March 2, 2012

Daily Painting -- Oh, You Nut ... hatch

Oh, You Nut ... hatch
Watercolor on canvas
10 x 8"
 Late this winter, I took a number of pictures while on a day out in Lancaster County, and I posted them on this blog and on my Facebook page.  I asked people what they wanted me to paint some day.  I got a number of responses about what people liked, and then promptly got too involved doing business-related things on the web to remember to do that.  Yesterday, I was thinking, "What to paint today?", and I remembered my commitment.  So I looked over the pictures people said that they liked, and this is the result.

This picture is of a white breasted nuthatch hanging from a pine limb at the Lancaster County Central Park. I love watching these natural acrobats zip up and down, and around and around a tree. They're easily distinguished from other small birds because they hang upside down as they quickly circumnavigate the tree to unearth bugs underneath the bark.  I think this behavior of acrobatically arching away from the tree is their way of getting a general look around.

Shuts Enviromental Library
Lancaster County Central Park
For people who are interested in how I make compositional decisions when I paint -- particularly starting with photo references, I've provided the two photo references I used to create this piece.  I'll share the process I went through with this little painting.

I looked over what people said they liked and thought would make interesting paintings.  I also considered comments they offered.  A couple of people liked the pictures of the nuthatch, but when looking at it, I agreed with one comment that said the background was dull.  If you look at the photo of the nuthatch below, you'll see what I mean. The colors are dull and their values too close to that of the bird to be as eye catching as I wanted.
Original of nuthatch

   I quickly realized that a logical alternative background   would be one located within the Lancaster County Central Park where this nuthatch shot was actually taken.

I chose the long view of the park's environmental library (pictured above) as the new background because it was interesting, but also distant enough to remain secondary to the nuthatch in the painting.  If you notice, I chose to paint building and its surroundings in softer focus, and with paler hues than the original to keep viewers focused on the bird.  I also slightly altered where the little evergreen branch was in the foreground, and placed my signature in a way that visually linked the tree limb and the little branch.  In so doing, I provided a visual path down the limb, along my signature, up the branch to the nuthatch.

I'd welcome any comments or suggestions about this -- or future work. If you want to look into purchasing this piece, go to my gallery page on


  1. Lovely painting the background showing the library puts the location in context. Composition is always a struggle for me. Maybe blurry out of focus autumnal colours in the background would work if wanted just bird in composition; orange and yellow would contrast with the blue bird.

  2. Dear Kathy,

    I struggled with whether or not to just have no details, just blurry color. I was just so fond of that distant image, and it did put the bird in contest. In fact, you can tell how fond I am of that library building because I featured it the painting I am positing today! I, am, however, going to do one of a black-capped chickadee today, and I was wondering how to do the background because it too was dull. Your comments have helped me in my thought process.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment -- Tracy


I look forward to your thoughts and comments.