Blackbird’s Song

A Blackbird's Song

Outside the shrub zone at Volo Bog is an open water wetland where all kinds of exciting things happen.  I’ve seen water snakes oozing through the duckweed, and sandhill cranes build nests on platforms of dead cattail stalks.  One thing I seldom see is a redwing blackbird nest.  Or the female, for that matter.  Usually she is just a dark blur bombing past to get to her nest without letting you see where it is.  This must have been a young, inexperienced bird because she proudly sat chirping away, her nest fairly close to the boardwalk.  One of my favorite plants in this zone is the bur reed, and I particularly liked the languid way this one had stretched out across the surface of the water.

So then all I had to do was weave these elements together.  I started with a free flowing wash of colors, then gradually began to lay in details.  As I placed the bird, I noticed that the leaves of the bur reed reminded me of a measure or two of music, with the wonderful seedheads looking like notes.


  1. When I first looked at the painting, it was the bur reeds that caught my attention first. Only then did I notice the bird, despite it being pointed to in your title. To my eye, the bur reeds suggest two quite different things: our sand burs, and the medieval weapon called a mace. Now that I think of it, the sand burs and the mace both inflict damage, but on quite different levels!

    Speaking of added reds, I really like the vine or stem or whatever crossing just behind the largest seed head. Is that part of the bur reed, or another bit of its world?


  2. The seed head reminded me of a few things but a mace was the first and I see that I wasn’t the only one. I like the placement of the blackbird on the left looking into the frame as she sings. The egg in the nest is a nice touch to this sweet scene.


    1. Thanks Steve, and disregard my question in the comment I left you. I just hadn’t read far enough to see your comment! I’m glad you like the placement of the bird. I tried a few different compositions but this was the one I liked the best. Putting her nest in there made the painting a little bit narrative, but I couldn’t resist.


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