Tuesday Birds-The Canorous Cardinal

The Canorous Cardinal

Cardinals are the main bright spot in an otherwise drab and dreary winter landscape, unless you are fortunate enough to have a snowy winter landscape.  Cardinals are magical in the quiet beauty of falling snow. When spring arrives, they become just another one of the many bright and colorful little birdies showing off their warm weather feathers.  For now, cardinals provide all the color we get until the season changes.  They are the stars of the winter landscape.

Cardinals in the Snow

Red dashes along a brown ground are frequently cardinals foraging around for dropped seeds from shrubs or left behind by other birds. Once the foraged meal is done the sweet sounds of a singing red beauty can be heard from the upper branches of a nearby shrub.  When the branches are covered in snow, that bright bit of red fluff singing his heart out is a sight to see. It might even bring on some added cold chills.

Down in the Valley where the Chickadees can be heard with their continual chatter, the Cardinals are a bit peeved.  Carson Cardinal was quite annoyed and said to Cameron and Caroline. Will those Chickadees ever stop chattering? It’s so hard to sing above all the chatter.  Nothing stops the chatter more effectively than the sight of a glorious red bird preening about in the snow-covered branches of a tulip poplar. When he begins to sing the beautiful melodious tunes as his friends join in harmony, the Chickadees quickly become quite mute.  The Chickadees cannot remain chatterless for long, so if you catch sight of a bit of red flitting through the branches, stop and listen. The reward will be worth it.

Cardinal in the Snow-2

For more information about cardinals follow the link to All About Birds.

Colorful Fridays- Essential Forgettable Dirty Yellow

Yellow is yellow. Or so it would seem. Or is it? Yellow has many variations though it doesn’t appear to. When painting a daffodil or a sunflower, are there any yellows that can be used besides Lemon Yellow or Indian Yellow, my favorites?  I confess to a dislike of any variations of yellow other than these two.  If I need to paint shadows in either Lemon or Indian Yellow, I most often use purple for Lemon Yellow and Prussian Blue for Indian Yellow.  But what about painting those little nuances in petals that can quickly go flat with too much of the purple/blue additions? Digging around in my yellow paint drawer, at the very back I come up with Yellow Ochre.

Yellow Ochre comes in just about every packaged starter set of paint, oil, acrylic or watercolor. If you’ve ever bought a set, have a look.  In every medium-sized set, yellow ochre is nearly always the second yellow.  Sometimes buying a set can be less expensive than a single tube, if there is a sale on.  When I get those, it’s usually for the browns.  The yellows promptly get thrown to the back of the drawer until spring flowers pop up. Then back in the drawer again until late summer when the sunflowers are in force. That’s when I realize I am dissing a timeless classic.

Winsor Newtontells the story of how Yellow Ochre is an earth-based pigment, a staple of artists until the 19thcentury when synthetic Mars Yellow took over.  Pigments through the Ages says that original Yellow Ochre is made from silica, clay and an iron oxide derivative, goethite. Today’s Yellow Ochre is almost entirely made in a lab but don’t let that keep you from choosing this originally earth based paint in the painting of earth subjects.

Daffodils, watercolor on paper

In painting daffodils and sunflowers, Yellow Ochre is the winner for the subtle variances in petals.  Yellow Ochre can also be quite effective in the variations of bird feathers as most birds are colored naturally in earthy hues. While Yellow Ochre comes up as number 6 on my list of essential Yellows, it is never the less essentially, essential. When adding a bit of dirt in your art, don’t forget this important yellow once made from dirt.

Three Sunflowers, watercolor on paper

Roseate Spoonbill

Driving through the St Marks Wildlife Refuge in Florida, my eye was caught by a group of pink birds standing still in the marsh water. I had never seen pink birds before outside of flamingos in the zoo. At first I thought they might be flamingos until I stopped the car and got a good look through the camera lens. A friend had painted a painting of a one with its head turned completely around and resting on its back. That’s where I first heard of Roseate Spoonbills. There were so intriguingly beautiful until you get a good look at the unfortunately ugly spoonbill.

Maybe that ugly snoot is what made this spoonbill bury his head underwater. Can’t blame him. All About Birds says “The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill.” Audubon describes the spoonbill as “Gorgeous at a distance and bizarre up close.” Both of these descriptions are very accurate and maybe that explains my immediate fascination with these unusual birds. For a couple of weeks, I drove through St. Marks checking up on the flock of spoonbills. They moved around through out the Refuge for those two weeks. Every time I saw them they were in a new location sometimes with just their flock and sometimes with other wading birds.

The first day I saw the spoonbills, they were standing very quietly in the late afternoon. Not moving, just standing. In a post on her blog, Audrey Oxenhorn describes the spoonbill as a reminder of the “importance of being weary.” In this photo, the spoonbills certainly looked weary as they stood unmoving in the still water. Another blog, Auntyflo, says that spoonbills like silence and they are a reminder of how silence can be the best form of communication. These birds certainly looked like they were enjoying silence but how do you really know? Do Spoonbills talk? They were standing in a marsh with no wind or waves, no trees or grass. not interacting with each other. Some were grooming themselves otherwise they were unmoving. Maybe they do like silence.

Whether Roseate Spoonbills like silence maybe a little hard to prove but they definitely have a Dr. Suess like bizarre look. The spoonbill’s beautiful pink color keeps them fascinating despite the strange bald head and long spoon shaped bill. I looked for them every day for about two weeks. They never failed to fascinate. One day I watched one walking through the waterway swinging the that bill back and forth through the water very methodically. I couldn’t tell what if anything her was catching but it must have been something. He looked quite content as he moved on down through the water.

One day I went looking for the spoonbills and couldn’t find them. They were gone. Moved on to someplace more quiet apparently. I was sad at the loss of my game of spotting the flash of pink lurking in the marsh or behind the tall grass. I wasn’t happy with the first painting, so maybe its time for another go at a spoonbill painting. I’ll try the silence thing while painting to “communicate” with them. That could help the painting process. Worth a try!

Colorful Fridays–The Yellows

swamp sen close up

“Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” Pablo Picasso

Colorful Fridays has reached a turning point where the majority of single colors have been covered.  Colorful Fridays will begin color mixes after recapping the colors we have covered.  Here are the yellows:

Healthy Love Inspiring Yellow

Misunderstood Mispronounced Exploding Yellow

Red-less Monkey Yellow

Disgustingly Beautiful Yellow

Sunset Yellow

  • Cadmium Yellow is covered under the reds
  • If I have missed a yellow you would like to see, let me know
  • Everyone probably has a favorite yellow.  Mine are Naples and Indian Yellow

Colorful Fridays–Transparently Healing White

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“The first of all colors is white … We shall set down white as the representation of light, without which no color can be seen; yellow for earth, green for water, blue for air, red for fire; and black for total darkness.” Leonardo Da Vinci (Squidoo.com)

Many artists’ paints must be used with caution because of the potentially toxic properties of the pigments.  Not so with Zinc White.  Not only is Zinc White not toxic, should you happen to get poison ivy while out doing a little plein air painting, you can reach into your paint box and pull out your handy tube of Zinc White.  Slather it on and continue painting.  Suppose the sun is beating down but just a few more minutes and the painting will be complete.  A little Zinc White on the nose for sun protection and carry on.  And that Zinc White comes in mighty handy if you are looking for transparent lightening of the paint without the heaviness and chalkiness of Titanium.

Winsor Newton states Zinc White is “cold white” in appearance and “is particularly suitable for mixtures with cool colors and for glazing and scumbling techniques as it does not over power other hues.”  Golden Paints states Zinc White has “1/10th the tinting power of titanium white,” and “Zinc White is the best choice for use with the highly transparent hues”.  Golden Paints also states, “with Zinc White you have more control.”  Zinc White won’t take over the paint and turn it into a pastel quite so quickly as the much stronger Titanium white.

Artist’s experiments have concluded much the same thing.  A Blog Related to Art finds Zinc White has a cooler and bluer effect on paint mixes with greater transparency and states, “you can more easily make small adjustments to a paint’s lightness without accidently making it too light.”  On her blog, Lezley Davidson says, “skin tones are great ideas for Zinc Oxide when you need a white.”  Samantha Dasilva makes a comparison of Zinc White and Titanium and concludes Zinc White “slightly effects the value of the color” and is “highly transparent” and “great for glazing.”

With Zinc White, the tinting is mild and won’t affect the basic value of the paint.  It is excellent for transparency and glazing, particularly with the effects of skin tones.  Zinc White is the best choice for light airy whites and those with a bluer or cooler look.  Zinc White won’t give that thick opaque look that Titanium White is well known for.  If you don’t want to overpower your work with white, then go for the Zinc.  And if not, you can always add it to your First Aid Kit.  Along with poison ivy and sunburn, Zinc White is great on that diaper rash you got after wading through the poison ivy to reach that sunny spot you sweltered in all day while painting your fabulous plein air creation.  The things we do for art!

Grumbacher demonstrates mixing with Zinc White:

To buy pure zinc oxide pigment go to Amazon

Colorful Fridays–Everything’s Coming Up Orchids

mauve orchid1

“A captivating harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid emanates great love, joy and health.” Leatrice Eiseman executive director, Pantone Color Institute

Frantically searching through paint boxes, “Radiant Orchid” is nowhere to be found. No “Radiant Orchid” in the watercolor box or the oil box. Can’t find it in the pastels either. Horror of horrors! What if the 2014 Color of the Year can’t be added to new paintings? Pantone has declared “Radiant Orchid” the 2014 Color of the Year. Nothing easy this year compared to last year’s Emerald. Anybody can find some Emerald and squeeze it right out of the tube. Not “Radiant Orchid!” No tube comes with that label. How can an artist paint something to go with all the “Radiant Orchid” furniture, walls, and other interior design features of 2014? The only option is to mix it.

Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 7.45.22 PMLeatrice Eiseman of Pantone describes “Radiant Orchid” as fuchsia, purple and pink undertones. That could be any number of color combinations available in the average artist’s paint supplies. The quinacradones, magentas, and cobalts possibly added to ultramarine or alizarin crimson. And don’t forget the mauves. The only way to find “Radiant Orchid” is to start mixing. The problem is in knowing when the exact match for “Radiant Orchid” has been achieved. Which orchids are the radiant ones?

But, have no fear! Pantone also states, “An invitation to innovation, “Radiant Orchid” encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society.” While mixing the various reds and blues to come up with a personal version of “Radiant Orchid” that “expanded creativity” will be available to draw on. What more could an artist ask? So get those paint tubes out and start mixing. Or risk being undervalued in today’s society!

No telling what will happen with all that expanded creativity. A completely original version of “Radiant Orchid” may be revealed. The new mix can become, as Pantone says, “a dazzling attention-getter” possibly hurling the artist into the glare of a radiant spotlight. Soon everything will be coming up orchids. Isn’t that “everything’s coming up roses?” Not this year, it isn’t. This year, it’s coming up orchids, at least the radiant ones.

For more on the Color of the Year 2014 click on the link to Pantone:

http://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/pantone.aspx?pg=21128&ca=10

Colorful Fridays–Red-less Monkey Yellow

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“Happiness is Gamboge, ennui is grey…” Jonathan Meades (The Times of London by Wordsmith.org)

The most beautiful warm glowing yellows in paintings are often the result of the liberal use of the orangey yellow Gamboge.  So warm and glowing is this color that it is said to be used to dye the robes of certain Buddhist monks giving the robes a rich saffron color. Gamboge is the color of the ripe wheat fields in Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel, The Elder”s 16th Century painting of peasants at the harvest.  Gamboge is the sun on a bright afternoon in late September.

Gamboge was originally derived from the resin of the Garcinia tree growing in Cambodia, Thailand and other Asian countries of the region.  The resin is collected in bamboo shoots until dried when the bamboo is then cut away. The resin of the Garcinia tree is considered a controlled poison in some countries due to the cathartic (according to Britannica,”drastic catharic”) properties of the fruit. However it is frequently found in small amounts in some herbal products used for weight loss and other physical issues.  It is relatively harmless in small amounts.Screen shot 2013-12-13 at 9.34.50 AM

Modern Gamboge paint is no longer made with the resin of the Garcinia tree.  Original Gamboge has a very poor lightfastness.  Daniel Smith’s New Gamboge claims an excellent light fastness, “more staining than Yellow Ochre and equal in tinting ability to Raw Sienna.”  New Gamboge lacks the fugitive properties of the original. Beautiful, glowing warm yellows can be “poured” over any paintings with no worries of fading.

RadioLab.org has a podcast titled “The Perfect Yellow” that tells the story of the origins of Gamboge along with some other interesting tales of the use of this versatile yellow. RadioLabs website discusses the use of Gamboge and other colors in experiments for teaching monkeys to recognize red.  One wonders why on earth we would want to teach monkeys to see red?  It’s bad enough when people see red.  Just image being overrun by rampaging monkeys seeing red!  And what if the monkeys start eating the Gamboge resin?  What a mess we will be in then!  Perhaps it is better to keep the Gamboge for paintings and leave the monkeys to their red-less vision.

Gamboge is the yellow of warmth and happiness in many paintings.  Its addition will add a beautiful golden glowing tint to many colors.  Today’s Gamboge is free from the potentially harmful side effects of the past.  Though today’s mixes lack the poisonous resin of the Garcinia tree, you probably wouldn’t want to eat it and please keep it away from all monkeys.  Otherwise you will be able to experience the “happiness of Gamboge” in any painting.

Some quotes from others about Gamboge:

Mcspiky says, “I would describe this colour as a form of mustard with little bit more zest and vibrancy to it (trying not to be pretentious here).”

http://mcspiky.blogspot.com/2012/08/gamboge.html

 Ferrebeekeeper says, “Here is a gorgeous warm color for Thanksgiving week.”

http://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/gamboge/

You can order your own Gamboge pigment for mixing at:

Kremer Pigmente

Cornelissen.com

 For more on Pieter Bruegel, The Elder: