Sunday, March 26, 2017

Watercolor bird workshop

I recently had the opportunity to attended a watercolor workshop at Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation by Leigh Ellis.  Leigh paints wonderfully vibrant watercolors, many are natural landscapes or wild animals.  This workshop focused on painting birds.  Leigh provided us with many tips from her many years as a painter and naturalist.  I was inspired by Leigh's teaching and the great paintings of the class members.  I look forward to attending future classes Leigh has.

During the workshop I worked on three paintings: a Red Ibis, Warbler and Rooster.  Before sketching the Ibis we discusses bird anatomy and how correct positions of the head and bill improve the realistic look of the painting.  The Ibis is basically all the same color with slight differences in value.  The changes in light across the bird's plumage are what provide shape for the wings and body.  I left out all but a few leaves and branches, letting the red bird stand out from the dark wet on wet background.

For the Warbler painting I focused on the attitude of this feisty little bird; clinging to a small branch, tail cocked singing out for all the world to hear.  A variety of browns, pale blue and hints of red makeup both the bird and the branch he sits on.  The background is a wet on wet mix of greens.

In contrast, the Rooster is full of many vibrant colors.  I didn't paint individual feathers, but grouped the feathers to define the birds shape.  Some of painting is knowing how to let the viewer "see" what is not actually there.  Distance, depth, 3D and even color are achieved by the combination of what is painted and what our brains perceive.  For instance, the juxtaposition of dark and light colors provide the "shine" of the Rooster's tail feathers. Only one tail feather stands out, the one that is out of place.  Maybe it was pulled during a scuffle in the farm yard.