Train song.

Train song.

For a few years now I’ve lived next to a train station that’s a stop between San Francisco and L.A. I have a sleepy connection with the idling diesels up the hill on the tracks – at night they rattle my window and bring me peace.

When the train leaves it’s like a song cut short waking me up, but the distant sound of the diesel rolling out of town with its whistle blowing into the surrounding hills puts me right back at rest.

The word that comes to mind is connection – knowing those rails lead from here to San Francisco, to the Rockies and through the prairie into the town I grew up in, all the way out to the Atlantic coast and bustling New York. It brings me a smile, like sketching a mockingbird while hearing one sing.

All I know she sang a little while and then flew on

All I know she sang a little while and then flew on

Though a raptor book isn’t a bad idea either. I’ve got this great spot I’ve been going to with my bike to ride some little jumps. There’s usually a large hawk around, its a perfect meadow for mice and that sort so there’s plenty of food to go around. No hawk today but a small bunch of finches where hanging around.

Birding and bikes have gone hand in hand with me since i can recall. I don’t go out my front door with a list in hand of birds to see. Rather I just open my eyes to whichever show up. There are birds all around us that frequently get over looked. Today at the jumps it was finches, yesterday a hawk. Some nights on my way to get groceries I see the neighborhood Barn Owl.

I have no expectations of the natural world to “show me something”. It just happens when it does, and it makes me grateful. that’s how seeing a Red-tail on a high tension line can be the same as hearing a song I love to hear, or a poem I love to read.

The choice for documenting with illustrations comes from my love of the books. A bird book feels a poetry book. Like a book of poetry that Richard Brautigan would have written. Inside the photographs take me places and illustrations show me light.

My connection to birds goes back farther than I can remember. My Mother tells me I had an imaginary friend bird named Gus as a little kid. My Grandfather always had bird feeders in his yard and a bird guide on the inside table. My father keeps binoculars hanging on the lamp by the window and dozens of feeders kept full. My Uncle was a carver and illustrator who loved the natural world and carved many birds, and animals.

No doubt there’s a big nest of birds in my family tree.

Maybe when I see a hawk or song bird it seems all my relations come to be right there in my presence and the gratitude I feel makes me smile. Or maybe I’m just glad to play a roll in this ecosystem we call our solar system. vast and great.

All I know is as long as I’m able to, Ill draw them for you.

Laugh in the sunshine,
cry in the dark,
fly through the night.

All I know is something like a bird within her sang

All I know is something like a bird within her sang

I took the dirt-jump bike out to my jumps by the railroad tracks. Its a great spot for riding and birding. I saw a great big red-tail (Buteo jamaicensis) up in a tree. Noted in my brains notebook some traits for a drawing I’m planning.
I struggled in high school art class because we were graded on our planning. 10 years later it’s my favorite part, ok well I enjoy it a lot. besides I’m not sure riding a bike off a jump can count at planning artwork.

The book in the Photo is by Donald and Lillian Stokes. they have a number of field guides all with great photos. the warbler one has been a big help for me with these warbler plates.
My other go-to book was originally published in 1966. A Guide to Field Identification: Birds of North America. It’s an illustrated guide, vs. a photographic one. The mix of illustrations and photos helps me make the transition of real life to pencil, ink, and color.

My goal over the last few months my “plan” for what to do with bird drawings has changed. A whole guide to all the birds, or just some? While i like the idea of drawing every bird i have to be honest with myself. there’s a couple of things to consider like 1: there are over 900 species of birds of North America. Yeah that’s the big one, and I’m not too entirely stoked to draw the 200 some waterfowl or shore birds. While of course I appreciate them as a naturalist but I find drawing them is well just not that exciting. So for the moment I’m assembling a guide to warblers of North America.

….And a lot of raptors on the side.

and a Loon. (That’s my one favorite waterfowl).

Colorful paint.

Colorful paint.

I spend a solid chunk of time looking at birds for drawing them. Books, Online galleries, and in the field. I like to pretend I take it seriously. Striving for a fair bit of accuracy to best represent the species I chose to draw. That being said sometimes it’s fun to play with color. I “finished” this a year ago, but got tired of looking at it everyday so I put a little more paint on it.