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The Importance of Field Notes

I love to paint birds and other wildlife, and to depict them in their natural habitats. In order to create my paintings, I often take field notes and do “quick sketches” on site. I have not shared my sketches because they are quick, rough and my subjects for drawing often move very, very quickly.

But I will share some here, to help others who enjoy drawing and painting birds see what the process is like for me.

sketches of terns flying

I was spending some time just observing some terns flying one morning over Lake Huron. I wanted to capture the sense of swiftness that they show, and also the height they were above the lake.

I love to paint egrets and other birds that live near the water, so I took some notes about the color of Lake Huron in the late afternoon, when I did these sketches. I also happened to see a robin later in the day, and did a quick sketch of him sitting on a garden shed roof.
I saw a rail (a marsh bird) sitting on her nest at the edge of a friend’s marsh-like water garden one evening; the rail was looking right at me from the depths of the grass in the bank where she was sitting on her (nearly hatched) eggs.
I also like to draw the habitat around where the birds are. While I can take photos, I have found that nothing replaces actually making the drawings, too.
of course, I supplement field notes with photos that I take. In this one, there are two egrets on the marsh; one is flying, the other is behind. This helps to show relative size and the positions that the birds are in naturally in their habitat (some of you will recognize this marsh from one of my paintings!)

I haven’t posted many paintings the past two weeks, because I have been observing the birds in this area and taking notes like these. I will share the finished paintings at a future date.

2 responses to “The Importance of Field Notes”

  1. First: thanks for being brave enough to show your notes! It’s hard to share the sketchy, rough stuff that we haven’t been able to polish. I am always fascinated to see how others collect information for their work.
    Also: I’d love to see a start to finish post: one where you show your field notes and photos and then the final work so we could see how a painting evolves.
    Your work is beautiful!

    • Kit, thank you, I appreciate this. This was one of the hardest posts I have ever done, because the field sketches always look so rough. I like your idea, and I may do this soon! By the way, the pictures and photos on your blog are lovely, too.

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