This week’s project for my birds class is about drawing birds in flight and iridescence – which are the perfect topics for a hummingbird study. Speaking of hummingbirds, the other day I took a quick break from drawing and happened to pass by the window next to our apple tree when I spotted a Ruby-throated Hummingbird zipping around. It was a great treat to watch him hover around the blossoms. I think he came to tell me he approved of my choice in topics.
Most of the time we see a hummingbirds’ wings as a blur but I was able to find a reference photo that stopped his wings while they were outstretched. I kept the detail simple using grays and lilac to capture the form. The gorget (throat) was done by layering magenta (or mulberry) over a layer of white. This makes the color brighter, had I layered white over the color it would have dulled it. For the darker scales on the left I used crimson lake (or crimson red) next to the magenta.
To create the illusion of iridescence you need to alter how you normally apply color pencil. Usually you make smooth transitions from light to dark but in this case you want to your transitions to happen very quickly almost as if you put dark and light colors right next to each other with no mid-values in between. The same applies for any areas under the bill that are in shadow. You need to transition quickly to a very dark value. I used black grape for the shadow, I think it is a more believable shadow color rather than layering black over the magenta. If you don’t have black grape you can create your own color mix by layering violet over black.
I would like to thank my students for sharing in this adventure with me. You have all accomplished so much, you should be proud of all your hard work. I hope to see you in the fall for more adventures in colored pencil.
This week’s project in my bird class is drawing and painting an owl. Normally when I demonstrate how to draw a bird I talk about using a circle or an ellipse to represent the head. When it comes to raptors we deviate a little, if you look closely at this bird you may notice that its head is more angular than the other birds we have drawn like the goldfinch, puffin, and warbler. Rather than use a circle I recommend beginning with a rectangle and adding curves where needed. I think this approach retains the blocky quality of this particular species better.
Each week I chose the subject so that there is something new to learn but I also look for opportunities to reinforce previous techniques. The new part of this lesson is how to draw more angular features and the technique review is color mixing. While there may be an exact pencil color for each feather group I like making my own mixes. I think it gives more vibrancy and depth to the artwork. Since we aren’t machines there are variations in the amounts of each color used and no matter how skillful you are at applying color smoothly, each color magically peeks through. These variations make color pencil paintings lively and beautiful. I used a mixture of browns (umber, sienna, bister, and dark brown) mixed with warm grays and peach. The peach gives a warm golden glow to the fur. The eyes were a mixture of canary yellow, yellow ochre, goldenrod, and cool gray for the shadows (you could also use violet in the shadows since it is the complement of yellow if you don’t have cool gray). The paper I selected was my Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook. I like how the Alpha paper responds to the many layers of pencil that were needed to complete this piece.
Next week will be the last bird class, I have some ideas on what our next subject will be. One bird I am considering can fly fast, stop instantly, hover, and even fly backwards. If you know what it is leave a comment below.
Until next time keep those pencils sharp!
This week in my drawing birds class we will be focusing on wings. There is a tendency for artists (both beginners and those with more experience) to want to include every detail in a piece. Often times the suggestion of detail can be much more compelling. When drawing birds it is important to observe all the details but it is also important to know when to leave things out. In the case of bird wings I prefer not to include every line I see, I think it helps keep my birds from looking too scaly. If you find your birds are looking a bit overdone remove some of extra lines and focus on the transitions between colors to create the illusion of detail.
For this painting I chose to perch my warbler on a forsythia branch that I clipped from a bush in my garden. I like the combination of the blue with the bright yellow blossoms, it gives the composition a nice contrast.
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