Goldfinch in my Garden


On a remote corner of the north unit trail at Illinois Beach State Park, there grows an umbel similar to cow parsnip.  It isn’t that, but I can’t seem to recall the correct name.  For my purposes here, it doesn’t matter.  Toward the end of summer it turns a gorgeous rosy pink, set nicely against clumps of a lighter pink flower which could be campion. I can’t remember that one, either.  Oh well.  I like how several of our native flowers go pink toward the end of their season.  It can get pretty hot and uncomfortable, walking that trail in August, so it was quite a reward the last time I did that and came across these two plants growing in such abundance.  The rich colors just stopped me in my tracks.

Last week, while I was at my easel working on this painting, a flash of yellow out my window caught my eye.  It was a goldfinch, working his way through my native plant garden, harvesting seeds for his lunch.  Entranced, I watched him for several minutes.  At one point he perched on a slim stem and reached up to eat the seeds from an allium.  (OK~not everything in there is native…)  Oh, I thought~he could be doing the same thing in my painting!  I tried him in a couple of different poses until I found the one I liked.  I’m really happy with how this painting turned out.  I love how the colors play together.  It wasn’t always thus~at first, my background was way too light and looked kinda phony. Then it swung the other way, too dark.  Some judicious color washes later, pushing and pulling the values, I got where I wanted to go.  I am sure there are artists who could get their values correct right out of the gate, but that isn’t me.  I need to struggle a bit, it seems, with every painting.  How dull it would be, I think, without the struggle.

“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment. ” ~Monet


  1. I don’t know what the versions with the lighter and then darker backgrounds looked like, but this one is certainly pleasing. I noticed plenty of small spots in the lower left quadrant that echo the predominant yellow of the goldfinch. You’ve been wanting to move away from literalism, and this seems a good step in that direction.


    1. Good eye, Steve. I did spatter some yellow in that corner. I was thinking I wanted to add yellow to it, and that is when I saw the goldfinch in my garden. I’m so glad that you find this pleasing~that means a lot to me.


  2. I rarely get to see a yellow goldfinch; they’re more drab when they’re here in winter. But they do come, and I watch them feed on the seed heads of the crepe myrtle. You’ve captured the posture well. They’re curious birds, and watch us when we’re around, but they’re not about to fly, and abandon that food source. This one looks like he’s watching, too, but those feet are firmly planted.


  3. I’m sorry to hear you only get to see then in drab garb. In late summer they are quite a sight at the prairie, sitting in bright yellow clouds on the ripening seedheads of all the sunflower species. The first time I saw that I had to check what I was seeing~it almost looked like the flowers themselves were fluttering. You’re right, they hold their ground, don’t they?


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