Clear The Clutter For Creativity

I am definitely in an obsessive phase where I must shed old stuff and finish old business. Hence the recent studio/old art purge, and a resultant sudden creative burst. The purgative effect is entering my work. Looking at old, failed paintings with a new eye and seeing solutions, some solutions have boiled down to Fix or Toss (this bad painting broke in two over my knee with a satisfying snap). I’m pulling paintings out of frames and making long-wished-for changes. Do we sense a metaphor here?

Besides the Painted Bunting Variations, to be finished by the weekend, I’m remodeling the following:

a large watercolor of a pair of Barred owls;
a small acrylic of a Black-faced ant thrush and
a large pastel/graphite of a Double-toothed kite

I expect about a day or two’s worth of work on each. After which I can breathe again. And move on to new things.


Barred Owl watercolor, 16″x27″, this one never quite worked. Pulled it out of the frame. Am trying to save it.


It’s a nocturne, and I never liked the greenish cast in the sky. First thing I did was lay in a nice wash of Indanthrone Blue and Cobalt Violet.



The owls had some anatomical/perspective nastiness, and required much lifting of paint to change shapes. I also softened edges and too-tight feather rendering, simply by washing lightly with a clean wet brush. These images show a mid-phase, lifted and reshaped but not yet restored. Just looking at them here, I can see some further corrections will be necessary!


This acrylic, 11″x11″, is also not working. It’s a Black-faced Ant thrush, my favorite tropical walkin’ bird with an easily imitated whistle which can lure it out of the woods for a little cross-species duetting.


I “fixed” this in Photoshop, pushing things back and pulling things forward using mauves and blues where needed. The bird is now emerging from the deep gloom and walking off the edge. More metaphors.


Double-toothed Kite pastel and graphite, 20″x26″. Drawn from life amid the light-gap vegetation of Barro Colorado Island, where it perched, posed, then pounced on a lizard climbing a tree trunk. I like the piece but there was always something amiss with the drawing of the breast and barring. Too flat. The tail has problems, too. Much to address here.


“Fixed” in Photoshop. Soon to be fixed in reality!

9 thoughts on “Clear The Clutter For Creativity

  1. wrjones says:

    Drawn from life? Wow.
    I really like the combination of drawing and painting.

    In terms of an artwork I think you might be too critical of yourself. You can find small errors in the bird rendering that 99 percent of us would never notice.

  2. caroline crayon says:

    I love when you show process and thought. I’d never have noticed any of what you have pointed out here. The owl is more real than a real owl. What I most love about your work is that I can gaze on the wonderful image, and I can also sense your spirit in the gazing. Does that make sense?

    I continue to walk in your shadow.

  3. 100swallows says:

    How could you draw that kite from life? Through binoculars? And how did you find him? Do you spend half your life stalking birds? Your pictures always make me daydream not just about birds but about all those great settings–the jungle, the lake.

  4. zeladoniac says:

    Half the pleasure of making these images is in the experience of collecting the raw material, walking through the jungle and finding something special to draw. The Kite and the Antthrush were both drawn through binoculars in the rainforest- the Kite on Barro Colorado in Panama, and the Antthrush at La Selva field station in Costa Rica. It’s all about moving slowly and quietly and watching. I’m glad they make you daydream, that’s what they do for me, too.

    Great comments!

  5. Janet Wilkins says:

    When you wrote that you use binoculars, do you have then on a tripod like a birding scope? And/or do you try to “freeze” an image in your mind’s eye then sketch a bit more? Or, how exactly?

  6. zeladoniac says:

    Mike-try hitting “undo” a few times and using the Sharpen filter (avoid the one called Dither). If that fails, clear the cache and reboot. You may need an upgrade;-)

    Janet- You can draw through a scope on a tripod (I’m saving up for a new one right now) but typically I just look through the hand-held binoculars at the bird until I see a pose I like, then “freeze frame” it in my memory, squeeze my eyes tight shut, and look down at the paper. When the image appears floating over the paper (only for a second or two) I draw it fast and get as much of the essential information as I can. Then I look back at the bird (if it’s still there) and try to grab it again. I’ve posted about the process; look at 5 Steps to Better Bird Drawing in the Top Posts in the sidebar. Good luck!

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