Monday, December 12, 2016

Painting Process for a Red-Bellied Woodpecker

I begin with a light pencil drawing directly on the canvas. I lay in a few colors, just to get a feel for the bird, the colors, the mood, and as a simple place to start.

Colors are added in layers - hoping to achieve the wide variety of feathers as they are affected by their colors and the lighting. Starting with the darker colors allows me to place lighter colors on the surface, overlapping the darker colors, as would occur in life.

It's time to add some detail so that I can better relate with the bird I'm working on. Adding the highlights in the eye and beginning to add some color to the beak, both of which enliven the woodpecker for me.

I work on gallery-wrapped canvas - and this requires that I paint around the edges in case the buyer does not wish to frame the completed piece. The woodpecker is on a young tree, so that required painting the top, middle, and bottom edges to some degree.

Or course, the bird itself must also be painted around the bottom edge of the canvas. I turn the painting on it's side so that the paint will dry without sticking to my easel and then running the risk of losing some paint to the easel!

It's time to add the bright reds - which really set this bird apart from others (as do the black and white wings, added later). Generally speaking, the colors are pretty intense when added - they can be easily muted and toned down or up to the proper degree as work progresses.

Here some of those reds are, indeed toned down a bit, giving more of a feathery appearance than just paint brush lines! Also, some lighter areas are added to the breast area as depth and dimension are beginning to appear.

Also, the eye is being developed at this stage, which helps me better related to the bird and create harmony between the feathers and the areas that stand out like the beak, the eyes, and the bright red on the back of his head.

More muting of the reds, softening of the feathered strokes.

Now it's time to begin detailing the wings, which I've totally ignored until this point. Looking at it tonight, I realize that the wing on the left side by the tree seems to protrude too much away from the bird's body. It also appears to be too high on that side, making the bird look off balance, to say the least.

That's work for tomorrow. It's always good to have time to get away from a work in progress so that when coming back to it, the awkward parts stick out, the colors that don't work appear off key, and it's time to rework whatever needs to be done to create a solid piece of art work.

And a bonus photo! The porch is just outside my studio door and I can hear when the flocks of birds arrive. At this time of year, our year-round Bluebirds come for meal worms and a variety of finches come for thistle seed.
It snowed last night, so the birds were on our porch this morning for food. Here is a Bluebird with a dried meal worm in his beak taken from the feeder.

No comments: