One such award was given just this past weekend by Bluebirds Across Nebraska, an amazing bluebird conservation organization, to Nebraska bluebirder Sandy Seibert, who initiated a program and came up with supporting materials for bluebirders to take a kid along on their routes as they check their bluebird houses. What a great idea. You never know what little switch might get thrown in a child’s mind, what spark kindled and lit. Here's the pledge for participants:
I pledge to take a child (son, daughter, grandchild, niece, nephew, neighbor’s or friend’s child, etc.) along with me to monitor my bluebird trail as often as possible during the nesting season. I promise to explain to this child the importance and value of monitoring a bluebird trail. I will plant a seed of love for bluebirds and nature in this child’s mind and nurture that seed in the hopes that this child will someday follow in my footsteps.
Among the supporting materials given to the child in the TAK-Along program is my husband's Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.
Obviously, I'm down with that. So I wanted to give Sandy, a warm, wonderful woman whom I happen to know, a painting that would highlight what’s best about kids combined with bluebirds. I decided on the moment of discovery when a box is opened and its contents revealed—that Christmas morning feeling of finding turquoise eggs or big ol’ healthy baby bluebirds looking back at you.
I needed a subject. Hmmm. I happen to know a beautiful boy who really digs that moment. I sought no farther than my own boy Liam.
Compared to a lot of paintings I’ve done recently, this’n was a breeze, nice and small, with subject matter I could really connect with. Might as well throw a few of my favorite things in the painting, hoping they’re a few of Sandy’s favorites, too.
An untroubled blue summer sky. Hayrolls. Slanting late afternoon light with gold touching the grass in streaks. Liam looking in a bluebird box. Well, I'd add that. This reference photo was taken along my bluebird route, a place I'll visit today, finding eggs in box after box.
Start the painting with a spray bottle and a nice wet field, and stroke the blue on it. Turn the painting upside down and tilt it so the color concentrates toward the top of it, just like it does in the sky. Let it dry tilted.
Lay in the sun gold, so it can shine through the grass and in some places stand alone.
Start on the trees, making sure the sunlit one has a gold underpainting.
Leave some skyholes in the trees, and tickle in the deep shadows. Only the deep shadows will tell you the sunlit parts are bright.
Oh, goody! Hayrolls! And their cast shadows. More detail in the trees, with branches and trunks now.
Liam’s for dessert.
Oh, but what color to make his T-shirt? I plan a few different colors, and paint them on a piece of tracing paper to see what looks nice.
I like them all, but Phoebe, Bill and Liam all think the red is a bit of a cliché. I decide to understate it and leave his shirt white.
A little more detail on the box and on his clothes and face. It’s perilously hard to paint a boy two inches tall and make him still look like your child. The less fussing about the face, the better it comes out, I find.
Congratulations, Sandy, and thanks to you and your Take a Kid Along program for opening the world of bluebirds to some very fortunate kids.