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Despite having between 30-40 good  hen wood duck pictures in my reference library in planning my painting of this decoy I was unable to see any consistency in the colors due to different plumage, light sources and shadows.

I decided the only way to proceed was to bring the live hen in from outside to the studio and paint from her colors at about 3 feet from my paint bench.

Feeling she or the drake may experience some separation anxiety  if kept apart for what ended up being 2 weeks I made a wire cage large enough to contain the pair including some comfort features such as shavings for bedding and a large wash basin filled with water so they could still swim, bath and preen in as natural a setting as I could possibly create indoors.

Forgot to tell you these are wild  wood ducks kept under CWS permit for study purposes. They don't like people and in fact avoid people in the large pens as much as possible. Wasn't surprising to me that it took 20 minutes to locate them in the 100 X 150 foot main pen for they often hide in the protective hutches out of the wind and with recycled Xmas trees providing additional shelter and cover.

Netted they seemed less than thrilled about spending time in the indoors but calmed somewhat when held securely in both hands. Placed both in the open wire pen and what a rodeo. Feathers, shavings and water for 10 feet in every direction as they panicked to find an escape route. I still have feathers and shavings stuck to the walls, windows, ceiling and screens in the studio. Water droplets on all 3 IWCA decoys I had in progress at the time (2 had been painted already) not to mention I was covered and could see much for they had covered my glasses and most of my face with shavings, water and other matter in their  hasty escape attempt. Had to laugh at myself for setting  up this disaster as I cleaned up the mess for a couple hours. Didn't refill the water basin for a couple days of feeding them steam rolled corn to settle them down. They became cautiously alert but not either panicky or tame during the 2 weeks in the studio. A little better planning may be in order the next time I need live subjects for my work so I will bring them in a week prior to my painting schedule to calm and have the studio waterproofed along with the operator. I have a rain suit for the Harley and my youngest son has those goggles that divers wear to keep my glasses clear. Now there is a visual portrait of the "artist"!

 

Rob

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