Tag Archives: John james Audubon

Children’s Art Project Based on John Audubon’s Birds of America

Recently my 3rd grade art class studied owls for an art project. They learned that big owl eyes see really well at night, that owl feathers help them fly silently, and that extra-long owl necks help them rotate their heads as much as 270 degrees. We saw that an owl’s head is much rounder than many birds.

They learned these things because we looked carefully to first draw and then make an owl collage. The more they looked and learned, the more they saw God’s wonderful design and diversity! You and your children will love making owl collages, too.

Here’s what you’ll find in this post:

  • Supply list
  • Vocabulary
  • Directions
  • Helpful hints
  • 4 Variations and/or adaptations for different ages
  • 3 Art elements and design principles children will learn
  • 4 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development
  • Clean-up tips
  • An update about the Cliff Swallows of San Juan Capistrano
  • Cute Molly Photo

Let’s get started!

Supplies:

  • Construction paper in blacks, tans, browns, yellows, and whites
  • Black, white, and brown tempera paint (no brown paint? Just mix blue, yellow, and red as I did to make brown. More blue makes a darker brown)
  • Brushes, forks
  • Yellow or white colored pencil
  • Crayons
  • White glue
  • Pencils, scissors

Vocabulary:

Texture, how an object feels to the touch, such as its roughness, smoothness, fuzziness, etc.  In painting we often try to give an impression of texture with thick paint or with different kinds of marks.

Directions:

Feathers

  1. On a light-colored paper, blend whites and blacks to cover the paper. Try to get a variety of dark and light grays. For texture, don’t blend these too much on the paper. You may also dip a brush or fork in the pure black or white and add a variety of marks for more texture.
  2. Do the same with brown and white paint on another paper.
  3. Allow these to dry

Tree

  1. For the tree trunk, cut a piece of brown paper that will stretch from top to bottom of the black paper and add texture to it with crayons. When done coloring, roll the paper as if making a tube and gently crush it together all along its length.
  2. Open up the tube and glue to the side of the black paper as the tree trunk.
  3. For a branch, color and cut a thin strip of brown paper. See below for when to add the branch.

Owl

  1. On a black paper, use the yellow colored pencil to sketch an owl sitting on the branch of a tree. Notice the owl’s head is quite round, while a fat leaf shape can be used for the body.
  2. Draw and cut out eyes, beak, and talons.
  3. Tear the brown and gray papers into feathers. They’ll look more natural if torn.
  4. Starting at the bottom of the owl and working up, glue the feathers to cover the owls’ body and head, overlapping these and only gluing the top portion of each feather so they look 3-D.
  5. When you get to where you want a branch, glue it down and glue more feathers and the talons on top of it.
  6. After you have the head feathered, (I didn’t add those feathers, but put the disks where they’d do over the head feathers), you may want to cut circles from one of the painted papers and fringe these around the edges. These facial disks of feathers surround the eyes of many owls and help reflect light to the eyes. Glue the eyes in the center of the facial disks and glue these to the head along with the beak.

Moon

  1. Cut out a moon from a paper towel and glue in place. Use quite a bit of glue and as it dries, it’ll begin to show the black paper through it, looking quite moon-like. (credit for this idea goes to a third grader!)

Display these owl collages where everyone can enjoy the uniqueness of each creation!

Helpful Hints:

This project needs white glue, and many children have a hard time not getting great globs of it everywhere. To prevent this, I squeeze a puddle of glue onto a plastic or aluminum pie plate, and children use their fingers or a Q-tip to spread the glue where needed. It also helps them be able to just dip one end of each feather in the glue.

4 Variations and/or adaptations for different ages:

  1. I did this project with a large group of 3rd graders, with demonstrations for each step, and they did really well. Younger children will need you to break it down into small steps, but in small groups may still do this project successfully. (remember that you want them to enjoy the process, not come up with an adult style artwork). Let the personality of each owl shine through!
  2. This project can be done without paint. Have children use crayons to add texture to gray and tan papers and use these for the feathers.
  3. Make a larger tree trunk and cut a hole in it for the owl to be in.
  4. Older children can research owls and use colors that make their owl look more like a particular kind.

3 Art elements and design principles children will learn

  1. This project helps children see and draw shapes.
  2. It helps children learn to mix lighter and darker colors and blend these on paper.
  3. It also teaches them a few ways we make textures in paintings.

4 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development

  1. Using crayons, paint brushes, and other art tools helps children develop fine motor skills.
  2. Looking at an object or creature before and during drawing helps children develop better observation skills.
  3. Discussing their art as they work builds vocabulary and social skills.
  4. Making art enhances creativity and refreshes minds and eyes tired from screens.

Clean up Hints:

  • Be sure to put a plastic table cloth or large paper under your work
  • Have paper towels handy
  • Wax paper under papers as you add glue keeps things from sticking in the wrong places.
  • Keep a wastebasket handy for trash
  • After washing and rinsing brushes, reshape bristles if needed, and lay them flat on paper towels to dry. Store with bristles up in a jar.

Update on the Swallows of San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano, CA, author photo

With the help of Dr. Brown, the mission began playing recorded swallow songs about the time the swallows return each March. They constructed a wall just for the swallows to build their nests on, along with a nearby pool so the birds could make mud pellets for their nests.

These efforts have helped bring back a few nesting pairs in the last few years, but the bigger problem is the loss of habitat around the mission. The growth in people population and in tree planting has cut way down on the open fields swallows need to find food, so the project is an ongoing challenge.

Cute Molly Photo

Along with many of us, Molly celebrated St. Patrick’s Day this week. She hopes you like her green bandana! She thought the green frog added a nice touch, too.

She wants you to know that next week our newsletter will have lots of fun ideas, projects, freebees, book reviews, and links to continue learning, It includes a review of the wonderful book about owls that fascinated my 3rd graders. It’s full of facts and photos!

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit.

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope to see you back here soon for a new Kathy the Picture Lady art series.

 

 

 

John James Audubon, Painter of American Birds

The spring shower ended soon after we arrived at our hotel in West Texas, so we went out for a walk. Hundreds of small birds fluttering at the edges of muddy puddles drew our attention. At first we thought they were bathing, but when we looked at the hotel, we saw mud nests in various stages of construction honeycombing its walls. Nests the birds were building one mud pellet at a time.

This first encounter with cliff swallows began my fascination with them. John J. Audubon’s first encounter with cliff swallows also fascinated him. Here are a couple excerpts from his account of it in The Birds of America:

“In the spring of 1815, I for the first time saw a few individuals of this species at Henderson, on the banks of the Ohio . . . . forming their nests and rearing their young. Unfortunately . . . the specimens were lost, and I despaired for years of meeting with others.”

“In the year 1819, my hopes were revived by Mr. ROBERT BEST, curator of the Western Museum at Cincinnati, who informed me that a strange species of bird had made its appearance in the neighbourhood, building nests in clusters, affixed to the walls. . . . I immediately crossed the Ohio to Newport, in Kentucky, where he had seen many nests the preceding season; and no sooner were we landed than the chirruping of my long-lost little strangers saluted my ear. Numbers of them were busily engaged in repairing the damage done to their nests by the storms of the preceding winter. ”

Audubon goes on to describe their building activities:

“About day-break they flew down to the shore of the river, one hundred yards distant, for the muddy sand, of which the nests were constructed, and worked with great assiduity until near the middle of the day, as if aware that the heat of the sun was necessary to dry and harden their moist tenements.”

You can find a fuller account of his experiences studying cliff swallows and other birds on the Audubon website,https://www.audubon.org/birds-of-america/republican-or-cliff-swallow#

Audubon gave as much attention to every bird he studied. It became his life’s work to find, paint, and describe the habits of as many American birds as he could.

Read on to:

  • Find helpful vocabulary
  • Learn more about John James Audubon and his life work
  • See activities to help you and your children explore and enjoy Audubon’s paintings
  • A cute photo of Molly, the Artsy Corgi

Vocabulary

These words, which will be in bold green the first time they come up, will help you and your children talk more easily about different parts of a painting.

  • Ornithology (adj. ornithological), the scientific study of birds
  • Engraving (v. engraved), a print made from a metal plate in which the lines of the image have been cut

The Artist

John J. Audubon was a naturalist and artist who came from France in 1803 at the age of 18 to farm in the United States. He neglected the farming to explore the countryside and study and sketch animals, especially birds. He spent hours observing their habits. One night he even squeezed inside a huge hollow tree so he could observe and count the thousands of swifts that roosted inside it.

Before modern-day banding was thought of, Audubon tied threads around bird’s legs and discovered that many birds came back to the same nesting spots each year. Audubon gave up farming and moved to Kentucky to open a store on the frontier. For a while his business was successful, but it failed in 1819, and after that he began taking long treks through the forests to study, sketch, and gather specimens.

European ornithological books didn’t contain many American bird species, so Audubon decided to publish his paintings and descriptions. No one in this country was willing to publish such an expensive work (Audubon wanted his birds to be as close to life-size as possible, and each of his watercolor paintings had to be engraved for printing and then hand-painted).

In 1826 Audubon sailed to England. He hired a printer and financed the project by selling subscriptions to the book, which came out 5 prints at a time. Wealthy patrons, including the queen of England and the king of France, bought subscriptions. At that time, the whole book of 435 engravings cost about $1,000. In 2000, with only about 100 of the original 176 complete books left, mostly in museums or libraries, one sold at auction for $8.8 million.

The Paintings

Birds in most paintings before Audubon’s time were drawn from stuffed specimens, and they looked it. Audubon’s early drawings looked similar, but as he studied the birds and practiced drawing and painting, he began to paint birds in much more natural poses. He also added plants from the bird’s habitat, and accurate portrayals of their nests as with the cliff swallows.

Cliff Swallows by Julius Bien after John J. Audubon, Smithsonian American Art Museum, public domain

Though Audubon’s paintings were also well-designed artistically, he never lost sight of the purpose of showing the birds accurately. Take these barn swallows. As required for a field guide, we can see their beaks, their feet, and their markings from every angle, but the dramatic design of the raised wing gives movement to the painting. And the two strongly forked tails mirror each other and contrast with the background.

Barn Swallows by Julius Bien after John J. Audubon, Smithsonian American Art Museum, public domain

Many of Audubon’s paintings have lots of drama. In this painting of Virginia partridges, a red-tailed hawk attacks the nesting birds. The partridges scatter in every direction, while the hawk’s wings form a dramatic pattern against the sky.

Virginian Partridge, plate 76 by John J. Audubon, public domain

Audubon wanted even the largest birds to be shown almost life-size, and fitting them on a page often produced some very modern-looking graphic designs. Look at the flamingo with its long neck echoing the bends of its legs to reach down to the water. It’s a design that catches our attention!

American Flamingo by John J. Audubon, Brooklyn Museum, public domain

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore these Beautiful Paintings

  • Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the paintings. Some birds are nesting, others are feeding or fleeing. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.
  • These paintings by Audubon provide many opportunities to compare and contrast bird nests, beaks, feet and legs, and color combinations and patterns, and see how God fit each bird exactly right for its environment so it could find food, have materials for nesting and avoid predators. For example, the explosion of partridges from the nest could confuse the hawk, allowing many to get away.
  • Ask them which painting is their favorite and why.
  • Talk with them about the amount time Audubon must have taken to observe and create these accurate and colorful paintings. Do they think they’d have the patience for that kind of work?

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter above and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed John James Audubon’s paintings. We hope you’ll come back for a devotion based on these next week! To be sure not to miss a post you can sign up for my blog above.

On the lookout for birds near the marsh last summer.

 

 

Artists/Naturalists Maria Sibylla Merian and Titian Ramsay Peale II

Last fall Painted Lady butterflies invaded Colorado.

Their orange and black wings flickered on every bush, and they streamed across roadways in and around traffic. There were so many, that they even showed up in a 7-mile wide blob on the Denver weather radar. No one had ever seen so many in Colorado, and everyone took lots of photos.

Before photography, artists were the ones who helped people learn about the natural world. Some artists/naturalists, such as John James Audubon, are famous (an earlier Picture Lady post tells about his life and work) but most weren’t.

However in the 1700s and 1800s these mostly amateur artists/naturalists were vital parts of expeditions to explore the American West, the Pacific islands, Africa, and South America. Their careful drawings and paintings of birds and plants, mammals and insects astonished people and advanced scientific knowledge of the beauty and variety of God’s creation.

The Artists/Naturalists 

Two artists/naturalists who were especially interested in insects and butterflies have been rediscovered.

Maria Sibylla Merian

Maria_Sibylla_Merian_portrait_colors

Maria Sibylla Merian public domain, wikimedia

(1647-1717), a German woman who lived in the Netherlands, studied the insects of her own region and later traveled with just her daughter for company, to Suriname, then a Dutch colony in South America. For two years she traveled on foot and by canoe through lush tropical rainforests to study insects there, telling about ants that formed rafts to float across water and tarantulas that ate humming birds. The folks at home were fascinated!

 

 

Titian_Ramsay_Peale

Titian Ramsay Peale II public domain, wikimedia

Titian Ramsay Peale II (1799-1885) son of the American artist and naturalist, Charles Willson Peale, (an earlier Picture Lady post tells about the amazing Peale family of artists), was born in Independence Hall where his father’s museum occupied the 2nd floor. He watched while his father prepared and catalogued specimens brought back by Lewis and Clark and helped put together a mastodon skeleton his father helped dig up in New York . Later, as an artist/naturalist, himself, Titian accompanied an expedition to the Rockies.

Titian_Ramsey_Peale's_painting_'Kilauea',_1842

Kilauea, Titian Ramsay Peale II public domain, wikimedia

On a two year expedition around the Pacific islands, Titian painted an eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.

 

Though separated by a century and an ocean, Maria and Titian had a lot in common:

  • They were trained in art by their fathers and other family members
  • They were fascinated by butterflies and moths
  • They raised butterflies and moths in order to observe and draw their life cycles
  • Their work was recognized and appreciated early in their lives, but forgotten later
  • They went on long exploring expeditions
  • Maria’s Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname has been republished, and Titian’s unpublished manuscript Butterflies of North America, which was given to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC after his death and stayed in its rare book collection, has now been published for the first time.
  • One difference: some of Titian’s butterfly specimens are still displayed in double-sided glass boxes he designed at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences

Their Art

Maria and Titian used their observational skills to portray butterflies accurately. They painted butterflies in their own habitats, with host plants and their full life cycle from egg to caterpillar, pupa, and butterfly. Maria was one of the first to do this, and you can see her influence on Audubon and Peale

Maria’s and Titian’s artistic skills enabled them to paint the butterflies in vibrant color and pleasing compositions. Not for them dull rows of specimens. Because of the purpose of showing the butterflies accurately, there is little depth in these illustrations, but the artists have made good use of their up-close space, not crowding things together.

The illustrations are full of different types of line and shape, color and texture, and pattern—all provided by the Lord! Plants are up close and the butterflies look like they could fly off the page.

Merian_Metamorphosis_LX

Maria Sibylla Merian’s work public domain, wikimedia

Maria’s illustrations can be very dramatic, with half eaten fruits and leaves and ants battling spiders. She was definitely part of the Netherlandish vanitas painting tradition, (beautiful still lifes with partly-eaten food, insects, lizards, or other jarring elements to remind viewers of the shortness of life).

Titian’s butterflies are often arranged more lyrically—sometimes seeming to float up in lazy spirals

Automeris_io_Titian_Peale_1833

work by Titian Ramsay Peale II public domain, wikimedia

Books

Remember that it helps to understand art if you know its original purpose. So, although Maria’s and Titian’s work is in museums and private collections, most of it was made to be printed in books for many people to enjoy.

Here are some resources to see more of their beautiful illustrations.

Maria Sibylla Merian

Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, available on Amazon but expensive. Use Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to see more of Maria’s illustrations.

Insects and Flowers: the Art of Maria Sibylla Merian by David Brafman, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008. Lots of up close illustrations through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.

Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis by Kim Todd, Mariner Books, 2007, available on Amazon, and has “Look Inside” feature.

2 Children’s books about Maria

Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer by Sarah B. Pomeroy, Abrams, 2018, ages 8-12. A biography of Maria with lots of information about her times. I haven’t been able to read the whole book yet so can only say that the excerpts look interesting. One short section does make a point that Maria’s family is Protestant, but only attributes a good work ethic to that.

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies, How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman, HMH Books, 2018, ages 10-12. I have a copy of this on reserve at the library, but it’s not available yet. Hopefully by my next post I can tell you more about it.

Titian Ramsay Peale II

20180619_150032

my own photo

The Butterflies of North America, Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript, Abrams, 2015, available at libraries, but you can see many of its illustrations through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. The book purposely looks old and the illustrations retain the look of a personal nature journal.

If you borrow it from a library, be sure to look at the section on caterpillars. Not many naturalists paid much attention to caterpillars, but Titian lavished much care on them.

2 Children’s Books about Charles Willson Peale. Titian’s father, Charles, fought in the Revolutionary War and painted many of America’s early leaders. He also started an art and natural science museum in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The whole family, including Titian, helped in the museum.

The Ingenious Mr. Peale: Painter, Patriot, and Man of Science by Janet Wilson, ages 11 and up. I have not read this.

The Joke’s on George, Michael O. Tunnell, George Washington was a friend of the Peales and visited their museum. In passing a trompe l’oeil painting of two of Charles’ sons, Washington bowed to them in greeting.

To view 2 videos by Khan  Academy about the museum and the painting, go to

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-americas/british-colonies

(The Titian in the Staircase painting is an older brother who died. Titian Ramsay Peale II was named for this older brother.)

_________________________________________________________________

I’m going to change up the order of the next posts about this art so you can right away enjoy some artist/naturalist activities over the summer. You don’t have to be a professional scientist to study and learn about the world in your own back yard.

Before the next post, try to find a small to medium size sketchbook that you can carry with you. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can decorate its cover.

Nature guides are helpful, too, and available at libraries.

In this series the last post will be the devotion—some thoughts for a summer of observing and learning about the small wonders of God’s creation.

 

Molly is ready to go exploring. Are you?

20180613_095717

(That isn’t a muzzle on Molly. It’s a gentle harness to keep her from pulling on our walks. She can still drink, bark, and even give kisses!)

Be sure to sign up for the next Picture Lady posts for some ideas about observing and drawing nature and suggestions for writing and reading about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John James Audubon, Painter of Birds

SAM_0728

My husband and I love to visit the Japanese Garden in Fort Worth. Its paths wind around flowering trees that stand out against all the different greens of spring. 20131118_105544A bridge arches over water that gathers in calm pools in some places and in others laps around stepping stones or tumbles over rocks. 20131118_111612All along its path the water reflects overhanging branches, and in the fall paddling wood ducks swirl the colors into ever-changing patterns.

We also look forward to seeing the garden’s resident large heron. We never know where he’ll be–sometimes he stalks along the water’s edge. 20131118_111631One time we almost missed him because he was perched motionless on the lower branch of a tree. Recently he was poised perfectly still at the water’s edge, SAM_2258ready to strike like lightening on any passing morsel of food. We’ve seen him flap into the air, then with his great wings outstretched, glide soundlessly to a new fishing spot.

Background

Portrait of John James Audubon by John Syme, public domain

John James Audubon would have loved to study the ducks and that heron. He was a naturalist and artist who came from France in 1803 at the age of 18 to live in the United States. He loved to explore the countryside and study and sketch animals, especially birds. He spent hours observing their habits, even spending a night inside a huge hollow tree so he could observe and count the thousands of swifts that roosted inside. Before modern-day banding was thought of, Audubon tied threads around bird’s legs to see if they came back to the same nesting spots each year.

Eventually Audubon moved to Kentucky to open a store on what was then the frontier. From Native Americans he learned how to survive in the wilderness, and he continued to spend long periods in the forest, studying, sketching, and gathering specimens. Since European ornithological books didn’t contain many American bird species, Audubon decided to publish his.

No one in this country was willing to publish his work, so he went to England. Finding no publisher there either, he engaged a printer and financed the project by selling subscriptions to the book, which came out in folios of 5 prints at a time. To print color illustrations at that time each of Audubon’s original watercolor paintings had to be incised on a copper plate by an engraver, printed, and then hand-painted. Audubon wanted his birds to be as close to life-size as possible, so they were printed on sheets of paper that were over 2 feet by 4 feet—called an elephant folio.

Wealthy patrons, including the queen of England and the king of France, bought subscriptions. At that time, the whole book of 435 engravings cost about $1,000. In 2000, with only about 100 of the original 176 complete books left, mostly in museums or libraries, one sold at auction for $8.8 million.

The Paintings

Most paintings of birds before this time were very stiff. They were drawn from stuffed specimens, and they looked it. Audubon’s early drawings were also stiff, but gradually as he studied the birds and practiced drawing and painting, he began to paint birds in much more natural poses, with plants from the bird’s habitat. His paintings are very true to nature, but they are also well-designed artistically.

The purpose of an ornithology book is, of course, to portray the birds accurately. Audubon never loses sight of that purpose; yet his arrangement or composition of birds and plants is creative. Take these Mourning doves.

mourning doves, John James Audubon, public domain

As required for a field guide, we can see their beaks, their feet, and their markings from every angle, but notice the outspread wings and tails of the birds stand out against the paper. The next to bottom bird is especially dramatic.. The top two birds form a pleasing pair, and we can  imagine them flitting from branch to branch as they chatter and eat.

These ivory billed woodpeckers audubon 4 ivory-billed woodpeckerare colorful, and Audubon has displayed them artistically so that the white and black on their bodies and their black tails form dramatic patterns against the white page. The red patch on the middle bird is striking and draws you into the scene.

Many of Audubon’s paintings have a lot of drama. For example, in this painting he depicts the ferocious battle as a red-shouldered hawk attacks some northern bobwhites—creating a true and yet very dramatic picture.

northern bobwhite, by John James Audubon, public domain

Some of the birds flee as the hawk with out stretched wings attacks from above. The hawk and the fleeing bobwhites stand out against the plain paper.

Audubon wanted even the largest birds to be shown almost life-size, and fitting them on a page often produced some very modern-looking graphic designs.

American flamingo, by John James Audubon, public domain

Devotion

When I teach drawing I emphasize that training the eye is as important as training the hand. For this purpose I give my students exercises that artists have long used to help them look more carefully—negative space, breaking down the whole into basic geometric shapes, and contour drawing, etc. Children and adults are often amazed what a difference learning to see makes in their drawing.

But it’s hard to get people to slow down long enough to really look. One of my favorite lessons to help young children do this starts with the verse, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Matt. 6:26

When I ask what birds eat. Hands shoot up, “Seeds! Worms! Insects!”

“Okay,” I say. “And does God just sprinkle these things down for the birds the way we sprinkle food at the top of a fish tank?”

Most say, “No!” So we look at Psalm 111:2 that says, “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” And I tell the children that we are going to use our “artist’s eyes” to “study” how God has designed each bird with just the right beak, feet, body, tail, and wings to be able to gather its food in the environment that He designed for it. We see that all birds have legs but… God gave flamingos long skinny legs to wade in shallow water where their food lives and ducks short legs and webbed feet to paddle in deeper water. All birds have beaks, but… God gave hummingbirds long sharp beaks to reach into flowers to sip nectar and cardinals short thick beaks to pluck and crunch seeds and fruit.

In my blog post on The Country School I compared the flipper-like wings God gave penguins so they can “fly” under the water to the huge wings He gave pelicans so they can skim above the waves.

In Matthew 6:26-34 Jesus used God’s care of the birds to teach that our heavenly Father knows our needs and provides for us as He does the birds, so we can trust Him and seek His kingdom first. And surely part of seeking His kingdom is recognizing the beauty and intricacy of creation and giving glory to the One who made and sustains it all. Too often we are in a hurry and don’t see wildflowers blooming along the side of the road or the birds flying around our yards gobbling up insects and gathering material for nests.

Take time to see the work of the first and best Artist! How many different types of birds share your backyard? Notice the patterns on their wings. Is their beak made for seeds or worms? Take time to look inside a day lily and see how the colors change or at a wild flower and see how often God uses complementary colors—such as blue and orange or lavender and yellow to make these flowers more vibrant and attractive to us and the insects that pollinate them.

Try using basic shapes and curvy or straight lines to draw some of these birds. Most of the birds illustrated above have roundish heads and oval bodies, so you start there, but as you look closer, you see you need to add some straight lines to the top of the woodpecker’s head for those funny tufts. The more you look, the more you see God’s wonderful design and diversity!

In the Middle Ages Francis of Assisi (in Italy) began to spend much time out in the countryside praying and appreciating the beauties of creation. He and his followers began to use illustrations from nature, as Jesus did, to preach and minister God’s love and care to people. Summer is a great time to cultivate yours and your family’s “artist’s eyes” to more fully see and appreciate the creative design and care that God has lavished on all of His creation!

And to see more of Audubon’s work that shows so much of that beauty and diversity, you just need to go online or visit your local library. His beautiful bird illustrations are readily accessible.

On another note, be sure to sign up to receive the next picture lady post so you don’t miss it!