Today I’d like to share my “Zeny Woodpecker”, and tell you a bit about its story. During the past spring and now into the summer, I’ve come to love going outside each day to sit in the fresh air, admire the wonders of Mother Nature, and sketch a bit of what I see around me.
One late afternoon as I was settling onto the porch, a noisy woodpecker began his rat-a-tat-tat song on a nearby tree. I knew at once what I would sketch that day. Needless to say, the bird wasn’t a very good model. It stayed only a short time, but I did manage to sketch the basic outline. Later I found a reference photo to help me with the bird’s markings.
The drawing is not yet finished. There’s a lot of work to be done yet on the huge branch, but that’s all right. My bird — I’ve named him Zeny — is complete and wants to join the flock of art birds today.
So, the story behind the name. My unfinished “Afternoon Serenade” drawing is a perfect project now for my daily nature time. I pick it up and begin working more on the bark of the branch each time I sit outside to draw. That’s when I let myself slip into that lovely “Zen state” where I just forget about time, forget about results, forget about everything, and simply concentrate on the wondrous feeling of making marks on the page.
After a few days, I began referring to the bird as my “Zeny Woodpecker” — pronounced zany — because of my Zen state, and as a tribute to Zenen Fuentes, an artist friend from San Martin Tilcajete in Oaxaca, Mexico. Although I haven’t been in contact with Zeny for many years, I have always loved his colorful alebrijes.
I hope one day soon my Zeny Woodpecker will be bright and colorful, too. Once the drawing is complete, I plan to use it as the basis for both an oil painting and a watercolor. I’m not sure if I have the necessary skills for either one, but I will enjoy the process as I attempt to show this bird’s true beauty.
One of the most important things I’m doing now on my art journey is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in my work. I focus mostly on what I like, but I also seek to identify one thing — among many — that can be improved upon.
For this “Afternoon Serenade” drawing, I like:
- The bird’s eye. I think this is the first time I’ve ever really liked a bird’s eye that I’ve drawn. It’s a small thing, but it’s the small things that sometimes matter most.
- The approach I took to the drawing. Since the bird wasn’t apt to remain posed for long, I sketched quickly and loosely, trying to capture only the basic shapes. Later I refined the sketch. It was good to work this way, to feel a lot of freedom in how and where I made those initial marks.
- The bark texture. It’s a long, slow process — and the bark detail may be difficult to see in the photo — but I’m enjoying each and every little mark I make as I finish this tree branch.
As for one thing that can be improved upon:
- I’m not completely happy with the bird’s shadow beneath its belly. To me it just looks like a graphite smudge — which is mostly what it is, really.
All in all, it’s good to draw a bird that I mostly like. I like its eyes, I like its tail, I even like its foot. It’s a bit chubby — all my birds are — and it seems to have a bit of a knot on its head. Its markings aren’t perfect, but it’s not about perfection. I remind myself of that quite often.
Art is an experience. Art is a part of making memories. Art is not just what we do but who we are, where we’ve been, and what our life is all about. My life right now is about sitting on the porch in the late afternoons, feeling the breeze, and listening to the birds — even the noisy ones like Zeny Woodpecker.