Thursday, January 19, 2012

If You Do What You've Always Done...

quick sketch of woodpecker
graphite on paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

...you get what you've always got.

Or conversely, if you want a different outcome, try a different approach.

Today mother nature did a wonderful job of reminding me of this saying.

I was relaxing for a few minutes after breakfast by watching the birds feed at my backyard feeder. I typically see a pair of cardinals, many juncos, a few house finches, and the occasional tufted titmouse or chickadee.

At the time that I was watching there were probably a dozen juncos spread around feeding at the feeder, eating the seed that had fallen to the ground or hanging out in the surrounding bushes.

I enjoy watching the juncos and the way they jump and flit about, but I was also wondering how I could attract a wider variety of birds. I was thinking about asking some of the ladies from my Tuesday art group what they would recommend.

Then not thirty seconds later, after grabbing my warmed up coffee from the microwave, I looked outside. And what did I see? A woodpecker!

He was hanging on the suet cage pecking at the suet cake. I had just put it out the day before. Normally I don't buy suet cakes because the one other time I did, the only animal I ended up feeding was a squirrel. The birds didn't seem to like it or else never got a turn.

Earlier in the week when I was grocery shopping I saw suet cakes on sale for a dollar. I figured that for a buck it was worth a try even if I only made the squirrel happy.

But instead, by trying something new I experienced a new outcome -- a visit by a beautiful woodpecker.

I know this is a lesson that I can apply both to creating art and to other areas of life. My standard techniques and practices feel familiar and comfortable. I know what to expect from them. It is all too easy to shy away from trying something new in the name of comfort. Or because of fear of an unknown outcome. But, as today showed me, sometimes the unknown outcome turns out far better than I expect.

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My new friend the woodpecker didn't stick around for a long visit. As soon as I realized what kind of bird he was and got over my shock of having a woodpecker at my feeder, I grabbed my sketchbook. I drew exactly one line and then he flew away. I completed the rest of the sketch from memory as best I could. Then I went and grabbed my kids' bird book and using that and my first sketch I drew a second sketch which you see above.

I am questioning now whether the bird actually had the tuft of feathers at the back of his head, or if I didn't see clearly and it was instead a red triangle of feathers surrounded by darker ones. I will have to keep my eye out for him to visit again to see if I can get a better look.

2 comments:

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

i miss seeing woodpeckers, always loved seeing a flash of red and hear them hitting trees

it can be so hard trying new things, in art and in life, but trying new things with art often can help with ideas and expression

Stacy said...

Jennifer, I haven't seen many woodpeckers around here (apparently because I haven't put out the right food) so I was very excited to see one. We had a female downey woodpecker at the suet the next day. None that I've seen since then, maybe because the kids were outside playing in the snow for much of the weekend.