Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Color: part 1

It was a beautiful sunny winter day out by Montauk Point Lighthouse (no traffic on the way out there, and no crowds while there -- a huge bonus) and the gulls were skimming the waves and riding the wind currents that pushed up over the bluff on which the lighthouse rests. It was a little after noon, but even with the sun at its highest point, its low angle gave that distinctive quality of winter sunlight. The sky looked especially blue behind the white gulls and the sunlight was highly reflective off the feathers.

It seemed like the only way to make the gull stand out appropriately on the paper was to use color.
It was my first foray into color, and an enjoyable one. The sky was darker blue above the gull and lighter down towards the horizon, which allowed me to experiment with combining some of the shades of blue in my pencil collection. It is always interesting how after such an exercise one sees things differently -- both other things in nature and other people's artwork. The "how would I do that?", or the "how did they do that?" question. The blue sky offset the gray, white, and black markings on the gull nicely and I didn't have to worry about colors in the main focus of the drawing.

Herring gull, 2008.
Graphite and colored pencil on paper,
5" x 7".

One of the things I enjoy about this kind of drawing is that I then get to find out interesting things about the subject that I was engaged by. Although I wasn't aware of it before, many of the gulls by the shore, even though they can look markedly different from one another, are actually the same species (see photos in link below). Herring gulls take four years to reach adult plumage and the plumage on this bird indicates that it is three years old. It still has some juvenile markings under its throat (the darker feathers), but its body is mostly white feathers now. The intermittent dark feathers on its throat made it much more interesting to draw.

For anyone interested in further reading, Cornell's ornithology department has useful information out on the web; there is an interesting page on birds molting with
a useful set of images on herring gull molting at the bottom of this page.

1 comment:

Triple Tree Threads said...

I continue to enjoy this piece every day! Grand memories of Christmas and you.