There are some great opportunities when we have a cold, snowy week, especially if the camera's handy and the bird feeder is full. Seeing a Pileated Woodpecker is a major event, and this week he flew under the upper deck to feed less than three feet from my studio door. Needless to say, I didn't get much painting done that day or the next.

In the second photo of him, there's a hungry starling quietly waiting his turn. Normally they are very obnoxious and aggressive birds, but the size of this woodpecker has him beat.

Soon a Flicker joined the troops feeding outside the door. She's been back a lot and is extremly cautious.

At first she fed at the seed feeder, but then decided the suet feeder would be a great dessert. She was willing to take on the Red Belly Woodpecker who visits us often. They flitted and danced around the suet feeder, then the flicker wanted it all to herself. She won.

The yellow under her wings was breathtaking, and the red on the Red Belly Woodpecker was more pronounced when he was in flight. Later the Red Belly returned to finish dessert. And I was happy with many, many pictures to download and work into future paintings. Oh, to capture the excitement of it all in a painting.......



All four of my classes have taken on the challenge of creating three small pictures a week, timing themselves to get each painting or drawing done within 20 minutes. When the timer 'dings', we have to put the brush down whether we're done or not.

This post shows my six from the past two weeks. Some turned out ok, some not, but the point is to spend time with that brush in my hand and observe, simplify, and create! We're not expecting masterpieces, but when the artists bring their 20 minute paintings to show in class, it's amazing how creative and diverse each painting is.

My six 5x7" paintings here are transparent watercolor which is freshest when it's not overworked. The 20 minute time limit certainly helps to control that desire to fuss and overwork the painting.

Painting the Christmas cactus, especially the clay pot, was fun to do. The colors were loosey juicy and allowed to flow, creating my favorite watercolor look. Quite a bit of negative painting was done around shapes, but without any drawing to follow. Challenging!

The trees were an exercise in negative painting, too, with no preliminary sketch. There's so little time to do these that I seldom draw anything for these 20 minute challenges since the drawing must be part of the time allowed for each picture.

These trees are outside the sliding doors of my studio and have been covered with lots of snow for several days. At least we didn't get as much as the east coast did, but in the past five days, we've gotten over 12" of gorgeous sparkling snow.

Squirrels scamper continually around the bird feeders outside the window, and this little fellow stood still for at least 20 seconds while I sketched him from a side view. Then he moved and never went back to that original position, so I had to adapt. The drawing time was basically wasted.

Their fluffy tails catch my eye and really make me want to paint them. I'll try another one soon with better results, I hope.

My honey was more cooperative than the squirrel and pretty much held his pose while he did some bookwork. He LOVES his new I-pod that our kids got him for Christmas... but says his nose is too big in this picture. He's listening to his Ipod with my super deluxe earphones that the kids got me for Christmas.

His glasses are painted too small, but I enjoyed this challenge. He has a gorgeous head of hair much like his Dad's. No prelim drawing here, but still a pretty decent likeness.

The next 20 minute painting shows a red sun visor that I sometimes wear outside to 'see' the values in a landscape. This was a BEAR to paint, maybe because the shapes were predictable and uninteresting or just weird. I grabbed some white gouache to put in some needed highlights and ended up going over the twenty minute mark. Bad. Doubly bad because it didn't help much to make it a better painting.

Kathy Cartwright has been doing these challenges herself for years and now has devoted a special blog for people who want to join her. Learn more about it HERE, but don't tell her I went over the 20 minutes on this visor.

The last TMC is of Ginger painting in Thursday night's class and didn't end up with quite the looseness that I'd hoped for. My focus quickly turned to getting a likeness in her face, instead of capturing the sense of an artist at work. It's tricky to keep the initial motivation for a painting at the forefront. My desire was to capture my impressions of the light and shadows. The hands, especially the one with the brush, do a better job of showing what I was after. No prelim drawing here either.

We've had no classes this week due to the snow, but it's great to kick back and take photos of all the wildlife outside the window. Watch for some photos soon of what's been showing up at the feeders here during the snow. It's been incredible.