Above is a (slightly over-exposed) photo of the nest. I include this so that you can appreciate its complexity. Obviously, I’m not going to attempt to paint every twig!

My first stab at the nest (shown in the second shot above) was a bit scary, as I’ve never attempted anything like it before. I was relieved to find that it looked pretty good! At this next session, (shown in the third shot, above) I began to study the forms more carefully. I found it was very hard to get started. The nest looked like a hopeless jumble of twigs and moss going every which way. Just to get going, I glazed the area on the left darker to serve as the shadowed part. I won’t overpaint this until it has time to dry. Next, I decided to look at the major twigs and lumps of moss and to check my drawing. I found that their positions needed adjustment. Details like this are easier to see if you unfocus your eyes a bit and take in the whole nest. I repainted the moss on the right and added some bright green. I placed some twigs that I had left out, and repositioned others. I’m not attempting the lightest twigs yet. I want to paint these later with bold, confident strokes after the base is correct. If I were to try it now, I’d probably need to make changes and re-paint and my beautiful strokes would be wasted. For now, I indicated their positions with a mid-tone. I need to be careful not to completely cover up the dark underlayer which serves as the shadow area.

As the day progressed, the nest seemed more understandable. I was more able to focus on an area, see the shapes and colors, and reproduce the most important parts of what I saw. I just needed to put in the time, carefully observing. It was slow-going, but what seemed hopeless in the morning now seems do-able!