"Bird in Paradise"
Greetings and salutions!
I'm part of this monthly art group, The Bird Whisperers, and (as I'm sure you can guess) we paint birds. It's a lot of fun, and a great way to see several interpretations of the same reference photo. It's always amazing to me to see so many different styles, and everyone in the group is so positive and fun. Our bird for March, was the Greater Flamingo, and while they are fun birds, I have a hard time with the color pink. Maybe it's some weird internal trauma from being a girl, and having that color practically shoveled down my throat every time I turned around. But I digress......
I'm going to run through a step-by-step of my painting process for this particular piece, and I hope you find it enjoyable and helpful. A few things first. My main medium of choice is acrylics, and I usually stick to Golden and Liquitex brands as I find they make a great, high quality product. As far as brushes go I use several high quality ones from Trekell, some ones I snagged on sale at the art store, and I'll even use my fingers. I really don't put a ton of thought into the brushes....which I'm sure makes other artists cringe. My preferred painting surface is wood (either cradled or uncradled), and usually stick to 11 x 14" for the size. So, that's a quick run down of my basic materials. Let's get this show on the road.
Step 1: Prepping the Surface & Getting the ThingsFirst things first. I always do a black and white drawing with graphite. This takes all the stress of tonal values out of the painting process, and I love the black and white versions as much as I love the color ones. I'll be posting a time lapse of the graphite process a little later this month. Once this is finished, I then scan it and print it out on paper to cover the surface of the board.
*A side note is I'm working on a newer way to transfer my B&W drawings to the board without attaching paper to the surface, and once I find a method I like, I'll post the process later.
Once the image is on the surface, I then use a clear gesso to paint over the top. This helps seal in the paper on the surface, and you should always use gesso as a base to keep paints from scraping off. It's a necessary primer, and there are so many options available.
For this piece, I went a little left field with the color palette. Usually, I like to keep the colors pretty toned down, but honestly the weather here in WA hasn't really felt like spring, and I desperately needed some serious color in my life. I pretty much decided to turn my palette into a rainbow. No seriously.....it looked like a skittles packet melted on my wet palette. Lisa Frank would've been proud. The colors I used were also the most unrealistic colors I think you can buy: White, Black, Pthalo Blue, Pthalo Green, Yellow Hansa Light, Cadmium Orange, Quinacridone Magenta, and Cobalt Violet. I also thin out my paints using either water or a glazing medium to make layering colors easier.
Step 2: The FrameFor this piece I tried to work as much back to front as possible. It's more convenient in the long run. The frame is a shiny black, and normally I make my own black using Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. Making my own black gives the black a more organic feel and you can adjust the temperature of the black. Using glazes in the light areas to keep the highlights then moving to more condensed paint to keep the shadows. It takes several layers of glazing, and it's good to be patient (which I am not, so I invested in a hair dryer when it seems the paint is taking too long to dry in between layers).
The "unpainted parts of the frame are going to covered in gold leafing, so for now those will remain unpainted.
Step 3: Water
Mixing my black and white in different variations of gray, I lay down the different shadow variations. Then, I make a wash in Pthalo Green. Once that's dry I use Pthalo Blue and Green to give the water that jeweled turquoise look. I keep adding glazed layers until I'm satisfied with the variations. Glazing colors adds more depth to your work. Once the water is dried, then I put in the light reflections on the water using glazes of a super light gray I created early, and add in the final touches of sparkle using a more condensed white.
Step 4: Purple Hibiscus and White Orchids
Next I darken the shadows of the hibiscus and orchids with the gray tones, working some of the darkest grays to almost black in deep shadows. Once I've got the dramatic shadows I'm looking for, I start the glazing process. For the white orchids it's just shade of gray all the way throughout, and then add in little spots of yellow in the center. For the hibiscus I just glaze light to dark using different tones of the Cobalt Violet. If you glaze light over dark, you can end up with milky colors, and that's not very ideal. For the stamen and pistil (the center bits), I use Hansa Yellow and White.
I did add a glaze of the Cadmium Orange over parts of the flamingo to section out the areas that will have a more orange tint to them.
Step 5: The Flamingo
The flamingo is the main focus of the painting, so it will be the main focus in the step-by-step process. I start with Cobalt Violet and dark gray to add in the shadows.
Then I do a wash in Quinacridone Magenta over the entire body of the bird, and in the pink parts of the beak.
Next, I mix the Cadmium Orange and Quinacridone Magenta until I get a nice almost salmon color for the more orange feather sections. Then, adding white, I lighten this salmon color and the magenta a little, and add in feather details and sections.
Then I lighten them some more and add in more feather highlights and lighter sections of the neck and head.
Lighten again and add more fine details. If I start to feel like I'm losing shadows I will glaze in some of the purple/gray mix.
Adding in very light versions of the salmon and magenta for the lightest feather highlights. Now I finish off the beak with grays, and the eye with some very light yellow/green mix.
Step 6: Palm Leaf & Birds of Paradise
I start again by adding in the shadows with glazes of dark gray to both the leaf and flowers. For the leaf I painted every other "section" with straight Pthalo Green and the other "sections" with straight Yellow Light Hansa. While that was drying I added glazes of Yellow Light Hansa and Cadmium Orange to the birds of paradise. Then, went over the whole leaf with several glazes using a mixture of the green and yellow. Then I added in some touch ups with Cobalt Violet to the flowers, and some light highlights to the leaf. Finally, did a glaze of the salmon color I created for the flamingo on the hibiscus below.
Step 7: Gold Leafing and Adjustments
Now seemed like a good time to do the gold leafing on the frame. I didn't use the traditional method with the paper. Instead I used an 18kt. gold leafing pen from Krylon. It gave me the control I desired in the nooks and crannies around the skulls and what not. I also didn't like leaving the black in the pistil on the birds of paradise, so I glazed in a little Cobalt Violet.
Step 8: The Last Hibiscus Flowers
Using the same glazing techniques, I layered varying tints of Quinacridone Magenta and Cadmium Orange for the top flower.
For the second hibiscus I used various tints of Cadmium Orange and Yellow Light Hansa with some Quinacridone Magenta in the deep shadows. I also added in the gray tones of the purple orchids on the bottom.
Step 9: Purple Orchids & Final Background Color
I glazed on a few layers using various grays and some tints of Cobalt Violet into the orchids until I was satisfied with the shape and depth. Then, used a condensed Cobalt Violet for the dozens of tiny spots on each flower, and Yellow Light Hansa for the center color. I didn't want to keep the background white. It didn't look appealing to me. So, I decided a nice medium gray would look nice, and it really made the all the crazy bright colors come together nicely.
There's the finished product!
I hope you liked seeing the process, and if you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them. As I get more used to this blogging thing, I'll get better at the details and such. :)
You can check out all of my Bird Whisperer projects as well as the work from all the other members in the official Bird Whisperer Group!
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