Posts in Educational
What the Heck is Bird Banding?

Have you heard me mention volunteering at the banding station and wondered what the heck that is? Well I’m putting on my bird nerd persona and happily sharing it with you. Picture a huge grin on my face as you read on cause I can’t stop smiling when I talk about my days spent with the birds.

© Nancy Murty •  Seed Breaker  • oil on linen • 9x12 in • available

© Nancy Murty • Seed Breaker • oil on linen • 9x12 in • available

For eight weeks in the spring and ten weeks in the fall, one day a week I drag myself out of bed one and a half hours before sunrise. The bad thing about spring is the time to get out of bed comes earlier and earlier every week. In the fall, the alarm clock rings later and later as the days grow shorter and shorter, so every week I get to stay in bed for five or ten more minutes.

It should be noted right here; I am not a morning person and I don’t like getting up. Therefore, volunteering with the birds must be pretty darn special for me to drag myself out of a perfectly warm bed, cuddled up with the cat every week.

Bird bags hanging by the banding table. The birds are very calm in the bags.

Bird bags hanging by the banding table. The birds are very calm in the bags.

The schedule each day revolves around what time sunrise is. I arrive at the station a half hour before sunrise and 15 minutes before sunrise we head out to open 30 mist nets. These nets are made of very fine threads that are hard to see and contain a series of horizontal pockets called trammels. Every 30 minutes the nets are checked, birds collected, placed in draw string bags, and marked with a numbered clothespin indicating the net number. At the station, the bags are hung from hooks located in the areas where the banders stand. This is my job currently, lots of walking, often in the mud, but I love it.

Left photo    - Banding table with bands and tools all set for the day.    Right photo    - Bander with a bird, taking the band off the string.

Left photo - Banding table with bands and tools all set for the day. Right photo - Bander with a bird, taking the band off the string.

The bander gently removes the bird from the bag, reads the band number to the scribe and put the band on the bird’s right leg. Next the bander measures the wing chord, tarsus (lower leg bone), and amount of fat the bird has formed. During migration the birds store the energy needed to fly long distances in the form of fat located in the wishbone area and along their sides. One important aspect of the research is to identify stop over areas where the birds can forage and replenish their fat stores for the next leg of their migration.

Left photo    - Bander measuring the tarsus.    Right photo    - Bander looking at the wing feathers for molt limits to age the bird.

Left photo - Bander measuring the tarsus. Right photo - Bander looking at the wing feathers for molt limits to age the bird.

Next the banders identify the sex (male or female) and try to determine the age of the bird by looking at the feathers for molt pattern, coloration and/or condition. In certain species, eye color can help tell if it is a younger or mature bird. In the fall the banders will look at the top of the skull checking for complete closure of the bone. The banders finish by weighing the bird and then release it.

The scribe’s notebook and bird code cheat sheet.

The scribe’s notebook and bird code cheat sheet.

During the banding process, all the information is recorded by the scribe. I started volunteering as a scribe and learned so much about birds sitting across from the bander. The biggest thing to get use to was the four-letter code system used to identify species, a Black Capped Chickadee = BCCH. Cardinal = NOCA (Northern Cardinal).

I really look forward to my days at the station (run by the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory) and it is so invaluable to my artwork. Watch for a future post on why that is.

Have a great day.
Nancy

Are You Lost at the End of the Year?
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Time moves so fast and yet can drag along in the same instance. Know what I mean? Seems like just last week we were ringing in the New Year and looking forward to all that would be different “this year”. Don’t know why I fall into that trap every year?

Fast forward with me for a moment. When you get to the end of the year and look back, do you have a hard time remembering what happened before November and December? I sure do! How I feel about the whole year gets based on wether the last two months were good or bad. The whole year!

It’s not age related, at least not yet. It’s because I have a hundred different things, going in a hundred different directions bouncing around in my head. Things that happened yesterday, last week, or last month - they’re in the rearview. They’re done, don’t have to keep track or think about them. So what to do?

At the end of each month, I take about 15 minutes to reflect over all that happened. What stands out? What good happened? What were some successes? What would be good to do differently next time? I then take about 15 minutes or so and write up a brief summary in the Weekly Planner. I like to use the notes page opposite the monthly calendar view. Being able to look at the month view helps to jog my memory.

When the end of the year arrives, I Iook back over these monthly summaries and have a much more complete view of the year. And you know what, it’s usually much better than I remembered. :)

Hope this helps you have a better feeling at the end of the year too.

 
Do You Know Where Your Time Goes?

You’ve created your goals for the year, have a list of tasks or To Dos that you’d like to get done and a weekly calendar full of blank pages. Are you feeling a little lost as to how to move forward? Not quite sure how to convert your lists into actions?

Just like a blank canvas, empty pages can elicit the same feelings of doubt or hesitation on taking the next step. For perfectionist like me, the pages are so clean and neat...I don’t want to mess them up. And, that’s why I use Pilot’s FriXion erasable pens. Make a mistake, change my mind...just erase it and start over.

I’m sharing how I schedule and plan my time using the weekly planner. Of course you don’t have to use my method, but I’m guessing your at least curious if your reading this. Hopefully you’ll pick up a few tips that’ll help you make the most of the year ahead.


Before the Week Starts

Usually sometime on the weekend, I’ll sit at the kitchen table, watch the birds at the feeder and plan the week(s) ahead. I start by reviewing the Monthly Action Plan worksheet and goals for the year, this helps me reconnect with my long term vision of how I’d like my year to go.

planning your schedule in 2019

Section A – Goals

I start by writing in the tasks for the week that are directly related to my goals for the year. They are often the same each week of the month but may change from month to month. I keep these separate from the To Dos because they are the most important things for me to get done to stay on track with my overall goals for the year.

Section B – To Dos

These are more like a traditional list of items to do for the week. Some of these task will have come from the Monthly Action Plan worksheet, others from the editorial calendar. They may be deadlines, reminders, or just shit that needs to get done during the week. Often this process prompts me to think of things that need be be done, but NOT this week. If I know when they need to be done, I’ll write it on that week’s page or jot it down on a piece of paper I keep to the side..

At the end of the week, any uncompleted tasks are added to the next week’s To Dos section. If you find you keep transferring the same task from week to week, ask yourself questions such as why am I not getting this done? Is it important? Do I need help? Sometimes finding out what the hang-up is with a task, will help in deciding to either get it done or it’s not really important and let it go.

Section C – schedule commitments

The first thing I do to plan my week is to write in any hard commitments. These are usually appointments, webinars, scheduled phone calls, travel, workshops, meetings...I think you get the idea.

I bracket in the approximate duration of time for each using a PaperMate Flair marker. Each year I pick a dedicated color, last year was light blue, this year is yellow. I use a color because at a glance of the week or looking through past weeks/months, I can tell how much of my time was spoken for. Last year I discovered I was over scheduling myself with volunteer work for the building my studio is located in.

It’s also helps me realize some weeks I won’t be able to get much done because three days are committed to a workshop for example. Being able to make adjustments to my Goals and/or To Dos, helps me both be realistic with my time, and to NOT feel like I didn’t get anything done for the week.

Section D – schedule goals

Second thing is to block in the time for Goals. Remember I said these are the most important and get me towards my long term, year end goals. To give them more of a visual priority this year, I’m using a second color (gray) to bracket in dedicated time. These times are sacred, no phone calls, no checking email, looking through social media, no scheduling of other activities.

If there is a lot of scheduled commitments for the week, I may need to look at the goals for the week and make an adjustment. I know that I’m not going to get much painting done the week my sister is in town, I’ll need to schedule more painting time the week before and after her visit.


DURING THE WEEK:

Section E – Record what you do

I leave unscheduled blocks of time in the week to work on items from the To Dos list...or follow where the mood takes me. Oh come on, who hasn’t said “I feel like doing. . . . .”

Example of how I record time spent during the week.

Example of how I record time spent during the week.

I record what I did and draw a vertical line, blocking off the time spent. This is important for two reasons, the first is I start to get an idea how long something might take to do. How long it takes to write blog posts for example.

The second reason is it creates a written record of how I spent my time and what I worked on when. For example in a block of time for painting, I’ll make a couple of notes with either location of plein air painting or the painting I worked on. And that brings me to the last section, F.

Section F – Special Notes

(Refer to first image.) I use the gray area at the bottom of the page to record when a painting is completed, or to make a special note for/or about the day.

In the image at the beginning of the post, I’ve made a reminder note to schedule time with Rachael, who I’ll be seeing at the meeting that night. Other examples are having received a special phone call or shipped a painting. Since I don’t write in this area all the time, it’s easy to look back through to find important dates.

That’s it!

That’s how I use the weekly planner to schedule and plan my weeks. It’s an evolving system, and honestly some weeks I do better than others. Life happens, and that’s why I use the erasable pen. :)

So pick two markers in your favorite colors, erasable pen and find a comfy spot to plan your schedule for the week or weeks ahead. Stop being reactionary to what happens each week, take control and get done what you want. I say this as much for myself as you. :)

I’ll have one more post for you about wrapping up at the end of the month so check back then.

Always open to suggestions so if you’d like to share what works for you, I’d love to read about it.

Resources:

Pilot’s FriXion erasable pens are available on Amazon and come in lots of different colors. Replaceable ink cartridges are also available.

PaperMate Flair marker can be found at drug, grocery, craft, and art stores. Other markers that work well (don’t bleed through the paper) are also available at most craft stores in the scrapbooking section and art stores.

2019 Weekly Planner designed for creatives, is available in the online shop.


 
Make 2019 Your Best Year
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January 2018, I was struggling to keep myself organized, there were lots of post-its on my desk, scraps of paper with quick notes scribbled across them, and odd lists scattered around the studio. I knew I needed to do something to get things and me in order if I was going to get anything accomplished this year.

I started researching organizers, planners, online systems, and task apps. I couldn’t find one that seemed to fit what I needed and I didn’t want to use an app on the my phone or the computer. Knowing myself, I’d end up in an online rabbit hole if I was constantly having to hop on the computer. Hum, let’s see what’s new on Instagram? BAD! I need to spend less time on-line, not more, so I decided to create my own weekly planner.

In May I attended a Mastermind Workshop with ArtBiz Success in Lancaster PA were we presented our one Best Practice with the other attendees. I shared the weekly planner and received many requests to make it available for sale.

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So here it is!

  • Create a master plan for the year with quarterly goals

  • See the big picture each month with a calendar view

  • I added habit trackers this year to help meet your goals for social media, website updates, blog posts, emails, health goals, and anything else you may need help with. For me, it’s time painting.

  • The weekly view starts on Monday, making it easier to plan the weekend with Saturday and Sunday appearing together on the same page

  • Track your social media and other online growth

  • Start planning next year’s important dates with 2020 planning pages

  • Quotes to inspire you along the way

  • 10 pages for notes

  • A place to jot down topics and ideas for future posts, blogs, and videos

  • Three included bookmark dividers to quickly flip to the pages you use the most

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To keep up with an ever-changing schedule, I especially like using Pilot brand’s friXion erasable pens to list appointments in one color and record activities or tasks in a second color. The friXion pens are available in lots of fun colors and replacement ink cartridges are also available. Using two different colors allows me to easily access how I’ve spent the time.

Make 2019 all you want it to be!

 
Getting the Color Right
Nancy Murty 2018. Color Matching Original Artwork.

It goes without saying that achieving an accurate color representation of original artwork is the desire of most artists. Artists are inherently DIYers, and their efforts at color correction can lead to hours spent tweaking images, often resulting in frustration and disappointment in the printed results.

If only it were as simple as selecting the option “convert to CMYK” in a photo editing program such as Photoshop. Unfortunately, there is more to it than a mouse click. RGB images tend to darken and dull when converted to CMYK and some colors are more affected by the conversion than others.

 

Understanding the lingo.

Before we can get into understanding the challenges of color matching artwork, we first need to be sure we’re speaking the same language.

Nancy Murty 2018. Image Resolution for Artists.

DPI or PPI (dots per inch or pixels per inch) These terms are most often used in reference to the resolution of an image. Most pictures on the internet are displayed at 72 DPI while images used for color printing need to be at least 300 DPI.

 

Nancy Murty 2018. Converting images from RGB to CMYK.

RGB refers to the three primary colors (red, green, and blue) of light used to create color in TV’s, screens, monitors, digital displays, and so on. See how the combination of all three primaries of light results in white, opposite of what we are familiar with. This is why many find it difficult trying to adjust the colors of an RGB image.

Note the mixed hues cyan, magenta, and yellow are lighter in value.

 

Nancy Murty 2018. CMYK Printing.

CMYK is an abbreviation for the four primary colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) of ink used in combination to create hue in standard printing.

Notice how mixing cyan, magenta, and yellow together generates black. As artists, this is the color model most familiar to us.

See how the mixed blue, red, and green hues are darker in value.

Image curtesy of BenSimonds.com – Halftone Shader

Image curtesy of BenSimonds.com – Halftone Shader

Here you can see how printed dots of the CMKY inks visually merge creating a color image.

A trick of the trade – magenta or a combination of cyan and magenta dots are often printed along with dots of black (k) ink for a deep, rich looking color. Take a look again at the image above, specifically the upper left corner or each color plate. Dots of cyan, magenta, and black inks are included, resulting in a more dynamic black in the full-color composite image on the far right.

 

1. RGB is not CMYK.

Image curtesy of SmartLevels.com – Technical Help

Image curtesy of SmartLevels.com – Technical Help

For most artists, adjusting an image on the computer monitor (RGB) until the color looks perfect does not usually result in an accurate color print (CMYK) because the sources of the color primaries are different. The image is displayed in RGB and printed in CMYK.

Glance back at the RGB and CMYK graphics above. Note how the mixed hues in each differ in value from their source/primary colors' value, these are examples of additive and subtractive color properties. This is one of many contributing factors that adds to the difficulty of a straight conversion from RGB to CMYK or vice-versa.

A few other examples of variables to take into account when trying to color match original artwork are; having a working knowledge of the equipment, understanding the differences between screen displays and printed results, and the fact that some colors are harder to match in CMYK print, purples for instance.

Did you know that giclée fine art prints are actually printed on a high-end inkjet printer that contains 8–12 different archival inks? Photo Black, Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, Vivid Light Magenta, Light Black, Matte Black, Light Light Black, Orange, Green, Violet. This helps explain why giclées are more accurate in color and also why they are more expensive.

 

2. Apples and Oranges

Screens (monitors) are not created equal and not all viewing platforms are equivalent. The same image will appear to have subtle color differences when viewed on various screens. Even the same screen will change the way it displays color over time and depending on the amount of use.

You may not be aware that professionals in the field use specialized equipment to calibrate their screen displays and output devices for accurate color every week.

 

3. Give Yourself a Hand – a Color Hand

Color callibration chart, front and back with color recipies listed.

Color callibration chart, front and back with color recipies listed.

If you really want to get serious about color accuracy – pick up a color calibration chart and include it with all high res photographs and scans of your art.

The squares of color on the chart give something for a printer to reference in adjusting an image for accuracy before printing.

In addition to including squares printed with 100% C, M, and Y ink, the chart also includes a value range from white to 100% black. In today’s digital photography age, this value range can help with corrections for white balance.

Color calibration charts vary widely in price, here is a link to an affordable option available on Amazon.

 

4. Pixels Matter

Start with the best, highest resolution photo or scan you can get. The resolution or DPI/PPI can always be reduced for various needs, such as for a website, but can NEVER be increased.

Think of each pixel as a square of color, with the color squares combining together to create a reproduction of your art. When you increase the numeric DPI/PPI of an image in Photoshop, you are basically increasing the number of times that 1 square of color is sliced up into smaller squares. However, the newly created slices will still look like the original square. You are not increasing the detail of an image by increasing the resolution. This will only result in a printed image that looks pixelated.

DO NOT CONVERT A 72 DPI IMAGE TO 300 DPI FOR PRINT!

As a general rule, images for the internet are 72 DPI and images used for print should be at least 300 DPI. That being said, I always provide the highest resolution file to a printer I can and let them change the resolution to meet their best output.

 

5. Don't Scale

I mentioned the importance of DPI or PPI in image resolution, scaling or enlarging an image also reduces the quality of the printed picture. Think about it for a minute, if you enlarge or scale up an image for print, you are only making the pixels or squares of color print larger. 

DO NOT ENLARGE AN IMAGE FOR PRINT!

The only time enlarging an image will work is if you start with a much higher resolution, 1600 dpi for example. This is one of the reasons to always have the photos of your artwork taken at the highest resolution possible. 

 

6. Make a Sacrifice

Quality, Time, or Cost, which one will you sacrifice? Well not really sacrifice, but you will need to decide which two of the three are most important to you.

The priorities will change depending on the needs of each printing situation. For instance, if you are printing 200 postcards, time and cost may be the priority. But, if it’s 50 giclée prints, quality will be the most crucial.

 

Going Forward:

Now that you know some of the factors that are involved in getting a good color representation of your artwork in print, let’s put the knowledge to use.

 

Quick and Inexpensive

• Online printers such as Vista Print or Overnight Prints are great for quick, low-cost printing. Just keep in mind, the color may not be perfect in the final printed materials. There’s nothing wrong with using these printers. I’ve worked with them myself for printing business cards, postcards, and such – but I know that I am giving up a little bit of the color accuracy in trade for a low cost and quick turn around.

• Looking at a digital proof online will not give an accurate representation of the color in the final printing. You should be checking for placement, spelling, and that all the information is included and correct in the layout.

 

High Quality

• To get the best quality, work with a professional printer. They are worth their expertise and experience.

• Professional printers have color experts on staff that know their systems and how to adjust an image to get the best color match in printing. Color professionals also work in a specialized environment with color balanced lighting.

• In addition to the high-resolution photography or scan, also include the RAW digital photo file. A RAW digital photo file has minimally processed data from the camera or other sources.
This may sound really strange, but several years ago I had trouble with professionally printed images consistently looking to warm. The TIFF photos from my DSLR camera were causing the magenta dot to print a hair larger. The printer was able to correct the issue with the RAW file I provided.   

• Provide the original artwork for the printer to color match, I realize that this may not always be an option. Including the color calibration chart with your art in the original high res photograph or scan will also help a printer do their best color matching.

 

Whew! Who knew there were so many factors to consider.

Honestly though, this really just scratches the surface of what's involved in getting the best color reproduction of your original artwork, there is dot gain, files types, image compression, paper surfaces, and so on. 

No wonder you’ve ended up frustrated after spending all that time at the computer adjusting colors, and why it’s not as easy as selecting “convert to CMYK”.