I’ve been painting birds. There are seemingly infinite varieties of birds, with an infinite array of colour and appearance. I find their beauty fascinating and I really wanted to try to capture that.
As I lean towards realism I am trying very diligently to be as accurate as possible in how I portray the species that I am painting or drawing.
I am very lucky to know several photographers who take amazing wildlife photos, including birds, that have given permission to use their photos as my inspiration and reference images.
Some of my earlier work that featured birds include these drawings. First was done in many years ago (possibly in high school).
Then a couple of small Micron pen drawings from a few years back of a chickadee and an Adélie Penguin.
The vultures were for a school assignment. The Turkey Vulture was a study in graphite as I was trying to find the right vulture for the assignment.
I settled on the African White Backed Vulture – who I drew wearing a gas mask because it was for an illustration. This was in Micron pen, with the watercolours added later.
Then most recently I was playing around with my new, high quality Derwent pencil crayons so found a bright coloured Finch to draw.
I like to work small (I get bored easily!) With the exception of the foot, all of these are less than 8 x 10″.
I had to create a diptych (two related paintings) for an assignment, so I asked permission from my photographer friend, Marilyn Grubb at Chipabirdee Images by Marilyn Grubb Photography & Digital Art to use some of her photos.
These are my two paintings based on her photos – a Mountain Bluebird and a Yellow Rumped Warbler. Both paintings are 8 x 10″ on stretched canvas.
Below are detail close-ups of the two little birds.
As they were so small I didn’t get the feathers right on the Warbler – he has a LOT more wing feathers than I painted. Also… I think the Mountain Bluebird may have modelled for Angry Birds.
I decided to go bigger in my next bird painting. Again using one of Marilyn’s great photos as my reference. This is a Barred Owl, 20 x 24″ on stretched canvas. It took me 30 hours – most of that was spent on the feathers.
I took progress shots as I worked at the end of each painting session. First was after many layers of gesso to get a smooth surface and doing a rough sketch in a wash of acrylic paint. Second, I did an underpainting in burnt umber of the colour placement on the owl, and roughed in the background in bright colours, then I started adding the detail from the bottom up – I stopped after getting the tail feathers done as I was getting tired.
The next session I got most of the long wing feathers and the fence post done. Fourth session I managed to get the wings finished. The fifth session I finished the head, did tweeks on the whole owl, and painted in the background.
And, after my sixth session which involved adding some detail/depth, some colour washes on the background and cleaning up the edges, the finished piece.
Below is Marilyn’s original photo that I used as my reference. I also checked on the internet for other images of a Barred Owl as I wasn’t sure if my colouring was going to be right but there is a lot of variation in the browns and how much/little there is in proportion to the white.
I see things I wish I’d done differently (common problem with artists!) but overall I am pretty happy with this owl.
P.S. The birds paintings are for sale!