedule, and I wanted to catch up!  I found the photo at a photography site that allows the creation of derivative works.

Most stock photography sites do NOT allow derivative works (such as drawings) to be created from their photos.  Even the "creative commons" websites usually do not allow this, something I've always thought to be a rather interesting omission...

A lot of the feather detail was lost in the scanning of this picture - not sure if this is operator error, or if I need a new scanner!

Here is the original photo:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Drawing - Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole - Graphite on Paper
Copyright 2009, Nicole MacPherson

Baltimore Orioles are amazing birds!  After a looooooong winter, I can't wait til they arrive - if they arrive!  We had Orioles in 2004, then not again until 2008 and this year, always in the last half of May.  Sugar water, oranges and suet are their favorites, but we had one male using our peanut feeder one year - doing his best impression of a woodpecker!  Every year, I hope that a pair will stay put and nest in our area, but they never do.  Not that I blame them - the city is a tough place to raise children! 

This individual was sitting atop the feeder hanger, and had fluffed up against a spring chill. 

It seems like a funny thing to do, to draw such a colorful bird using shades of grey!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

New drawing underway...

Any guesses?  I hope it's visible - my scanner isn't the greatest, and seems to leave out a fair bit of detail. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Animated WIP - American Robin

This site lets you make animated gifs from your jpeg files. Thought I would try it with my WIP image files of the American Robin. A more interesting one would be from the stage before these - when I'm trying to get the profile right, that one would jump around a lot!  It takes me forever to get that one right, but making a gif from that would mean scanning the page every two or three minutes!  Maybe in the future! 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Drawing - American Robin

American Robin, Graphite on Paper
Copyright 2009, Nicole MacPherson

Robins aren't rare by any stretch of the imagination, so tend to be uninteresting to birders, except when they turn up out of season.  So we see them a lot in our travels, but I'm always keen for them!

Our tiny yard is located in an old section of the city, so has many big, old trees around.  The yards are small, so there aren't many open stretches of the sort that robins prefer.  Hence, not many robins.  This spring was different, a new pond setup convinced them to stop and visit. 

Drawing water was a new trick!  Actually, this bird was tricky to draw in general - he kept creeping down and to the right on the paper!  Tried my best to center him on the page, but didn't work too well!  Hence the slightly cut off right foot.  I hope he forgives me the indignity.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Drawing - Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush, Graphite on Paper
Copyright 2009, Nicole MacPherson

There are four varieties of brown thrush, and all we get all four!  What a task to try and tell them apart!  Hermit Thrushes have a rufous-colored tail, and to my eye, look a bit stubbier than the others!  The thrushes that visit our yard pick berries from our Virginia Creeper vine, a plant that was already in place when we moved in eight years ago, but has grown to cover most of an ugly chainlink fence.  VC is prolific, pretty, and attracts the birds that won't come to feeders!  What's not to love? 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Profile photo

No new drawing!  Just a word about my profile photo.  This photo contains all of my (current) tools.  My medium is graphite.  To be more specific, a 0.5 mm "bic" mechanical pencil.  I don't use art pencils (2B or 2H, that is the question) as I'm too impulsive and disorganized to toggle back and forth between a bunch of pencils.  I figure I'm doing well if I can find the one!  If I need a darker effect, I keep coloring over the area.  Or press harder.  For a lighter effect, I don't press as hard.  Life's just easier that way.

I also require the services of a click-style, or drafting eraser.  This tool gets used about as much as the pencil!  It not only erases mistakes, it blends, too!  Multi-talented!  I also need a big eraser.  I like the ones that look like li'l pieces of mozzarella cheese.

My support (surface to which medium is applied) is paper.  Specifically, printer paper.  The kind you get in big packages from Staples.  I've bought many sketchbooks, and rejected each.  I like the bright-whiteness, smooooooth surface and not-bound-into-a-book qualities of the printer paper.  I tie my pages down to a clipboard.  We're real fancy around here!

Oops!  Am missing one tool in the photo - my blotting page.  After using the drafting eraser, it has pencil dust sticking to it.  Need to erase over a pencil-free area to return it to it's pristine state.  But sometimes that leaves marks on the paper that can't be subsequently erased away, so a separate sheet is needed, so as to not leave grey shadowy streaks all over the drawing. 

More than you ever knew you didn't know?  Or maybe more than you wanted to know?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Drawing - Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird - Graphite on Paper
Copyright 2009, Nicole MacPherson

This drawing managed to get done!  I can't believe it... Once I got the shoulder topography figured out, the rest went quickly.  Lots of shadows on this guy, seen in full afternoon sunlight.

Lots of birds will perch on fences roadside, and most of them will fly off when a car stops.  Sometimes the bird will fly a few dozen meters ahead and perch a little further along the fence.  Driving to that point and trying for another photograph will usually result in a bird merrily winging off along the prairie.  Western Kingbirds are a little different - they will play this game for quite a few stops.  I've been told they're wary of cars.  I've been told it's coincidental; that they're just pursuing insects.

I've come to a different realization however:  Western Kingbirds know exactly what I'm up to, and have collectively decided to mess with me.  It's the only logical conclusion.  So it's only fitting that this drawing gave me so much trouble as well.  Yup.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

wip - Western Kingbird

No new drawing, so thought I would show what I'm working on.

The trouble with having to work left to right is that when an area gives me trouble, I can't really go to another one.  You can see I did that here, working on either side of the wing, but can't go much further there - have to get that wing done!  Terrible to be so controlled by fear of pencil smudges. 

It's the same old problem - my photos don't have enough detail for me to see how the feathers "go" in that particular area, so I'm trying to use other photos of Western Kingbirds, to try and figure it out.  It's like a wee map made of feathers - when the terrain is incorrect, it's obvious!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Drawing - Dun Horse

Dun Horse - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Another roadside horse, found just outside of Saskatoon.  There were two horses of the same type, they looked like big long-maned Norwegian Fjords!

Lesson of the day:  dark manes are much different to draw than light manes!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Drawing - Dark Eyed Junco

Dark Eyed Junco - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Juncos are one of the first birds to arrive in spring, and one of the last to leave in fall.  They do spend summer around here, but not in the city (or at least not where I am).  Not that I can blame them!  It's always a bit surprising to me to see Juncos in the summer, when we leave the city.  I just always seem to think of them as spring and fall birds!  They are quick to return to feeding after a scare, and quickly adapt to a human presence.  The field guides call this "confiding".  I love bird-book vernacular... 

Juncos have a beautiful vocalization.  They don't suffer each other very well however - lots of pecking and chasing around feeders - but they always sound pretty, even when fighting! 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Drawing - Black Capped Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Chickadees are one of the few birds that don't leave us for warmer climates in the winter. They are never boring, always bold (this fellow was about five feet away from me), active (nearly all of my chickadee pictures are blurred), and fun to watch. They're a welcome sight on any day.  I love the pose my bold model struck - he looks like he's playing leapfrog.

Some days around here, the only birds to be seen are the three invasives - House Sparrows, European Starlings, and Pigeons. But a chickadees is a never-fail pick-me-up, a real lifesaver for this poor unfortunate citybound schlub!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Drawing - Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (Male) - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

I sure look forward to these birds arriving in the spring! They usually arrive just before the orioles, and have the most beautiful song. The males are very conspicuous in the trees, red spots on bright white chest. They're more skittish than many of the birds, and aren't usually willing to come to the feeders nearer the house, preferring to eat seeds on the ground.

I enjoy drawing dark birds. It's more work, uses more pencil (and eraser!) and is more complicated - must only work down and to the right, or else pencil will be smudged EVERYwhere! But I find it easier to draw than the lighter birds. I must have a heavy hand with the pencil!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Drawing - Draft Horse in Grass

Draft Horse In Grass - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Something a little different...

Birding trips include a lot of non-bird sightings. I know there are birders that make birding goals and take pride in long tallies and "species lists" for their trips. I've kept these sorts of records, but list length has never been an indication of a "successful" trip for me.

One of my favorite trips was a three day sojourn to Riding Mountain National Park over Thanksgiving weekend. No mammals seen, the only birds I remember were Ruffed Grouse and Gray Jay. But the weather was to die for, the scenery awesome, and there was almost a total lack of other people.

But I digress. Most of our trips are for birding. But I don't stop for every bird I see. And lots of things capture my attention. I'm a sucker for cloud formations, and colorful grass. Cows and horses are sometimes more common than the birds! That's fine, I like them all!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Upgrade - American Goldfinch

Another upgrade, in place of a new drawing!

American Goldfinch - Pencil Crayon on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Upgrade - Blue Jay

No new drawing, but something a little different! Next step will be real backgrounds!

Blue Jay - Pencil Crayon on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Drawing - American Goldfinch

 American Goldfinch - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Goldfinches aren't the first colorful birds in the spring around here, but I sure look forward to their arrival! Since they come to feeders, watching them is much easier than trying to follow warblers in the trees! Like all birds, goldfinches bicker a LOT. But they still look so sweet.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Drawing - Blue Jay

Blue Jay - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Blue Jays are conspicuous in many places. Not popular with everybody, but I love them. These brightly colored birds are a bright spot in winter, and always interesting to watch. Their calls are familiar to most, from the jay-jay call, to the "metal-scraping-on-metal" call. But if you're lucky enough to be close to a pair of them, they also make a beautiful warbling sound.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sketch - Wilson's Snipe

Wilson's Snipe - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

We used to have the same snipe as the Europeans - the Common Snipe. Turns out the Snipe on this side of the pond has a different display flight and different tail feathers. Who knew? So we have the Wilson's Snipe. Most literature describes these birds as elusive, but around here in the spring, they are often conspicuous, perching on fence posts and vocalizing. One quick late afternoon drive through the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve (near Tolstoi, Manitoba) produced six such sightings in less than two hours, but there wasn't enough light for great reference photos. None were clear enough for full drawings. Hence, another sketch.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sketch - Ovenbird

Like the Northern Flicker, a woodpecker who doesn't act like a woodpecker, Ovenbirds are warblers that don't act like warblers. Rather than flit around treetops and branch tips, Ovenbirds are found on the ground. Skulking, to be precise. All descriptions of Ovenbirds seem to describe them as "skulking". As far as I could tell, this individual wasn't up to any mischief... Although the only clear photo I snapped of him/her was of the posterior view. Hence the sketch, rather than a detailed drawing.

In field guides, Ovenbirds look rather nondescript. I was surprised at how different they look in person - the few I've seen were not brown, much more of an olive color, visible even without the binocs.

Ovenbird - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Drawing - Northern Flicker

 Northern Flicker (Male) - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Flickers are great birds! These Woodpeckers are often found foraging on the ground. "Northern Flicker" was previously divided into two species - "Yellow Shafted" and "Red Shafted" Flicker. We get the Yellow-Shafted variety here, drawn by the Virginia Creeper vine. They stop by in spring, and stick around longer in the fall, when the berries are ripe. This male was sunbathing after eating some VC berries.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Hello! Welcome! Call me Nic! I've been drawing as long as I can remember, but until last month, hadn't put pencil to paper for years. Interests in the outdoors, birding, and photography spurred me to take up drawing again. I plan to post works as I complete them.