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.
Diving for pop corn 6″X9″ Aquarell water graphite on illustration board.
The seagulls are always an attraction by Lake Superior and especially near the popcorn stand. This is a quick water pencil sketch, as the birds do not pose in the air, one must build birds in short dashes and flashes of glimpses and brush strokes. The water graphite media is great for this as the tone and details can be enhanced with strokes of water both in process and later. I have found a #4 or #6 round sable works well to render most any small sketch. Then I found the water handle brush, it has it’s own water supply in the handle. A slight squeeze and you have a drop of water on the bristles. Quick and flexible and easy to carry both pencil and brush and water in your pocket.
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.
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.
Seagulls are great self-pilots and acrobatic performers. I did not realize that these two were in a “dog fight” (term for in-flight combat). But I had watched one stealing the food out from another, then take off through an obstacle course of sailboat masts with the other in angered response, and it donned on me there is a constant show going on amongst the birds. They are not unlike children in the sand box.
Seagulls Swarm – Watercolor on W/C paper 8″x10″ (2005)
Seagulls swarm over a popcorn-tossing audience, a common occurance in Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota and probably everywhere else there are seagulls.
Capturing these birds in plein air style is very tough. It takes several boxes of popcorn to keep them near enough to sketch; first one bird, then another to represent the flock in action.
I paid a kid to keep feeding them while I sketched for about 30 minutes. Later, I just started photographing them and trying to illustrate them in the studio. On site is more “real,” but studio illustrating from reference photos makes more accurate bird images.
If you wear a hat and keep feeding them, they don’t drop things from the sky on you. I have watched them try to get popcorn from some people who ignore them and they will send their own special message to them. Yep! They know who is going to feed them, and who needs a lesson.
Friends in Flight (20″x30″ acrylic with brush on Canson Illustration board).
Standing high on a bluff (700 ft.) overlooking the St. Louis River south of Duluth, MN, I saw these seagulls crest over the edge of the bluff and swoop down over 3 miles to Lake Superior in search of food. A bird has to work hard in winter and It was winter 2005 and the lake was frozen but the river had some openings that allowed these sky hunters access to the St. Louis River bounty. With an approaching storm, I couldn’t tell where land, water and sky began and ended! Acrylic paint allowed for glazing (layering between passages), and then overpainting the bird pair
Graphic Designer / Digital Artist & Photographer. I love Nature, Animals, Tropical Sun, Bright Colors...I am eclectic, chameleonic, and love to pass through different styles and to use Bright, Bold, Exotic Colors!...but my Dark Side is not so far...