Saturday, July 23, 2011

Purple Martins--Painting the Iridescent Sheen in Black

Purple martins are full of personality.  I can't tell you how many times I found myself giggling as I watched these birds interact.   The more you get to know a bird through observation, the more invested you become in creating a good likeness of all that you've witnessed.
Besides the busy social interaction and high speed flight of these birds presenting challenges to an observing artist, the male purple martin is essentially black, making color another fun challenge.  The translucence of watercolor and the iridescence found in many bird feathers are a perfect compliment.  Purple martins are described in Peterson's field guide as blue-black.  Their feathers often flash iridescent blue in the sun's light.  Even when a bird is black, the reflection of color in light gives the artist many options for capturing the subject.
Glazing and under-painting are one way to do this and the methods I chose for this painting.  The translucence of many watercolor pigments allow a color painted underneath to glow through.  Above you see my experiments using Winsor Newton Permanent Rose, WN Quinacridone Gold, and a combination of the two to see how they appear through blue glazes--WN French Ultramarine, WN Cerulean and Daniel Smith Carbazole Violet.  I selected French ultramarine (at the top of the page) because of its brilliance and clarity.
What I'm going for is not only the blue in the bird but the reflection of early morning color and softness as light reflects off the feathers.  Above and below, you see how the under-painting, appears initially.  Color is then added by glazing, applying a thin later of paint that allows the color underneath to come through.  Each layer of paint is then allowed to dry before applying the next layer.  
Now that I've shown you how I approached the bird's color, in the next post, I'll show you the finished painting and take you back to the beginning:  creating the initial wash and background.  

To see earlier posts on this purple martin painting project, visit: purple martins.  The most recent post will be first.

3 comments:

  1. A great tutorial. I love the way it turned out. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am so anxious to see the finished painting AND to bid on it! Thanks, Vickie and Craig.

    Louise/PMCA

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fantastic WIP pics Vickie - thank you for this ... I love the coneflowers, am a newcomer to your blog but following now xx

    ReplyDelete

Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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