The View From The Field

Finally, the rain.
Finally, the rain.

You know you’re at a tropical field station when a live baby gecko plays hide and seek under the plates at the dinner table to exclamations of delight, and the dinner conversation turns to spider monkey aggression and vine snakes eating antbirds. It’s a fine place to hang out and learn, either in the forest or at mealtime. More good news: the dry spell seems to have broken with a bang, and there have been bucketing rainstorms for the last two or three days, with the result that insects are flying and mating and there’s just a lot of happy hell breaking loose out in the rainforest. Emphasis on the word rain.

Astrocaryum drawing in progress, drawn plein air. 18" x 24" Rives BFK.
Astrocaryum drawing in progress, drawn plein air. 18" x 24" Rives BFK.
Astrocaryum palm in full fruit. Nice juicy red growing in huge bunches, fed on by assorted monkeys and birds. I hear they taste like apricots.
Astrocaryum palm in full fruit. Nice juicy red growing in huge bunches, fed on by assorted monkeys and birds. I hear they taste like apricots.

A few days ago I sketched in the quiet creekbed of Donato Trailhead, with the water that normally pours through the boulders dried to a few small pools where agoutis snuck in for a sip when my head was turned the other way. I felt guilty doing my drawing in such an important watering hole and possibly keeping away thirsty critters, so I didn’t stay too long. While I drew, a bright-rumped attila (a kind of flycatcher) flew down onto a slim liana just above the water and looked at it (like Narcissus) until it made up it’s mind to take a drink and a bath. It was kind of a poignant moment and a few days later, when the rains had begun, I went back and set up my easel to draw the scene, sketching in the attila from memory.

As I drew, imagining the attila in place. Attilas were singing all around me during the drawing of this one.
As I drew, I imagined the attila in place. Attilas were singing all around me during the drawing of this one and I was able to look at them for reference through my binoculars.

With an umbrella in my left hand and a pencil in my right, I was able to do this one in about four hours. This time I wasn’t worried too much about the birds being thirsty. There was water everywhere.

This is the "finished" drawing, with just a spot of yellow on the rump of the bird. 18" x 24" on toned Fabriano Ingres paper (not this yellow- that comes from bad lighting and camera work- sorry!)
This is the "finished" drawing, with just a spot of yellow on the rump of the bird. 18" x 24" on toned Fabriano Ingres paper (not this yellow- that comes from bad lighting and camera work- sorry!)

Tomorrow I head off-island to the Canopy Tower Resort, a resort in Gamboa that’s set up for birders to go nuts birding in tropical comfort, up in a beautiful part of the forest. I’ll be there one night- back tomorrow with pictures!

7 thoughts on “The View From The Field

  1. Larry Layton says:

    Debbie,

    Your field work is wonderful. Sorry I missed your demo at the OPS, really wanted to come, but was ill. Drawing from nature is one of the best things ever!!

  2. Wren says:

    I’m impressed by the thought of you sketching while holding an umbrella in the other hand, and with such a lovely end result.

  3. Diane Wright says:

    Debbie,

    You are such an inspiration! Your field work is incredible! I have been following your work for quite some time and frequently return to view your work.

    Diane

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