Que the Clothespin!

One of the things I miss from my old house is the cheerful melody of bluebirds that greeted me every time I stepped out the door. They were constant visitors to the yard during the warmer months. Every year, it was a little sad as autumn drew to a close and the bluebirds headed south. But come spring, they would be back serenading from the crabapple tree and hunting for bugs in the lawn. 

Since birds do not take direction well, I often use a clothespin as a stand-in, clipping it to a spot on the branch where I’ll place a bird in a future painting. The two main benefits are that I can decipher the direction of the light by the highlights and shadows cast on the pin, and that I know the exact measurements of the clothespin, which I use to get the proportions correct between the size of the crabapples and the bluebird. 

© Nancy Murty | Season’s End | 10×8 in | oil on linen | sold
A photo I took with the clothespin for bird position.

I have become a sort of “clothespin nomad” with these little tools finding refuge in my purse, several in my backpack, plein air gear, and in the nooks of my Jeep. Their presence offers a constant reminder that inspiration can strike at any moment, and being prepared is the key to capturing those fleeting moments of beauty. 

One morning, as I embarked on a mundane errand to Staples, the early sunlight cast a magical glow on the crabapple trees in the parking lot. It was a moment too enchanting to let slip away. With a clothespin clipped to the branch, I snapped away with my phone, immortalizing the dance of light and shadow. These photos, I knew, would become the backbone of future paintings. 

Sure, I often attract puzzled glances from passersby, wondering what in the heck I’m doing. Sometimes I feel self-conscious and wonder if people think I’m weird. Actually, I’m going with ‘quirky’! Quirky sounds better. 

There you have it — the how and why I travel around photographing clothespins clipped to branches. 

It’s not that weird, right?


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    1. Nancy Murty says:

      The perfect name for a Mini!

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