Tuesday Birds-The Elegant Egret

Great White Egret Fishing, oil on canvas

Egrets, Herons, Cranes and storks are often confused in folklore and real life.  These long legged wading birds alternate between elegant graceful shallow water walking to awkward wing flapping squawks.  The fascination with them is real. Does it matter which one is which in the world of folklore? Some stories are generalized and some are very specific such as the stories of storks delivering babies even though many times the stork very closely resembles a great white egret.

Chickadees on a Teal Background
oil on canvas

The Chickadees have once again gathered in the branches of the old pine and are joyfully watching the antics of Emily, the Great White Egret, as she gleefully stirs up the water in the spring fed pool at the base of the Valley. Emily’s sleek white feathers and bright yellow-orange beak contrasts beautifully with the crystal blue water. Emily is having a fine time churning up the water and making the droplets fly all around as she goes about her fishing exhibition. 

Up in the old pine tree, the chickadees can be heard chattering away.  They are having a fine discussion of which symbol of heron folklore Emily must be an example.  Caroljean Chickadee is leading the chatter as usual but Cindy and Charley are not hesitant to throw in their two cents worth. Celeste Chickadee is pondering whether Emily will make a great model for the Chickadee origami-making group.  They are working up to 1000 origami birds and are always looking for inspiration.

White Egret Wading,
oil on canvas

Oblivious to the chatter, Emily goes on slowly making her way through the tall grasses on the edge of the Valley pool and trying to decide to stay here or follow the stream from the pool on down through the Valley to the river beyond.  In no great hurry to decide, Emily goes on gently splashing the droplets into the air with each dip of her beak as her long legs quietly lift up through the water with each elegant step.

Colorful Fridays-Essential Forgettable Dirty Yellow

Yellow is yellow. Or so it would seem. Or is it? Yellow has many variations though it doesn’t appear to. When painting a daffodil or a sunflower, are there any yellows that can be used besides Lemon Yellow or Indian Yellow, my favorites?  I confess to a dislike of any variations of yellow other than these two.  If I need to paint shadows in either Lemon or Indian Yellow, I most often use purple for Lemon Yellow and Prussian Blue for Indian Yellow.  But what about painting those little nuances in petals that can quickly go flat with too much of the purple/blue additions? Digging around in my yellow paint drawer, at the very back I come up with Yellow Ochre.

Black-eyed Susan, Mini oil on canvas

Yellow Ochre comes in just about every packaged starter set of paint, oil, acrylic or watercolor. If you’ve ever bought a set, have a look.  In every medium-sized set, yellow ochre is nearly always the second yellow.  Sometimes buying a set can be less expensive than a single tube, if there is a sale on.  When I get those, it’s usually for the browns.  The yellows promptly get thrown to the back of the drawer until spring flowers pop up. Then back in the drawer again until late summer when the sunflowers are in force. That’s when I realize I am dissing a timeless classic.

Windsor Newton tells the story of how Yellow Ochre is an earth-based pigment, a staple of artists until the 19thcentury when synthetic Mars Yellow took over.  Pigments through the Ages says that original Yellow Ochre is made from silica, clay and an iron oxide derivative, goethite. Today’s Yellow Ochre is almost entirely made in a lab but don’t let that keep you from keeping this originally earth based paint from being using in the painting of earth subjects.

Goldfinch, mini oil on canvas

In painting daffodils and sunflowers, Yellow Ochre is the winner for the subtle variances in petals.  Yellow Ochre can also be quite effective in the variations of bird feathers as most birds are colored naturally in earthy hues. While Yellow Ochre comes up as number 6 on my list of essential Yellows, it is never the less essentially, essential. When adding a bit of dirt in your art, don’t forget this important yellow once made from dirt.

Three Sunflowers, watercolor on paper

The Guardian Eagle

High on a ridge overlooking the valley, the Guardian is perched in the top of the old oak tree. From his vantage point, he can see the goings on down in the valley while at the same time keeping up with the fishing situation on the backside of the ridge where the river flows into the lake. Eliot Eagle has long assumed the role of Guardian of the valley.  From his perch, he is on the look out for predators such as the Hawks who are always disrupting the serenity of the little dwellers of the valley, specifically the Chattering Chickadees, as they insist upon grouping together in the old pine tree.  The Chickadees, though they are always on the look out, tend to feel safer when they know Eliot is keeping his eagle eyes out for the little birdies and those who would stir up trouble.

As the subject of many of her stories, Caroljean Chickadee loves to expand on the mystery surrounding Elliot Eagle and the other eagles nesting around the great lake in the winter. According to Chickadee legend, the great bald eagles are direct messengers between God and humans. Of course, Chickadee legend was derived from sources like One Green Planet and American Cowboy Chronicles. Caroljean Chickadee is known for her ability to weave tales around facts she has gleaned from various sources on the internet. One of her tales had Elliott Eagle taking part in an ancient Greek legend. Another had him as the star of a cave painting over 130,000 years ago. Elliott never blinks at these stories. Nor does he refute them. He just remains in the top of the old oak tree watching over the valley.

The Bald Eagle is a majestic symbol of strength and courage in many cultures.
Bald Eagle in the old Oak Tree, oil on canvas

Next time you are privileged to catch a glimpse of Elliot or one of his majestic cousins, Chickadee legend will have you staring in awe and wondering if the one you are looking at is related to those eagles featured as the star of an ancient cave painting. Or maybe the one you see is descended from the eagle the Aztecs believed fought a panther and won to be the sun god.  It’s possible your eagle is related to a past honorary guest at festivities celebrated by any number of cultures from most Native American tribes to Irish folklore.  You can count on Caroljean Chickadee  to share the latest Eagle story.  But don’t ask Elliot.  He’ll never tell.

The Eagles appearing in these two paintings were photographed at Reelfoot Lake State Park in Tennessee at the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge in West Tennessee and on Kentucky Lake on the edge of the Land Between the Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Both Refuges have many events for checking out the Bald Eagle populations in the parks. The image used for the featured painting came from a bald eagle recently cared for at the Reelfoot Lake Refuge. After healing, the eagle was released back into the wild.

Chickadee Chatter

It was a sunny afternoon in the valley when the Chickadees all swooped in to take a break in the old pine tree. They had all had their fill of red berries from a shrub up on the hill. Now it was time for a story. Always one for a good story, Caroljean Chickadee began her latest tale. Catherine, Caroline, Celeste and Charlotte gathered round, perched on the branches in rapt attention. Caroljean’s stories always held the most important info disguised as an incident or some other intrigue. The trick was to figure out the meaning of the story to figure out what was the absolute latest events or happenings going on.

Sometimes Caroljean would tell a story with a moral to it. Other times she might weave a bit of intrigue to point out the need to pay attention. Occasionally, Caroljean’s soliloquy could cause quite a stir among the flocks who hang out in the valley. You never knew what could happen when the Chickadees began to chatter and spread the latest drama from the beak of the most infamous chatterer in all of the chattering of Chickadees.

Word would go out that Caroljean Chickadee was chattering another great chapter from the cantons of chickadee wisdom. The valley would soon be echoing with the sounds of other flocks as they descended into the trees surrounding the old pine. (The old pine was considered to be the undisputed territory of the Chickadees.) Cardinals were usually the first to catch the sound of Chickadee Chatter but you never could tell who might arrive first. The cardinals pecked around on the ground beneath the old pine, where they could eavesdrop in relative obscurity.

Stay tuned to discover what Caroljean Chickadee chattered and who was the first to catch the gist of the chapter as it unfolded. Were the cardinals the first? Maybe it was the herons down at the pond? One thing you can be sure of: the mockingbirds would be mocking within moments of the momentous meanderings. Howie Hawk will hang horrendously near the happy little group. They better be on the look out!