BLOG 010 On Gulls, and Sketching Close to Home : Natural Selections--Observations on Art and Nature
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BLOG 010 On Gulls, and Sketching Close to Home

by Jim Rataczak on 10/12/12

A friend of mine once said, “If gulls were rare, they’d be beautiful”.  He was watching a group of Ring-billed gulls at the time, as they sparred over what appeared to be a small pile of French fries someone had lost in our grocery store parking lot.  I laughed at his witty observation, even though to me gulls are beautiful regardless of their relative abundance.

In fact, their abundance, and willingness to frequent locales with regular human traffic, make them convenient field sketching models. They also tend to make much more cooperative models than, say, a hyperkinetic warbler.  Best of all, though, their white plumage wonderfully reflects the colors around them.  I just love sleuthing out colors hidden in their “white” bodies, it’s like hunting for Easter eggs.  What at a quick glance could appear to be a drab shadow under a bird’s belly, might be, upon closer examination, aglow with a rich gold reflecting up from the sandy beach.  Likewise, the blue of a crisp autumn sky can be seen joyfully making its presence known in a shadow cast across the gull’s back.

Such colors in birds’ shadowed sides typically don’t show up in most photographs, and that’s a big reason I value drawing directly from life.  I enjoy sketching at a park by my kids’ school, where Ring-billed Gulls reliably loaf on a little beach surrounded by busy roads.  Wilderness birding it is definitely not (in fact one time I am pretty sure my presence thwarted a drug sale), but you can’t beat its convenience.  Plus, during migration, anything is possible.  One recent spring, several Caspian Terns spent several days there, as did a trio of Red-breasted Mergansers.  One fall, there were Franklin’s Gulls, and I’ve seen a few hawks and some different species of warblers, too. 

So, maybe the upshot of this blog is that beauty and nature are where you find them, if you’re just willing to look.

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