In the winter there is less opportunity to paint or draw on site. I use the time as an opportunity to improve paint technique and use photos or drawings of masters to inspire my artwork. I continue to work on a parsha (Torah portion) image each week. Lately, a few of my favorites have been birds or animals. Also, I joined a group on Facebook which offers prompts for each day. Not every prompt inspires me to paint or draw. But several have, and some of the better ones I will post on my blog or on the art database.
I do not have any pets currently; however, we do have a bird feeder outside our kitchen window. One of the prompts was bird on a wire. I like the idea of drawing directly from nature, but birds are too fast! It is hard to photograph them; you can see some of my past cardinal photos on this blog.
I painted this flaming red male cardinal from one of my photos when the prompt was Bird on a Wire.
I drew and painted (watercolor, ink, and Derwent Inktense colored pencil on paper) this lady cardinal at a bird feeder in honor of parshat Beshalach, when there is a custom to feed the birds.
The next week was Parshat Yitro with the quote: And I bore you on eagles’ wings (Exodus 19:4). One eagle is just watercolor on the white of the paper.
I also did an eagle with an orangey-red background. It came so orange that one friend thought the background was fire. She interpreted it as Israel on fire, and the eagle (perhaps God?) comes to our rescue.
There was a prompt for fish. I painted the trout we had for dinner. Yes, that is all watercolor.
I will conclude with this pencil drawing of a wolf (copy of a drawing by Victor Ambrus), executed for parshat Vayechi 49:7.
Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he consumes the foe,
And in the evening he divides the spoil.”
בִּנְיָמִין֙ זְאֵ֣ב יִטְרָ֔ף בַּבֹּ֖קֶר יֹ֣אכַל עַ֑ד וְלָעֶ֖רֶב יְחַלֵּ֥ק שָׁלָֽל׃
Now for the source of the Northern cardinal name: the Catholic leader came first. From Wikipedia:
Cardinal, 1125, “one of the ecclesiastical princes who constitute the sacred college,” from L. cardinalis “principal, chief, essential,” from cardo (gen. cardinis) “that on which something turns or depends,” originally “door hinge.” Ecclesiastical use began for the presbyters of the chief (cardinal) churches of Rome.
The N.Amer. songbird (Cardinalis virginianus) is attested from 1678, so named for its resemblance to the red robes of the cardinals.
Read: How did the Northern Cardinal get its name? – In 1758 the Cardinal was one of the many species originally described by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature, in the genus Loxia cardinalis. Loxia is derived the Greek loxos which means crosswise. Based on appearance, Linnaeus thought the Cardinal was related to the Red Crossbill. However taxonomists found the two species were not closely related. Subsequently in 1838, it was changed to the genus Cardinalis and given the scientific name Cardinalis virginianus, which means “Virginia Cardinal” because there were a lot of Cardinals in Virginia. Then in 1918, the scientific name was changed to Richmondena cardinalis to honor Charles Wallace Richmond, an American ornithologist. But in 1983 that was changed again, to Cardinalis cardinalis and the common name was also changed to “Northern Cardinal.” There are actually several bird species in the world with the name Cardinal. The term “Northern” in the common name refers to its range, as it is the only cardinal found in the Northern Hemisphere. And the “Cardinal” name was derived from the vivid red plumage of the male, which resembles the robes of the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.
Early settlers were said to have named this bird after the Cardinal of the Catholic Church because the red of the bird reminded them of the color of the Cardinal’s robes. Since 1886, the Cardinal has considerably expanded its territory from being rarely seen north of the Ohio River to thriving over much of North America. The Northern Cardinal is quite similar to the Pyrrhuloxia, which is a southwestern species that is mostly gray with a crest tipped in red.
This female cardinal in my backyard was the first photograph I took in 2014. Note she is duller than her brightly colored male mate – she has one streak of red feathers to display. What was your first 2014 photograph?
We have gotten little snow this past winter – lots of threats and warnings, but no school has been cancelled due to snowstorms. I love photographing snow scenes, but New Jersey only gives me infrequent opportunities. I grew up in the Boston area, and they got much more snow this past winter. Anyone remember the blizzard of 1978?
The cardinals were content to visit our backyard once again and enjoy the bird feeder and branches.
This shot of the female cardinal shows a lot of her red – unlike her male partner, she is mostly brown, but when you get closer, you can see the pretty bits of red. I think it’s quite lovely.
One can see the reds of female cardinal here – love those streaks of red amongst the brown.
The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off. Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents. Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.
I do find my cardinals tend to visit in the cold. I don’t see them in the summer.
Yesterday, when it was warmer and almost spring-like, I saw many birds on my block, including a hawk flying low. Today there are big, white fluffy flakes coming day outside my window. By necessity (I need to pick my kids soon, early dismissal due to the weather), this will be a short post. Note the bill and the plume of the head (thanks, Michelle and Lorri).
Mrs. S. pointed out that the burning bush, the name of the shrub that the cardinal is hiding in, was also in the parsha yesterday.
Parsha quiz: Who were Shifra and Puah? Give two possible answers.
Update: See Daniel’s post for three answers.
It seems the time to see birds in my backyard is midday on a warmish day after a cold spell. Then they come in groups. All of these photos were taken through a window, so they are a bit fuzzy. The robins were bouncing around from tree to tree a few days ago.
A male cardinal was in the far end of my backyard. The telephoto lens on my camera allowed me to see this little guy.
I don’t often see blue jays in my backyard, but last week a group visited. They had a female and a male cardinal with them, too.
I wasn’t the only one birdwatching; I got a fuzzy photo of the neighbor’s cat, but you’ve all seen a cat before. This one was just lolling about in my garden, watching for possible prey. I bought a bird feeder in a sock at the supermarket (that I haven’t seen touched by bird or squirrel), and I found a window bird feeder online that I will order soon. After I get some work done.
I was excited when I spotted a bright red male cardinal in my neighbor’s burning bush (← click and scroll down to see how the bush looked in the fall). I took the shot through the window, so it isn’t all that clear. My family (and their loud voices) came home; when I went outside, the male cardinal along with the female and some beautiful blue jays had disappeared.
Last week I saw this sweet little heart hanging from a tree here in Highland Park.