AnneLawsonArt Birds My art work Texture

Now, here’s the nest

Last post I put the nest in the title, and made no more mention of it! So, here’s the nest.

Kate from Tall tales from Chiconia had the joy of watching a sun bird build and raise a family in her nest, hanging just outside Kate’s back door. There’s a photo of it here. I was delighted when Kate sent the nest to me.

It is a beautiful little thing, delicate, and yet so strong. There are feathers tucked into the dried grasses.



But, because it hangs rather than sits on a branch, it is not the usual nest shape. That’s the basic issue, I think.


I have had a few attempts at creating it….with pencil


and with ink and pencil.


And one with only oil pastels


These were studies to learn about the shape and tones.

Then I went to Mark’s workshop in Bendigo, and thought that I would use the technique he taught me with the nest.

First step was to lay down the watercolour.


Then to go over it with oil pastels.



Does it work? Well, I think the basic problem is the shape of the nest. I love it, but, as it is not a classic nest shape, it is hard for the viewer to understand what it is, hard to read visually. So other parts of, such as the materials it is made of, need to be very clear. I like the texture in the oil pastel only, and it comes closest to the grasses, feathers and seeds woven into it, but still doesn’t explain it to the viewer.

I would love to know what you think. Do you think “nest” when you look at any of the studies? Does one work better for you than others?

[It may be hard to see all the versions at a large size, so this gallery may make it easier.]


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25 replies on “Now, here’s the nest”

I think the oil pastel version is the one that communicates the complex texture best, but it’s not quite crispy enough! For that, the ink and pencil version is better. I wonder if you’d read it better as a nest if there was a sunbird head poking out, which is how I mainly saw it? I think putting one in for the sake of explanation would be forgiven; not quite a study from life, but near enough.


I wondered about the bird peeking out. It would certainly explain that it’s a nest. My problem is that I have never seen a sunbird. I may have to travel north to do some research!
I agree with you about the texture needing to be more crisp. It may need to be a very detailed, realistic pencil version.


reminds me of a cocoon – maybe if you could add the top of a bird,so peeking out/ or the rounded top of eggs – make some outlines of an imaginary tree/branch (I know the original nest wasn’t in such place from the linked picture)… of course a title for the artwork will bring it to life “the nest of ^^^” or similar – it coming along and your expermentation of different mediums just fine…it will click when it’s right


You are right ~ it will click when it is right! Kate has sent me a photo of the sunbirds, so a peeking bird may be just what is needed. I hadn’t thought of a branch either. Thank you.

Liked by 1 person

I agree with both the above. I prefer the oil pastel version and it does look like a cocoon. I wonder if you need to look more at the feathers in the entrance more? Also you have made it rather a neat shape when actually it it more haphazard. I wonder if it would help to collect similiar materials and try to make one, I hesitate to say deconstruct it completly, but understanding the construction might help. Clearly a hard subject. I should say I am not an artist so my observations should not carry any weight. Hope you go on withthis and continue to share what happens next, I am full of admiration for you.

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I think your observations carry a lot of weight, and you have nailed one of the problems. I don’t really understand the construction of the nest. It is amazing that these little birds can build something this complex. Making one out of material, yarns and threads would be a good challenge too. Sewing it on the machine might work best…..

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I am delighted that you can see it as a nest. I like the colours and the textures of the oil pastel too. I think the one with the watercolour underlay is too smooth.


I would love to be able to say “it doesn’t matter”, because, you are right, it doesn’t. However, the realistic artist in me can’t quite do that! I find abstracting things really hard. Maybe I need to take a section of it and go abstractly mad and see what happens.

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I think a pencil drawing, along the lines of your garlic, would be the most satisfying for me, and capture the fragility best. However, people’s comments have given me so many other ideas to play with too. Too many ideas, too little time!


The texture in the oil pastel version is nice . . . but the feathers at the top of the opening struck me as teeth and then I couldn’t un-see that–the hole just looks like a mouth to me now. Can you go back in with pen and ink over the oil pastel, to add some crisp detail that might bring together the best of the different approaches? Having said all this, I think you did an amazing job with a very difficult subject–most of us would never attempt such an undertaking!


Oh yes, I see what you mean! It’s definitely a creature from outer space, with the feather on the side making a little arm!
Reading every one’s comments, and replying to them has helped me think it through, and I now have a few ideas to play with. What a great, supportive community.


The pencil and ink version is the one that appeals to me the most. I may be a bit more familiar with peculiar nest shapes as I’ve studied wild birds a bit so it doesn’t look that peculiar to me. The colored versions make it look less nest-like I think.


Chatting away to everyone here has helped solidify my thoughts. I am going to try a more detailed, realistic one with pencil and graphite first. I may well add ink to it, but with a bit more care than I did with this study.
Did you study wild birds for a job or is it a passion of yours?


Anne, I’ve often taken photos in my garden, and of the cats, too, that don’t “read” as you mention. It’s one of those things where perspective plays a role and yet I can’t seem to capture it. Another thought occurs to me: these nests are built to blend into their surroundings. They aren’t supposed to look like anything more than a haphazard assembly of dry grass and twigs. Perhaps the addition of a branch showing the nest in relation to where it might have been would bring forth the needed perspective. Having said all that, I admire your ability with pen and pencil, color and paint. I think it’s a lovely nest.


I agree that it needs a branch. As you say it would give perspective, as well as situating it in nature. I am going to have another go at it with pencil and graphite, making it as realistic as possible. That should keep me out of mischief for a while!


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