14 September 2023

Drawing The Red Winged Black Bird

It's been a while since I busted out the colored pencils and created a bird.  In 2017, I had a little venture into drawing birds.  I drew a cardinal, a blue jay, and a mountain bluebird. After drawing three birds, I ventured on to the next thing. Then a few weeks ago I dusted off my bird art and created stickers to sell at the local gift shop. 

Kind of unexpectedly, this inspired me to pick up my colored pencils and create a new bird piece. Settle in and let me tell you a little story about the decision to draw a mostly black bird, the red-winged blackbird.  

Before my Dad passed away, passed away 19 years ago, he had a conversation with my oldest brother about red-winged blackbirds. After all these years I don't remember the details and the memory can play tricks.  In the cloudy memory, there is something about my brother seeing a flock of them take flight the day Dad passed.  The details have been lost to time, but the meaning and symbolism of the red-winged blackbird became a memorial of sorts and a reminder of my dad.

Fast forward to April of this year when we made a trip home for my Mom's memorial. The day we were driving to my brother's ranch, I received a text from my best friend.  Photos he'd taken of red-winged blackbirds during a field survey, having no knowledge of its symbolism to our family. That same day, when we arrived at the ranch red-winged blackbirds were everywhere. I watched them, I listened to them, I was drawn into my memories with them.

One evening, after Mom's memorial, we were talking about Mom passing and reminiscing, my brother told the story of the day Mom died. He was holding mom's hand and they saw a flock of red-winged blackbirds out the window. Mom took her last breath and let go. My brother teared up a bit and smiled. We knew the birds came to guide her home.
In Wyoming, these are fairly common birds, but where I live in Alaska I've never seen them. If I was going to draw this bird would need a reference photo.  I searched my texts, only to discover I'd deleted the original message with the photo he sent me in April. I had him resend them, which I somehow deleted a second time.  Rather than ask him to resend them a third time I went in search of a reference photo. When I found one perched on a cattail I knew I'd found the right one.

When I was a kid we lived by the river and the cattails seemed to always be filled with red-winged blackbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds.  I have fond childhood memories of red-winged blackbirds perched on cattails and walking by the river with my dad.  

With a reference photo found, I started my piece by opening the reference photo in Procreate and outlining the big basic shapes.  This helped me get a feel for how to lay out my outline, to get the angle and the proportions correct.  

Once my outline was drawn, I pulled colors from my Derwent Colour-Soft pencils.  This was my first large project with these pencils, and I can say that while they are a lovely smooth pencil to color with.  They are very soft, layer extremely well, and lay down color beautifully.  Because they layer so well it was easy to add in details with lighter colors.

Colored pencil isn't usually a medium I'm drawn to using, but for some reason, I love drawing and coloring birds with them.  Maybe it has to do with a deep-seated memory of a bird I drew in Eight Grade Art Class.  

I'm happy with the results.  I see room for growth and improvement, but it's a beautiful piece of art for my current skill level.  

I'll be turning this gem into a sticker to go with my other three. Let me know if you'd like to see stickers for sale in my online shop?  Drop me a note below and let me know what kind of stickers or artwork you'd like to see in the future.  I'm experimenting with several styles with various mediums, including digital with the Procreate app on my iPad.

Happy Creating!

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