Finished blackbird

Blackbird  watercolour 47 x 74 cm © Elizabeth Tyler 2012
Today the blackbird painting is finished. I had been thinking of painting a diffuse background or just a suggestion of something in the distance but then I thought it was better without. As it is now the white background enhances the contrast as you see the bird against the light.
I paid a lot of attention to the leaves in the foreground as they are nearest and I wanted to give you the feeling they are almost touching your nose. To achieve this it was necessary to draw them from life since they were out of focus in my reference photograph.
I painted yellow as a base colour over the whole shape and when that was dry concentrated sap green was added. While the green was still wet I covered it with wrinkled cling film and left it to dry completely. When the cling film was removed there was a very leafy structure all over the shapes which looked great as it was but still needed suggestions of light and shadow. The uppermost leaf is seen from below so it has a slightly different texture and colour. Here I added a layer of Pthalo blue and, after drying time, yet another layer of light opaque yellow. Again cling film was used while the yellow was wet.  I then added deep shadows with a mixture of Paynes grey and Pthalo blue and finally created the light lines of the veins by scrubbing with a tiny hog hair brush.
The cauliflower effect
The blackbird itself was painted with concentrated Paynes grey and I dropped water onto the surface while the colour was still wet. This creates a cauliflower effect which can be difficult to control, but it helps to hold your breath!
I used masking fluid for the straws of grass and painted the shadows between them first. After the fluid was removed I added different shades of green, taking care to render the light with thinner layers where the blades of grass turn upwards. Finally the darker shadow under the bird was added with a thin wash of Paynes grey applied with a wide hake brush.



 Blackbird, watercolour  47 x 74 cm © Elizabeth Tyler
I have been fascinated by birds recently, I suppose because most of them are shy and unapproachable, this makes me want to get near enough to study them even more. Directly after each shower of rain this blackbird would walk around the garden looking for worms. It was so eager and concentrated that it chose to ignore me. I followed it around with my camera and photographed it at a low viewpoint with a  200mm lens. I took about 40 pictures of it before I was satisfied there would be enough reference material for a watercolour.  Although I mostly prefer to paint from life, it's not always possible and then I take photographs as reference. I never use anyone else's photographs as I feel the creative process must be my own right from the beginning.
In this watercolour I played around with the so called cauliflower effect that many artists try to avoid. This is what happens when you add water to a wet painted surface. The water pushes the pigment away as it spreads out.  The effect can be taken advantage of in certain subjects like this where it resembles feathers.


Painting depth in acrylics

This is an acrylic painting which I have been working on for some time. In it I have experimented with different techniques to create an illusion of depth and distance. By merging the brush strokes and making soft transitions between colours, an impression of unsharp focus can be achieved. This I did with the rocks in the background.
The brush strokes in the middle ground are also loosened up and there are layers of translucent colour overlapping each other, there is intentionally no attention to detail here as that would only add confusion to the composition.
A close up view of this looks completely abstract but at a distance you can see the wet, flat stone.

Every time I paint water it's a new challenge. This time it was the bubbles and transparent, small waves that I wanted to describe. You can see the seaweed and some pebbles under the surface. The colours of these are toned down and the absence of sharp edges helps to give the impression of something a little diffuse, as seen through water.


 The surface texture on the stone in the foreground is made by flicking and 
 spattering different colours on with a toothbrush.
  I wanted to accentuate the roughness of the stone in contrast to the soft flowing
  water. This, I feel, creates an interesting dialogue within the painting. 
I love to indulge in details and I could hardly wait to revel in them. By painting the stone's surface with all the numerous spots, cracks and crevasses, it became the focal point I wanted it to be.