Drawing on all your resources

I took a good long walk yesterday evening, with the golden retriever Cody trotting alongside or taking side detours for good smells. It was a perfectly beautiful night for walking. Warm and humid with wild swirls of pink-edged clouds and Mississippi kites winging back and forth overhead, snagging insects and eating them on the wing, dipping their heads and raising the foot holding the food. I counted 5 in the air at once. Swifts were doing the same thing in their own way, sweeping past like fighter jets, chittering like bats.

Speaking of Mississippi kites, the painting is nearly done. I think. I thought it was a couple of days ago and then I looked more critically at the leaves and felt very unhappy with them. So I brought in a couple of live branches of post oak, set them up on the stand and re-drew each and every leaf. Then painted them in hues of orange, red and yellow, very vivid. And went back over that with a tone of phthalo green mixed with diaoxazine purple, titanium white, a little cad orange and anything else that looked good mixed in. Basically a cool gray green that went over the hot colors, letting them peek through here and there. Also added: a leafy branch mostly in silhouette in purple with burnt sienna shadow areas. That was a scary thing to do, since I’d worked so long on the cloud behind it. But it gave a little middleground to the painting, which had been basically only foreground and background, two planes. Now it’s got three. A big step, right? I’m not going to post it until it’s done ’cause it’s sort of ugly right now. But much improved, in my opinion.

Back to that walk: besides the kites and the swifts, there’s a nest of two baby Red shouldered hawks right around the corner up in a tall cottonwood, next to the road. I walk right past it and look up to see the progress of the kids. A week ago the babies were white and downy and mostly hidden in the nest. Last night they were sitting up and looking around, stretching their pin-feathers. One gave that characteristic string of one-note cries when it saw me walking below. I try not to stop and stare, I’m afraid to call attention to the nest in case someone around here should get trigger-happy, but the other night a car came past me and slowed down so the driver could crane her neck out the window and look up at it. So I’m certainly not the only one in the neighborhood who knows about it. Although it wouldn’t be easy to hide, considering the noise these guys make (the hawks, not the neighbors, although they’re pretty noisy, too). One other nice sighting along the way: at the little cattail pond just next to our house a green heron squawked and flew up into a tree next to the water, where it silhouetted itself against the lovely evening sky, clutching a thin horizontal branch with those long-toed feet. It got an answering squawk from across the pond, so it’s a pair, probably nesting. The heron stood high and stretched its neck and raised its crest, something you never see these guys do. Their usual pose is hunkered down and squatty. I held still and drank in the sight to memorize it, and the first thing I did when I came back into the house was grab the first piece of paper I saw and draw the memory of the green heron. It turned out to be sketched onto the instructions that came with a memory card I bought for my camera. I think it might make a nice painting, minus the French and Spanish tech support. Or perhaps it would be all the better for it?

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