Painting a kildeer from life in Dana Point California – oil painting study

Kildeer on ground nest – plein air painting
“6 x 8” oil on canvas board

The paintout continues in San Clemente. Today, I had a rare opportunity, very unexpected, to do an oil painting of a bird from life. We were walking along a bluff in Dana Point and suddenly saw a kildeer guarding its nest – only a few feet from where we were walking. The brave little bird stood its ground even though we were very close. I found a place to sit down about 6 feet away and my husband brought me a small 6 x 8 inch canvas panel and a palette and my plein air bag. I didn’t want to take the risk of standing up at an easel and scaring it – and besides, I was closer to it on the ground. For more than an hour the bird sat motionless except to occasionally turn its head. Eventually it stood up and called to its mate for a break. It is a kildeer behavior to take turns incubating the eggs. I have never had the privilege of painting a wild animal (not caged) from life before and hope that sometime it will happen again. Although the eggs were completely under the bird, I took the liberty of showing one partly exposed. They are speckled black and gray and blend in perfectly with the rocky sandy ground where they are laid in a shallow depression.

I won’t be entering this painting in the San Clemente competition although I will have it for sale in my booth. I doubt that anyone would believe it was “plein air” – imagine a bird sitting still for an hour. And yet, it happened!


  1. Jenny
    June 27, 2009

    Just stopping by from another website to check out your blog. It’s very good and I’ll be bookmarking it for updates :) Have a great weekend.

  2. Carolyn
    June 28, 2009

    This is amazing and what good fortune! I’m amazed when my dog stays still long enough for me to draw her and you got a wild animal in its own habitat!

  3. vickylw
    June 30, 2009

    This is so cool! I saw the photo and still could not believe how close you were while painting!
    Maybe if you attach a copy of the painting to the back of the piece, potential buyers will both believe it to be plein air and be more inclined to buy it!

  4. vickylw
    June 30, 2009

    Ooops! I meant copy of the photo, not painting. But then you already know that, right?

  5. Elaine Magliacane
    June 30, 2009

    What a lucky lady you are, and what a great painting of the killdeer…. That had to be a thrilling hour… never knowing if your model would up and leave.

  6. lyn
    June 30, 2009

    Very cool! I had them nest in an arena where I worked horses every day. I put 4″ x 4″s around them and tried not to get too close and they were fine with that. The chicks were like tiny tan cotton balls on legs and very cute!

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>