My recent copy of Birds and Blooms magazine (February/March issue) focused on the ten must-see birding destinations in America. A photograph of a Pyrrhuloxia (cardinal relative) caught my attention and motivated me to do a sketch in opaque watercolors (gouache) for a future collage. Since the Pyrrhuloxia is found in Texas and the Southwest, my chances of ever seeing one are extremely limited. We do have plenty of their cousin Northern Cardinals. The males brighten up our dreary winter colors with their red plumage and even the females are a happy sight to me.
Wikipedia describes the Pyrrhuloxia: “Dapper in looks and cheerful in song, the Pyrrhuloxia is a tough-as-nails songbird of baking hot deserts in the American Southwest and northern Mexico. They’re closely related to Northern Cardinals, but they are a crisp gray and red, with a longer, elegant crest and a stubby, parrot like yellow bill. During breeding season Pyrrhuloxias are fiercely and vocally territorial, but in the winter they forget their disputes and join together in large foraging flocks.”
My collage again utilized inkjet prints of my photographs. The network of bare tree branches called out to me while taking shots of our most recent snow. Flipping files for printing of mirror images, changing colors, manipulating brightness, saturation and contrast were semi conscious decisions I made before the actual composition was assembled. Unfortunately I used a new spray glue, one less likely to give me lung disease, but also less effective in terms of its adhering qualities. Layers of matte medium were needed to hold everything in place. Colored and ebony pencils and a few actual magazine clippings contributed to the final product. The background is typically a symmetrical balance while the birds take up the foreground in a more random and informal (asymmetrical) balance.
As usual, my color choices stretch the accuracy of any real representation of the Pyrrhuloxia. This is not an illustration for a field guide but rather an expression of my fascination with these colorful birds (and my long time love of using violet, blue and orange together.)