Tag Archives: Original Minnesota art

Seagulls of Canal Park, or 5 things you might not know about seagulls!


 

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These silly sea gulls provide both charm and agitation to the life of a plein air painter. After many days (years) of painting in the presence of Gulls, I learned at least 5 interesting things about them.

1. They know who is friend or foe. If you feed them they don’t dive bomb your floppy hat and leave you a present. If you ignore them they do! They learn to get close if you let them alone. They have a very good memory.

2. Young gulls start out brown not white. They are taught in a school by older birds and protected until they are almost grown.

3. Seagulls go very far inland and search for food in “dry” places too. They dwell around very small ponds too if there is food. Most like to live and nest on high bluffs or buildings.

4. Seagulls are very good swimmers and divers, and float just as well as a duck. They are a very smart bird, sometimes using bread crumbs to “fish”, attracting small fish to the surface to then dive on and grab for supper.

5. Seagulls can be found very late in the fall in Duluth, then one day they just vanish. I do know they are considered a migratory bird, and fly south for the winter. Although they live in flocks they migrate more haphazardly than ducks or geese and forage along shorter flights paths in steps until they find enough warmth and food. They are habitual and return to many same locations yearly.

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Eagles Above Bluffs


Cliff-Side-Eagles_web Eagles hunting from the bluff; Dip pen and ink. 7″x9″ on bond paper.

This was an onsite rendering in Duluth, Minnesota.  Plein air ink work is tricky but fun, and usually requires both touch up and clean up back in the studio.  I seldom do very large or complicated pieces in the field, not because of the complexity of dealing with wind, sun, rain and the tools, but because the time spent drawing in ink could have been used to sketch two or three ideas that could be rendered better, later.  Little time was spent on the eagles, but on forming a good likeness of the rocks.  I render as I go, so it is a little slower.  The spontaneous outcomes cannot be recreated later though, nor can the lighting conditions.  With a little research on the eagles, this will become a more refined work in color.  Looking up past pines on the bluffs, the sky can be a very striking blue behind the tree green and gray-black bedrock outcroppings.

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© John Michael Cook

Duluth from Canal Park


Cityscape-from-canal-park_web India Ink with quill pen 8″x10″ on illustration board.

View from Canal Park looking at Duluth downtown. This is a plein air (on-site) ala-prima rendering.  Open pen ink drawing is difficult enough in the studio, and usually out in the field a technical pen is more expedient, but the pen personality of an open pen is so distinctive and yields such a different outcome, that sometimes I just grab it and go. There is little room for error in this style because the vertical lines betray any slip of the hand.  In the trees and even flags, some margin for error exists.  Yes, I did use a straight edge for the flag poles, so?

Wind and shifting conditions, along with sunlight eye glare on white paper can make it even tougher.  When you are done, the results are not as smooth as a studio piece, but a freshness exists that makes the rendering more . . . well, you say it.

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Blue Walking Bridge


walk-bridge-fish_webBlue Walking Bridge located in Canal Park in Duluth, MN and spanning the Minnesota Slip. 8″x9″ graphite on illustration board with “Iron Fish” insert 5″x5,” also graphite on illustration board. I have sketched and illustrated several versions of this bridge and its “fish.” The Iron Fish sculptures are a pale green, mounted on concrete pedestals. The walkway is made of heavy timbers.

This bridge is known locally as the Blue Bridge in Canal Park because, well, it’s blue. Local folks and tourists love it and the local government wants it replaced (to say they dislike it is understating it). It is aging and becoming unreliable and costly to maintain. I am enchanted with it on several levels. First, it has artistic charm, and then it has artistic un-necessary embellishments (the iron fish). It is cool to watch it open and close by going up in two halves. The bridge connects two sections of Canal Park that both have visit worthiness. It is functional and adds greatly to the ambiance of the area in which it “resides.”  At night, which few stay around to see, it is a grand view of reflections of both light and buildings. Sometimes glassy reflections of returning small sailboats and fishing boats. This is where the harbor tours dock and depart, creating tens of thousands of bridge users to come and enjoy.

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Anchor Retired and Lighthouse Still Working.


Lighthouse-anchor_web  Pen and Ink on Illustration board 8″x10.” Plein air sketch rendered 2005 in Duluth, MN

As so many lakeside studies, there is a seagull in the picture.  Working in ink, it is difficult to capture a good likeness of the busy birds.  Duluth has many opportunities to capture these birds, and much added scenery with lighthouses, bridges, and lakewalks.  So, one must work out the seascape-landscape aspects and add a bird in, making sure that it will go into the background as erasing in ink is not possible.  If you are not feeding the birds, you must wear a hat.

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Seagull In Joyful Flight


Pen and Ink on illustration board 8″x10″ Rapidograph Tech Pen.

Graceful seagull in flight; they are a joy to watch and both fun and funny characters to sit and observe. Catching them with a pencil sketch and later converting to pen and ink works best. Grabbing photo research helps, but there is nothing like watching and sketching to get the feeling of how much they enjoy flying. Makes you want to stretch your arms out and try. If you watch the children watching the birds, they mimic their flight with out stretched arms and share their popcorn to encourage the joy. Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota – one of the best places to see both children at play and birds at work.

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