Today I was mulling over my New Year’s resolution: to focus more on light in my art. In the process I was pouring over some of my 2013 sketches and realized my pelican makes two good points for the New Year. The first is to sketch! I admit I do a lot of that, but I know there are some very talented artists who don’t find the time to sketch. Sketching not only hones your skills, but it also captures wonderful memories.
I look as this sketch and I remember a wonderful day in Yellowstone. I thought I had glimpsed a bird not often seen in Yellowstone, a black-bellied plover. I wanted to verify my sighting so I could report it; I hoped for a photograph. The best way to wait for my opportunity was to walk closer (no parking close by) and sketch.
The two plovers had flown into deep grass. I knew where they were but hadn’t gotten a good enough look. Nearby a pelican was carefully preening. I put my camera on the ground and rested my sketchbook on the end-post of a bridge. It was a little chilly; a little breezy; I was standing near the east bank of Pelican Creek. Off to the left stretched miles of frozen Yellowstone Lake. Sunshine sparkled on the pelican’s white feathers. This bird was ready for breeding season with a bright orange bill and feet and a horny growth on the top of his bill. He was preening his wings. White pelicans have a nine-foot wingspan so he had a lot of area to preen.
It took awhile for my plover opportunity, but that meant I had time to sketch the pelican properly. Finally my plovers moved to a new spot. I could see them, get my photograph, and even sketch them.
Today, when I was looking at these sketches, the wonderful memory came back. I also realized I could improve this sketch in about 5 minutes, by just strengthening my shadow areas. The shadows were there, but a little tepid. I wish I had done a before and after scan, but that is too late now.
For more about my thoughts on the importance of light see my Jan 1, 2014 blogpost “Aim For Better Light” at www.elvafieldnotes.blogspot.com