When possible let your bird have eye contact with the viewer rather than looking forward or to the side. This will give your painting interest and establish more of a connection with the viewer.
Just like in portrait painting the eyes need to be believable. In the eye above notice two different values of grey around the highlight. I usually find a few greys or grey blues around the highlight which adds more depth to the highlight. Sometimes you will find an entire outdoor scene in the birds eye. Study the reflections and use as many colours as you can to describe the form.
Use the computer to enlarge and lighten the eye and see the shape of the pupil and the other reflections going on. Often in a photograph the birds eye will be black with no pupil detail. But in nature, even with the blackest birds eyes there will be a colour difference between the pupil and iris, its a matter of how much light hits the eye. I like to Identify the difference between the iris and pupil and let it show even when my reference doesn't.
1. What is my statement in this painting?
Your statement is the wow factor, it’s what gets you excited about painting a painting. Ask yourself is it the light, or shadow shapes, maybe it’s the colour or contrast you see. It could be a behaviour or intimacy you found with an animal or human from a photograph you took. Whatever the reason, make it something that excites you about the scene, let this excitement become your guide and the statement of the painting.
Why its important emphasize my statement
A statement will give your painting more meaning and interest. Your statement can become the focal point and help you control whats important in the painting. For example you can use high contrast, colour intensity or sharper edges in the focal point and then soften edges, knock back the colour intensity, blur, scrape away or dull the areas less import to support your statement. You can also use design and rhythm to point to your statement and attract the viewer to make a connection with your work.
2. What is the colour harmony in this scene?
Identify the dominant colours in the scene and then ask yourself what colours will I use to create a harmony with this painting. Is there one colour that seems to be influenced in the other colours? This is what you need to look for and then establish colour harmony in the overall painting. Colour harmony can also be created by limiting the colours in your scene.
3. How can I improve the value pattern in my scene?
Value can be more important than colour and serves as your foundation to exciting design. By thinking more about what the pattern of darks or lights are doing rather than what the object represents can help you create more depth and interest. Consider how you can emphasize your statement or design with the placement of your darks and lights by massing values and creating movement by leading the eye.
4. How can I create visual interest in my painting
Consider the interest you can create with the scene by varying brush strokes, small verses large, smooth verses textured and different directions of brush strokes. Where can I apply thin verse thick paint to give my painting more dept? Where can I loose edges or make edges sharp to draw the viewers attention? Where can I emphasize the warm verses cool colours or transitional colours between light and dark?
5. Where are my darkest darks and my lightest lights in this painting?
Squint your eyes at the scene to find the darkest dark and lightest light and place these on your values on your canvas to start. Establishing these two element will help you get your values straight and allow you to compare everything else in between.
Once you decide on your subject there are several ways to start a painting.
My favourite approach is toning and then loosely drawing direct on the canvas with a brush and then wiping back the light areas. This method will give you looser more painterly approach.
This is my goto method. Your paintings come out more painterly and you can begin to see if the value and composition is working. You can build up your paint slowly and wipe it back again.
1.)Mix transparent oxide brown and ultra marine blue deep with a little solvent and brush the entire canvas. Wipe it with a paper towel to dry and draw the outline of your subject with terra rosa or lighter paint. Dip your paper towel in gamisol and wipe back the light areas as you see in your subject. Now you have something to work with you can keep building shape by shape.
Graphing for Accuracy...
If you need accuracy or your subject has an insane amount of detailed you can use a graph. Draw the same lines on the photograph as the canvas.
For smaller paintings I can use four lines to divide the bird across and in the middle. (left) For larger paintings I will use more lines. (right) The graph makes it easier to measure between points. You can focus on one area and get accurate detail using the lines as guides between the points. With this method I won't tone the canvas and once the drawing is done I dive right into painting the birds eye.
Keep your paints organized in three bins and group them as you would lay out your pallet. It will help you quickly find colour you need. You can also easily see what your getting low on.
I keep my paints organized in three bins,
- reds and browns
- blues, greens and black
Titanium White (LeFranc extra fine)
Cadmium Yellow Light
Cadmium Yellow Deep
Transparent Oxide Red
Transparent Oxide Brown
Ultramarine Blue Deep
Windsor & Newton:
Titanium White if LeFranc extra fine is not available
Naples Yellow ( this is not part of the Richard Schmidt Pallet but I find it indispensable)
Yellow Ochre Pale
Permanent Alizarin Crimson
You can buy the paints and solvents at:
Dick Blick Stores https://www.dickblick.com/
I use Rosemary brushes, they are amazing.
Ivory Short Flats
Evergreen Short Flats
Master Choice Long Flats
You can buy the Brushes at:
Rosemary & Co www.rosemaryandco.com
I look for oil or lead primed panels, this allows you to wipe the surface back to white if needed.
New Traditions L600 Panels http://www.newtraditionsartpanels.com/products.html
If you find the New Tradition Panels too costly
I don’t mind the Centurion Deluxe Oil Primed Linen Panels
I use the Parallel Pallet invented by David Kassan. It is good for detailed work, I like that you can see your pallet upright beside the subject and painting.
Rose Tanner is an award winning artist who loves the outdoors and studying birds. She is dedicated to portraying her subjects using traditional oil painting techniques, travels widely for her subjects and is active in supporting endangered birds and their habitat.