Female Black-throated Blue Warbler Transparent Watercolor & Time Lapse Video

Female Black-throated Blue Warbler Transparent Watercolor ( 7x10 on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Female Black-throated Blue Warbler Transparent Watercolor (7×10 inches on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Female Black-throated Blue Warbler Transparent Watercolor Detail ( 7x10 on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Female Black-throated Blue Warbler Transparent Watercolor Detail (7×10 inches on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Back to the drafting table! This is a small 7 x 10-inch transparent watercolor of a female Black-throated Blue Warbler. I’ve painted a male before; those bright colors were asking for it. The females, while drab in comparison, are still beautiful little birds and are definitely worthy of a painting.

On the same subject, below is a male Black-throated Blue Warbler painting I did a while back. The lichens on the branches were a lot of fun to render in transparent watercolor. This one had four types of lichen in the painting: Furrowed Shield Lichen, Limp-tufted Lichen and two others I can’t remember the names of at the moment.

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Furrowed Shield Lichens and Limp-tufted Lichen (Transparent Watercolor on W&N 140lb NCP Paper about 10 x 7 in) Original available

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Furrowed Shield Lichens and Limp-tufted Lichen (Transparent Watercolor on W&N 140lb NCP Paper about 10 x 7 inches) Original currently available

One of the most common questions visual artists get is “How long did that take?” This is a fairly natural question to ask, I suppose. Humans like to quantify things. Paintings should be no different. Well, for a number of reasons it is always a hard question to answer. Do I count the time I spent taking the reference photos that I used to make the painting? I couldn’t do it without them—well at least not without totally plagiarizing someone else’s work and running into copyright issues. Do I count the time researching proper plumage and typical poses? The photos as reference often have issues—the bird is molting or in an awkward pose.

To get things to look right you need to accurately represent the species. This can take a lot of time. Do I count the time making the sketches? Do I count the time making the time-lapse and blog post? The time-lapse video I made this time has 8.5 hours of painting compressed into 9 minutes or so. That is only the painting portion of the process. A large portion of time spent isn’t on the painting phase. I guess the best analogy I can think of is music, which is a big part of life in our house. My son Timmy is 12. He’s obsessed with pipe organs and has been playing for several years. When he performs a complicated piece like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, no one asks how long it took to play it, because that is obvious. The real question is how long it took to learn nine pages of dense black notes and be able to play it correctly phrased at tempo!

Years ago I had a painting in a show, and one of my painting students, who I’ll call “Morty,” saw it and the price I was asking for it. The price was totally reasonable and was right in the ball park for what I sold framed works for at the time. He said, “That’s a small painting for $XXX.” I played along and said something like, “I know what you mean. It is small, but it’s packed with detail, so it took a very long time to complete.” Without a pause Morty asked just how long it took. I beat around the bush a little. At the time I seldom tracked the exact time I put into painting projects. He persisted and eventually I threw out a guess of 14 hours. His eyes lost focus momentarily, rolling slightly up and to the left accessing his mental abacus; then they quickly snapped back to reality, and he said. “That’s $XX.XX/Hour!”

I have to say I was conflicted. I wasn’t sure whether I was more impressed by his speedy mental math or complete lack of tact! Both were out of this world. Now let me say, I genuinely liked Morty. He was a good painter, a hard worker and an eager learner. He was smart and funny, but topics of monetary nature were best avoided with him. I simply had no response at the time. After stammering for a moment or two I jokingly said, “Well, Morty, you don’t have to buy it!”

As time has passed I’ve thought of a lot of witty responses, all a few years too late. Perhaps my favorite rebuttal is “Paint your own and see how long it takes you!” It is hard to quantify things like this. Like a musician playing a complex Bach piece, we don’t see the time put into practicing to get to the point of being able to pull off Toccata and Fugue in nine minutes. 

 

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