Friday, April 19, 2019


Original Oil on Panel, 16 x 16 inches

Last summer, a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird spent several minutes going back and forth between preening and eating nectar from my zinnias and coneflowers. The garden fence was his overlook and resting spot. I positioned myself behind a mass of squash and basil leaves to obtain photographs, although I was hardly hidden. He knew I was there, no doubt. For reference, below I’ve included a photograph that shows the red feather on his chin, appropriately indicating a male hummingbird not quite in full, ruby-throated plumage. Prior to examining my photos, I thought I was in the company of a female hummingbird.
For this painting, I chose the focus to be on the hummingbird, nothing else. So, the background is simple, with a little light coming from the upper right corner. The feathers close to his body (the undertails) were in the shadows and revealed little detail. As an artist, decisions needed to be made, and they weren’t easy. How would I handle painting these feathers? How much detail would they get? And how would I paint an area that from my reference photograph looked, well, just black? Ahhhhh….. black is never just black, my friends, unless you’re in Mammoth Cave when the ranger switches off the lights. Now, that’s black. Space is pretty black, too. So, okay, perhaps there are some exceptions.
Anyway, a lot of effort was put into getting these feathers just right. And if you’re a beginner painter having difficulty painting with black, my best advice is to add another color, any color, to the black to get a different shade of black on your canvas. What your eye doesn’t see in wet paint will see after it starts to dry. For example, if you add a touch of blue, brown, or red, to black paint, it might still look black. However, once dry, there will be a difference between black and your mixed black. And sometimes the colors are so similar when applied to your canvas, you'll just have to trust your paint on this and know there will be a difference.

Spring is finally here. Today, the Fox Sparrows arrived and are singing their lovely songs. One or two White-throated Sparrows have called, but are not in abundance yet. Many other birds are singing, too, such as Purple Finches, American Robins, American Goldfinches and Dark-eyed Juncos. I have survived another winter in Duluth.

My photograph showing the ruby throat feather.

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