Thursday, March 17, 2011

Red-Crowned Crane

This has a little bit of a story to it!

I have some new fancy watercolor paper that I wanted to try. Because of the expense of the paper I decided I wanted to do a meaningful painting on it so I planned it out carefully and painted with my normal techniques. Well, this paper just didn't get along with me and we fought. My normal technique which serve me well on my other paper exploded into disaster... and since I was using staining colors I knew I couldn't lift it all back off and re-do it. I was frustrated and felt as if I had wasted some expensive materials and two days worth of time. I think we all feel this way sometimes, as artists!

Stubbornly, I scanned it in anyhow. Why the heck not! And using a photo edit program I simply removed all the color from the background. Suddenly, it made sense again! Though the washes are still a disaster (to me), now the patterns were far more interesting, and the unsaturated background against the minimum colors of the crane seemed to speak more loudly of their plight.

While there is possibly some merit to the color version, I think the edited one is more powerful for my original message.

This is a Red-Crowned Crane (Grus japonensis), as with my other crane paintings it is inspired from seeing these birds in person. This bird is also called the Japanese Crane, or Manchurian Crane. These fantastic cranes carry much symbolism on their winged shoulders for Asian countries, where they can be known as a symbol of luck, longevity and fidelity. Despite this, it is rare, and endangered, with probably less than 1,500 of them left in the wild.

You can learn more about them and how to help if you'd like by visiting the International Crane Foundation: [link]

"Red-Crowned Crane" (modified) 10" x 16" Watercolor on Cold Press (background color removed digitally)

 "Red Crowned Crane" 10" x 16" Watercolor on Cold Press (as originally painted)

Which do you like more? Which one has a stronger message?


  1. Oh, I definitely think the black and white one has more punch, when talking about a species that may not survive another century. It's almost like the black colors of mourning, you know?

    I do like the color version, though. It looks like some kind of dreamlike landscape, something underwater, maybe.

  2. I find the digitally-altered version more meaningful. I agree that the colors were just not working on the original. They're almost there, but not quite. Plus, black and white almost always makes a strong statement. I love how the monochrome makes the red stand out.