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'In any land what is there more glorious than sunlight! Even here in the desert where it falls fierce and hot like a rain of meteors, it is the one supreme beauty to which all things pay allegiance ... The chief glory of the desert is its broad blaze of omnipresent light.'
-John Van Dyke

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I used an old calendar photo by a friend of a friend (Stan Keiser) as the inspiration for a spring watercolor of a non-Arizona animal. I loved those Red Foxes when I lived in Europe. But I think for my painting it's definitely better to stick to fresher, directer impressions.
Framed in a nice natural wood frame that picks up Foxy's coat it looks very nice now. 
See more of my wildlife images here

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Montezuma Quail

I have my prints in a little gallery in Patagonia, close to Nogales AZ. The area is biologically so rich (one of the most diverse in the US) that it attracts birders, researchers, conservationists and also hunters.
In grasslands and canyons, there are several indigenous species of quail plus the Bobwhite that was released from captive bred stock.

Now my gallery asked for the most typical one, the one that has been used as the logo of several birding festivals ... but also the most tricky one for a watercolor painter. It's the Montezuma Quail. The male's head is over-sized and looks nearly disk-like in profile, but most of all, it's the high-contrast grey and white spotting of the chest and the gold and dark fish-tail pattern of the back that characterize the birds. Not an easy task for a watercolor painter.

On the other hand, our facebook group Birding - Arizona and the Southwest offered plenty of great reference material, especially the photos by Peggy Coleman and Tony Battiste.
Anticipating substantial 'up-tightening' while painting the feather details of the male, I tried to tie the birds into the background and model the shapes somewhat before starting on those spots. No further painting before it's thoroughly dry after this.

I know that I have a hard timekeeping patterns from becoming too regular and repetitive if I tried it freehand. So I took the time for a careful and detailed drawing. Then I loaded a big brush with a nice point to get all the dark of the chest down quickly without interruption and so the paint stayed wet enough that I was able to float in pigments that could nicely spread out.

After completing the dark spots of the back and wings, I applied a deeper gold colored wash, letting the brush pick up some of the darker pigments from the spots to soften them and lifting some pigment to lighten areas that received the most light from above. Trying to keep it soft and edge-less there. 

Some harder edges and contrast in the foreground were necessary to push the birds back into the painting. And of course some feathers and eyes for the female - also grounding her on those great sturdy feet. All birds in the chicken family prefer running to flying and have the feet for it!

The finished watercolor will be framed in a 16in by 20in  frame and will be exhibited for the first time at my next art show in Gold Canyon in 2 weeks. The Patagonia gallery of the Creative Spirit Artists will receive gallery-wrapped canvas giclee prints and matted paper prints in several sizes.