Thursday, March 1, 2018

An Approach to a New Subject

I live in a coastal area that is profoundly flat and I am primarily a landscape painter.  Tidal marshes and flat seascapes figure prominently in my work.  I do not  have the luxury of those dramatic cliffs and waves crashing on rocks.  Occasionally I sneak out to paint vertical scenes and it is a welcome change,  but since those opportunities are infrequent I like to mix it up with other types of subject matter.

Recently I came upon this photo in my "Art Ideas- animals" file-

I had never painted any part of a peacock though I have many photos, most of which are of the entire bird.  I don't know why I zoomed in on this draped tail (called a train) but when I reviewed it I thought it looked like an elegant wall hanging.  Although a bird, this stuck me as a found still life.

Here I share my process, both thought and painting-

1.  This was taken on an overcast day though there is some shadow and light apparent on the feathers.  My idea was to increase the value range with a dark somewhat transparent background and brighter saturated color in the lightest areas to create dimension.

2.  I didn't want to simplify the feathers very much but did want to lose the chain link fence which was distracting, especially near the edges of the image.

3.  I started with a block-in using my darkest dark- burnt sienna and ultramarine blue, both of which are semi-transparent.  For the very darkest areas I painted a little ivory black into my mixed dark (more on that later).  I used a little mineral spirits on a rag to carve out the lightest part of the feathers.

The feathers needed a lot of refinement in shape and location but this was an underpainting I thought would create the effect I wanted.  Even at this stage I tried to use brushstrokes that suggested the fine feathers, planning to let some of this show through in the finished painting.

4.  Before the end of the first session I started adding some more saturated color in a mid range value and defining the brighter areas with a lighter value.  I still have not come in with my lightest lights.  At this point I called it a day, wanting to take a break and take it slow.

5. In session two I brought in the stars of the show, my thalos- blue, green and turquoise. I use these about once a year but this was the day!  I still kept ultramarine blue in the picture and made a lot of little paint piles with variations.


For the silvery feathers I mixed a light violet using cad red and ultramarine blue (plus white).  I am approaching my lightest lights in many areas.  At this point I decided to let it dry completely.  I was painting on a piece of canvas and I wanted to mount it on a panel and apply retouch varnish before proceeding to what would hopefully be the last session.

6.  In the third session I added the lightest values, adjusted some shapes, and developed the finer feathers throughout the painting.  I also glazed some more burnt sienna on the peripheral dark areas in an effort to make them more luminous.  

"Eyespots"  14"x11" oil on linen panel

About tube blacks, I was told early on by many instructors not to use them.  I rarely do as a result and usually mix my darks for a near black color.  However, ivory black with yellow makes a lovely gray green and painting some black into dark areas is helpful if you want to make them darker as I did here in the block in.  When painted wet into wet with other colors it is no longer tube black.  Don't be afraid to use black if you need it, just be judicious, and never use it by itself to paint a black object.

Thanks for reading.  Lastly, many thanks to my handsome model!