In this week’s bird class we will be creating a Mandarin duck painting. I chose him not only for his interesting colors but also because he was floating in water and that gives us the opportunity to practice reflections.
There are a few things to remember when drawing floating birds. Proportions of the head relative to the body vary among species so pay careful attention to size and placement. Our duck has his neck tucked down and his tail feathers out of the water indicating he is resting (not actively feeding). Duck bodies are partially submerged when floating so the water line cuts across the body before the breast curves back under. In other words try to avoid drawing so much of the breast above the water that it makes your duck look like it is hovering.
As you draw it may be helpful to pay attention to the negative shapes (those areas around the bird) if you are having trouble with the head and neck. This technique can help you avoid being distracted by all those lovely feathers.
Once you have your duck drawn it is time to start adding color. I used my favorite Derwent watercolor pencils. I added the color directly to the paper then I took my #10 round brush and dissolved the pigment into a wash. Because our mandarin duck painting is so colorful I could use colors like dark violet, juniper green, delft blue, and spectrum blue for the brighter feathers and terracotta, burnt yellow ochre, copper beach, and burnt umber for the darker feathers.
The water was painted with a watery mix of bright blue in half circle shapes to give the illusion of the duck moving through the water. His body pushes the water in front of him making ripples.
To make the reflection I used the colors closest to the water and added them in a zig zag pattern to create a ripple effect. If you look at my piece above you’ll notice I didn’t make the reflection line up with the bird, they are slightly off. This is a very small detail but it helps make our mandarin duck painting that much more realistic.
I hope you’ll give this a try and please post a comment or send me a message letting me know how you did.
Until next time…keep those pencils sharp!