In the hopes of seeing the greatness of the Great Indian Hornbill, I took to pen and paper to sketch it out. The elusive great bird is a sight I am yet to witness. I have had the pleasure of the company of the duller cousin, Malabar Grey Hornbill. Watching it from close quarters, I dive into the imaginary lands of how the Great Indian Hornbill would be to see with naked eyes.
Also known as “kochilakhai” bird in the eastern state where I come from, it was hunted for its flesh which is said to have medicinal properties. In the northeastern states, it was hunted for its crown until the bird reached near extinction. To think that the GIH might go extinct if the conservation efforts are not seriously enforced, gives me the chill. Hope to see it sometime soon.
Weddings are the most confusing yet overwhelming times in any and every Indian family. And when you are not the bride/groom, the gifting business becomes more of a burden than a pleasure. We have moved away from the traditional gifts of clothes, jewellery and household items but cast away onto an island of uncertainty when it comes to modern day wedding gifts. As individuals, we have grown so apart that except immediate family, one doesn’t know what the bride or the groom would like. So I chose the straight forward approach to this kind of a situation which is ask the recipient. Knowing well that I was in that situation a little over a year ago, and somebody asking you point blank about a wedding gift is not an easy question to answer. To make my cousin’s life easier I gave her multiple choices followed by the question. She picked few and I narrowed down on the most convenient one.
Few months later, at the wedding, I met the groom. I was very proud of my little sister for being so right about the choice of gift. The groom seemed to be swooning over macaws more than his bride. Two days after the wedding, he was busy exhibiting his love for the colourful birds of the South American rainforests than his bird. So I thought if I gave a sketch of a macaw to them, may be he will continue his head-over-heels business with both the colourful birds.
The Macaw took 40 hours to come alive at 12 X 16 (inches). Rotring pens are not always the easiest or the kindest tools to handle but they have stood by me all along. The results have mostly been better than what I expected. I hope the macaw brightens up the newly wedded couple’s home 🙂
Red munia or strawberry finch, as the name suggests, is a striking red sparrow sized bird found in tropical Asia. The males and females are generally a dull brown colour with multiple white spots. The male develops this red breeding plumage and white streaks under the eyes during the monsoon months in the South of India. The pairs build their nests together using blades of grass, feathers, pieces of charcoal etc. In this piece, the male is seen carrying a ruffled feather from the surrounding to build its nest.
Few months ago, I was on a full fledged drive to work on improving my colour senses. What better subjects to choose than birds. A friend had come back from Costa Rica and I jumped at the chance of drawing a Toucan from his pile of photographs. Bright colours and the unusual beaks make them unique. With limited colour inks available, I got on with it. There are places where colours didn’t come out as expected but I was still close to it.
My recent work using coloured inks was the Brown Fish Owl and the finished artwork gave me the confidence to use them to paint birds. Not all bird sketches may look appealing in monochrome.
The first bird that came into mind to experiment further with coloured inks: a Toucan. Colorful birds with colourful beaks! While looking for pictures on instagram and google, I looked out of the window and spotted a bright orange bird on a tree outside the house. An extremely skittish bird, the orange minivet was flying and hopping around branches. In an instant, the far away toucans from a different continent and hemisphere took a back seat, and came home the Orange Minivet.
Living in the jungle has its ups and downs. Jungle is equivalent to wildlife in my case. And that includes the feathered ones apart from the gentle giants visiting us on and off. A stream right outside the gate rises to life in the monsoons. There is a steady flow through the year but it reaches the life-disrupting levels when the god of rains shower the blessings too much on us. Unlike the previous years, this monsoon has been overwhelming for us as well as the water levels in the stream. The rains bring along a whole new ecosystem to our doorstep. The area around stream is teeming with fishes and frogs and algae and snakes and everything else one can imagine associated with a wet ecosystem. Our winged resident is found stationed on one of the tree branches around the stream where direct access to the preys in water is available. The Brown fish owl is a permanent resident around the property but the flowing stream gets the big bird out into our sight.
Rotring pens with the limited coloured inks don’t make it a smooth run for any art piece but I did manage to get the colours that I desired. On a 5.5 X 8.5 inches sheet, this piece took me about 12 hours to finish.
I haven’t seen very many owls considering they dwell in the dark. In the last two years, I have probably seen them a total of four times. The love of birds also extends to these night dwellers and seeing them is a rarity. This happens to be a juvenile Spot-bellied Eagle Owl (Forest Eagle Owl) sitting in a heavily shaded tree in the late afternoon waiting for the sun to set before it starts taking plunges into the dark.
A friend who got back from her three months long work on turtles in the beaches of Costa Rica, couldn’t stop raving about the beautiful sunrises and sunsets and the colourful wildlife there. Among them were hummingbirds. These tiny birds travel far off in their lifetime and are known to have the fastest metabolism in the animal kingdom. My introduction to Hummingbirds was through an article I read three years ago. It sounded like a species from another world.
The fact that somebody I know has traveled to that part of the world and seen this species, only makes me want to go and see it myself. But for the time being, a sketch of the bird has to satisfy the urge.
For the sights one craves… Equipped with a pen, I drew as if the bird will come alive out of the paper. The great hornbill is one of the birds that I have always wanted to see and a trip to the northeast part of India around the hornbill festival reinforced that desire. Success stories from the conservation world related to hornbills had been the highlight of the conference I attended at Nagaland. But I didn’t see any of these majestic birds.
I have been told that one gets to see the great Indian hornbill in parts of southern India also. I hope to see this bird in the wild soon.
I am sure I am not the only one who loves birds. My way of imprinting the sight of these birds deep into my memory is by drawing them. And ever since my first stippling piece (when I didn’t even know that putting together these dots had a term for itself), I have stuck to this way of drawing.
When I was asked to make a card for a friend’s birthday, my first thought was a bird in stippling. I love colourful birds but with the restriction of specific inks that one finds for these super fine nibs, I narrowed down to one which is easily recognisable and not very colourful.
My pick was a lesser golden backed woodpecker sitting on the ground and looking up instead of its usual place on a tree trunk.