hThis weekend, and yes... the whole weekend (save for two holiday parties), I spent in the studio working on a large commissioned bird painting. The request was a blue/grey bird on a black branch on a large canvas. Well, most of my work, due to the daily painting nature of my art, is done small. Usually only 6"x6", but this guy... he is 18"x24".
So, first I set out to find the right blueish-grey bird to use as the subject of my painting. Google was my friend, and after only a few minutes I found this great bird that is called a Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher. These guys are small, so why not make him the star of a large painting?
The process I follow is pretty straight forward and works no matter the size of the painting. First you begin with an already primed surface. Then you add a wash of color, usually I use magenta. After wiping the wash with a paper towel until it is a very thin layer on the canvas, I begin to use the same magenta to draw the image. I tend to spend a lot of time in the drawing phase, making sure I am happy with the composition and the proportions.
Once happy with the drawing, I block in the main hues and values of the subject. I paint the main subject nearly completely before I paint in the background. I call this "islands before the ocean". If I cannot get the subject to look right, the background (or ocean) will never help. So, with that in mind, I focus solely on the main subject.
Next is to rough in the background. On the larger paintings, I use the palette knife to get the paint on quickly.
After that, I rework the subject's values if needed, making certain that I have the form and volume I need to make a convincing bird. Then it is time for the bits of 'flair'. The lost edges, the bringing the background color into the subject (and vise versa). This is the special part of the painting that takes it from a static painting of a bird and makes it feel as though it is alive.
Finally I do one final check, then I sign it and call it done.
Above is the full eight minute time lapse video demo of me painting the gnatcatcher. I hope you enjoy!
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Clinton T Hobart