Bird stories

The day started and ended with a bird story. On a morning bike ride through a wooded trail that crossed through a reservoir, there was an Anhinga atop a wooden post drying its wings (which are apparently not waterproof) by spreading them open in the sun. I’d only ever seen this bird once before, a few days previous, at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge where the bird was perched on a low hanging branch above a marsh, watching for fish in the murky water below. We stopped our bikes to watch the bird, even moved a little closer to take photos, and miraculously it did not budge. It stayed on its perch for so long I probably could have sketched it but eventually a runner went by and it flew away.

Later in the day I sketched the ominous sky and the wind in the palms across the canal. At one point I looked up and saw hundreds of black birds fly in, darkening the horizon as they landed on rooftops and trees.

At about the same time, a little blue heron landed near me on the dock. I reached into my pocket for my phone to take a photo but realized I had left it behind. The bird watched me for a long time, taking small steps closer and closer before eventually flying off. A few minutes later it landed again next to me, not two feet away, and this time it stayed, and stayed and stayed. It stayed so long I decided to draw it. I’m not an accomplished sketcher of birds like Cathy Johnson or Jean Mackay, but this little guy seemed to pose for me for a good ten minutes, certainly enough time for me to observe details in the blue-grey feathers and greenish legs. Seems like a long time in bird time. I would have loved to add a little shadow on the ground but the bird finally found something more interesting than me and flew away. And by then the moment had passed and it seemed strange to continue the sketch. I guess this story epitomizes what I love best about urban sketching. You sit down to do one thing and something else happens, just because you are there, watching and listening to what is around you. And in the end, I am happy that I forgot my phone, this one time, because when I look back on this day my sketch of the bird will mean more to me than a photo of it ever would.


38 Comments on “Bird stories”

  1. That is wonderful. The bird knew that he could trust you. Beautiful drawings, both.

  2. Marie says:

    I love and appreciate your dedication to your sketchbook and your generosity in sharing it with us! Such a cool experience with the heron! Love these warmer climate sketches during this cold snap (for me)!

    • I will be back to the cold soon enough Marie, but I am appreciating my time here, the lush foliage, the saturated colours. I will tide me over for when I get back to the greyness.

  3. anne farmer says:

    It is an interesting question – whether you should add to a sketch once the subject is no longer in front of you. I think while you still retin details in your mind’s eye that you intended to put in, that’s fine. But it seems pointless to ‘improve’ on the drawing you made as a response to what you were seeing.

    • Anne, I’ve thought about this a lot too. And I often finish up my sketches once I get home. But for this one, it just didn’t seem right so I stopped. But for sketches I want to post, or those that I want to sell, I will certainly continue them at home.

  4. Susan says:

    I can feel the ominousness in that scene(!) Love the bird stories. It must have been thrilling to have the heron so close to you and for so long. Happy New Year, and don’t come home any time soon if you can help it.

  5. Judy Sopher says:

    This is just amazing-for a bird to stay so long. What an experience! Your painting really captures the feeling of oncoming weather. I don’t know if this was planned or intended but my eye goes to the blue boat in front. Thanks for sharing your vacation with us.

  6. Denise Gowan says:

    Thank you so much, Shari, for the HEART you express in your posts!! Ranging from the delight in the ‘every day’ to the awe in the sublime, your notes and watercolors have me opening YOUR email first (among a lonnnnngggg list of emails) even — and maybe most importantly! – on very busy days. Many thanks to you.
    Denise

  7. Ineke says:

    As always, I am in awe of your wonderful sketches and that little Blue Herron, what a beautiful bonus for your followers.

  8. Alison says:

    Well, I think you really captured something of the character of the heron. Looks like it’s giving you the sideways glance, as if to say, “So, are you going to sketch me or not?!” Great sketches.

  9. Tina says:

    Love your art as always, but…. it’s torture to look at that warm weather for some of us very frozen Montrealers.

  10. blissfullycreating says:

    that blue heron is gorgeous!!

  11. joantav says:

    Just goes to show you need to be prepared to sketch at any moment, even if you are working on another painting. Both are great, Shari!

  12. Yes Shari, that’s exactly it! The moment is seized by the brush and it becomes magnificent and thoroughly memorable. I’ve experienced the unusual bird posing thing and it’s a bit of magic. Thanks for sharing your (I must say, enviable) vacation heaven.

  13. -N- says:

    Goodness, these are nice! Being a big Winslow Homer fan, especially his watercolors of the Caribbean, I am totally enjoying these. We have palms next to us, and we hear the crows and ravens rustling around in them. In a high wind, their snap and whish are rather pleasant. You caught that sound in your brushwork.

  14. Anne Peterson says:

    Shari, Fabulous – yes, forgetting the phone is a blessing! I SO enjoy your posts and have been meaning to tell your that for a LONG time. Blessings to you and yours in 2018, Anne Peterson

    On Wed, Jan 3, 2018 at 11:17 AM, The Sketchbook wrote:

    > Shari Blaukopf posted: “The day started and ended with a bird story. On a > morning bike ride through a wooded trail that crossed through a reservoir, > there was an Anhinga atop a wooden post drying its wings (which are > apparently not waterproof) by spreading them open in the sun. ” >

  15. Bravo! Both paintings are terrific! And what a treat so see the heron closeup for so long. Great job especially on the legs and feet, which are often quite hard to place. Thanks for the shout out! YOU are the master!

    • Jean, so nice to hear from you! Thanks for writing. I am very proud that the heron was there long enough for me to draw those feet! I have only ever been able to draw bird feet at the Redpath Museum where are the birds are in the glass cases with all the other taxidermy animals. I am in awe of your skill in drawing birds.

  16. Leslie Blackwell says:

    Wonderful sketches and story. Thanks, Shari! I adore watching and sketching birds too. Such a challenge.

  17. astewartmom says:

    Thank you! I really enjoyed this post. Birds are so interesting, glad you sketched that heron – he looks great.

  18. Suzanne says:

    Super! Ditto everything everybody said. I feel like I was with you for a moment, beside your beautiful plumed friend.
    I don’t often comment but like many, I am always watching in the wings. (No pun intended.)
    Thank you again for being, and for inviting us into your art and your life.
    Bonne année Shari! All the best to you and your loved ones!

    • Suzanne, thanks so much for writing. Reading comments always makes me happy and I really appreciate when people take the time to write. It’s what keeps me going all year long.

  19. Donna says:

    Thank you for the beautiful sketches and your thoughts of the day!!! Expecting 13 to 20 inches of snow today!!! Enjoy!!!


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