Bird Painting and Drawing Workshop

Back in April, I came across a beginner’s workshop for drawing and painting birds to be hosted at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center. At only 5$ a ticket for a four-hour workshop, I couldn’t resist and I purchased two extra for my MIL and SIL. I wasn’t sure how it could only be five dollars when we would be working with Kristina Knowski, who knew a thing or two about watercolor painting from the examples I had seen. And fortunately for my curious mind, she explained that right out of the gate! DNR got a grant through the Indiana Arts Commission to fund public outreach programs like this one. Cool! But Iphone photos only here:/

These are examples of her work that she brought:

Kristina gave us a short primer on drawing materials and techniques, then illustrated how she would approach drawing an owl. Each of our tables had one or two taxidermic birds – we had a Goldeneye duck. She set us loose to practice on a couple of newsprint sheets as she and the other artist helping, Aaron Melendez, walked around offering help. Getting the basic shapes on paper, proportionately, was the idea. Then the task was to get the right shapes and sizes onto the watercolor paper.

I drew my duck three times before I got it lightly on my watercolor paper:

We had a short break to eat snacks while Kristina then went over the materials and techniques for watercolor paints. For the example, we were all invited up close to watch her layer on washes. I was dreading this part – I do not have a happy history with watercolors. However, I do understand them better now – but I think if anything, I am an acrylics person. In acrylic painting, you paint the background and build up to the foreground. In watercolors, you paint the lights and build up to the darks on top of them. I don’t think well in those terms. And I just think I don’t like painting, though I am sure to try it again before I die.

Then it was our turn. I learned a couple things through the process, namely that my pervious mistakes in the art was simply because I was not waiting for washes to dry before adding another layer. Seems like a no-brainer, but coming from the world of acrylics, which either dry fast or light touches with a brush don’t upset the overall image much, this wasn’t something I had understood. So, had we been given more time, I wouldn’t have felt rushed to wash the entire bird, but instead could focus on each portion until it was right (that is a technique I think my SIL did, and her duck head turned out great!). I felt very rushed, and instead of focusing on learning the process, I was too focused on “finishing” the image. Doh! (I also attempted to force it into an acrylic painting, ha!) I was frustrated that I couldn’t add washes yet because it was too wet, but that the clock was ticking. A simple refocus of learning technique rather than finishing a bird would have fixed that frustration in a heart beat! It is weird to me that I looked toward the end rather than the journey, as usually it is all about learning for me. Oh well. And if you look closely, you may see I forgot to leave the white spot on the cheek. But no worries – I googled the bird to learn more about it later and apparently some don’t show the spot so it isn’t such a terrible mistake after all!

My sister-in-law is artsy too and hers really captured the the watercolor vibe (she also got to look at it head-on so it has a different perspective):

My mother-in-law went into thinking only of failure, but honestly I like it more than mine though SIL teases that she copied off of me:

At the end, Aaron cut our papers off the boards and we were sent home with our souvenirs and some extra knowledge about birds and watercolor painting. For five dollars, I’d do it again in a heart beat! Thanks to Kristina, Aaron, DNR, and IAC!

Metal Earth builds

Boy and I use to go to Barnes and Nobel a lot. And then they left. We never had mom & pop book stores and now no decent chains, either. Oh, Amazon, why must we love/hate you? But then one day, driving in the next county over, we found one and popped in for old time’s sake. It felt so good to be surrounded by books. We left with a couple items, including this Metal Earth Ferris Wheel. Boy built most of it, while I cut most of it out. The pieces are teensy tiny!

I enjoyed the process, and while I didn’t intentionally search for another Metal Earth kit, I stumbled across one on clearance one day. Being that it was Star Trek related, I couldn’t help myself. This time, I bought a flush cutter which was so much nicer than using an exacto knife!!

Bent-pole Structures!

One of the things I did this summer was work down at the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, as I mentioned before. It was a blast on so many levels, and I just realized that I did help craft something amazingly huge! Two things, actually: bent-pole structures!

Bent-pole structures were often used by native peoples (and still used by some people around the world, let us not forget), so you might be thinking this goes more in line with my anthropology blog, and it does, but you’d be wrong to ignore such craftsmanship!

Behold, a domed structure. After a day of cutting and collecting saplings, it was put together in a single day by an average of maybe 4 people. It’s roomy and spacious, and I hope to one day build one in my garden, planted with some woody vines (next year perhaps, if I can find enough trees!). Super cool, amiright? The cattail matts were added to it during the event, as it was part of the cattail demonstration. But this thing is strong enough for 4+ adults to be standing on it during construction, without fear at all of damaging it.

bent-pole structures

We also built this rectangular bent-pole structure, also in a day, despite only having an average of 3 people. Though shaped differently, they have roughly the same floor space and height. We only put on a small sample of roof thatching just to give a sense of what it might look like once complete. I think the dome one would be stronger over time (and looks cooler), but it is a little more challenging to create. Should I ever make one, you can bet on finding out about it here!

bent-pole structures

These were part of two demonstration booths at an event called Living Archaeology Weekend. If you are ever in the area during Kentucky’s archaeology month of September, be sure to check it out! I had an absolutely tremendous time there.