Monday, July 25, 2011

Purple Martins--The Painting

Purple Martin with Prey--a fun and challenging painting. 
Martins are insectivores, averaging speeds of 17-27 mph as they capture insects in flight.  Despite hours of observation, I was never invited along on one of those flights to see what the world looks like from up there!  So, when I selected this painting composition, I knew everything in the painting would be created from a combination of observations and my imagination.
When the weather is clear, early morning skies are a clear wash of light, 
with a touch of pink and gold reflecting from the horizon onto objects below.  My first challenge was creating a smooth wash of color for the sky.  In order to do this, I needed to protect the white on the bird and dragonfly, as well as the gourds in the background. The reason for this is primarily my freedom in applying paint.  I don't want to have to worry about where my paint is going while I'm also trying to achieve a flat wash.

Flat washes are made with even overlapping strokes of color across a tilted page.  The paint then flows smoothly downward as it is drying.    
To save the whites I applied Winsor Newton masking fluid using a wooden skewer in larger areas, and a straightened paper clip for the thin lines of the dragonfly's wings. The masking fluid adheres to these tools and can be dropped and dragged along the line on the page.  While using the paperclip, more care is required to avoid scratching the paper.  

Below, you see the sky wash after it is applied.  The trees were added before the wash was completely dry.   
The paint must be allowed to dry completely before the mask is removed.  No assistance from a dryer to hurry things up in this case.  Heat causes the rubbery substance in the masking fluid to deteriorate and fuse with the paper, making removal problematic. 

The mask bottle instructions suggest using an eraser to remove the masking fluid and this works.  However, if the mask is applied generously, it forms a nice rubbery surface that can be removed by applying pressure with your finger tip.  In the image below, you see I am rolling it off easily.  
Below, you see the white surface that was saved with the masking fluid.  
Masking fluid leaves hard edges which sometimes need to be softened.  The background martin gourds need soft edges to help them recede into the background.  I used my small scrubber, clean water and a blotting tissue, to soften the edges of each gourd to make them look rounder and softer in the low morning light.  
Once I lay in the background wash, I am ready to bring the bird to life with paint.  This is my preferred way of painting--to work on the subject early in the painting.   I want the color and values of the subject to lead my eye as I enrich the background with shading and detail.  Below, you see the first glaze that I applied to the martin, discussed in the previous post.     
Next:  glazes of color and the finishing details.

Links and Resources:

To see all my posts on this purple martin painting project, visit: purple martins.  The most recent post will be first.  You may also enjoy my reports on my visits to the martin colony at Vickie Henderson Art.

Click the links to learn more about using masking fluid and softening edges.

To learn more about purple martins visit the Purple Martin Conservation Society

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic show n' tell of your process, Vickie!! Your painting is just utterly beautiful!! I learned so much from this post!

    ReplyDelete

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

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