February may be the shortest month, but it seems the longest in its often dull, overcast days when winter seems to have overstayed her welcome.
Imagine that waiting game for the wildlife in our midst. The mourning doves are just sitting quietly, taking it all in, possibly knowing that, in time, this too shall pass.
That was the thought I had as, years ago, I watched the doves perch in the bare branches of the aged maple tree outside my bedroom window. What do doves do all day? Just kind of hang out waiting for something to happen? The doves always seem to have some purpose beyond just sitting there, but sit they will for hours, moving only slightly, perhaps waiting for friends to join them. Studying them regularly through these dim days and photographing, back in film days, evidenced details and colors not seen in a glance.
The branches of the ancient maple tree vary in texture and even color, the larger branches and trunk carrying old gnarled scars from years of storms; this tree has been my guardian since I moved into this house. The details of the branches and twigs were so inspiring to me and I visualized a large, detailed pencil drawing, even imagining my pencil drawing the darker edges, blending the smooth areas and sketching detail in the rough areas to create the shadows.
Still, it was the doves who led me to the beauty of the scene and it was only a matter of time and lots of reference photos before I decided exactly which one I wanted to draw.
The scene I finally chose to draw was a bright overcast day when a snowfall had melted from the branches, leaving them a little wet and more colorful than usual with the little bits of moss that collect on the undersides, and the shadows are muted and soft.
I chose to create this drawing in pencil for the simple clarity of line and the delicacy of shadow. Pencil was my first medium and one I return to regularly with a comforting familiarity, losing myself in the variety of lines and textures a simple graphite pencil can achieve, and so it was with this drawing.
I added very slight watercolor washes to show the bird’s breast tarnish and the contrast of blue on the upper feathers, and the slight gather of moss on the tree branch. Loving the pencil, I still wanted to give the birds and branches dimension against the flat white background. Well I remember my hesitance with the first washes of color, holding the brush, filled with paint, away from the sketch, afraid to begin for fear either my idea of adding color wouldn’t be successful or I would simply screw up this pencil drawing I’d spent three weeks drawing. Eventually, I got over it, and it worked out just as I had visualized.
PURCHASE A PRINT
This drawing is entitled Biding Time, 15″ x 21″ , done in pencil on cold press illustration board. The original is sold, but prints are available. Visit the product post for more information and to purchase.
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