Birds and I have a love/hate relationship. Love ’em outdoors; hate ’em as pets. I love to paint birds, but they frustrate the bajeebers out of me. Trying to create soft feathers without it looking like fur. Working out where the wings attach to the shoulder. And how do their heads connect to their bodies? Where even are their necks? Today, I will share with you my triumphs and failures of the avian variety.
Here’s my very first bird. Man, what an uggo. To be fair, I was trying out a more cartoon-y, “stylized” look based on an artist I’d seen earlier in the week, but something went horribly wrong. To make matters worse, I was also experimenting with some heavy textured paint and a palette knife, and had no clue what I was doing. Don’t ever try more than one new technique on a single work, is what I chose to take away from this painting. It’s also probably best to get to a satisfactory point with your other elements before you go on to something completely new. I keep this painting up in my studio as a reminder to not paint something this bad ever again.
This batch is much better. I was understandably a little skittish after the fiasco with the other cardinal, so I scaled down to 5″x5″ canvases for these guys. I also backed off from the cartoon-y style to paint birds that were a little more realistic-looking. I spent too long painting each of these as well, considering their small size, but speed comes with time. I sold the cardinal and the bluejay, and I still have the other two. Which is fine with me, because I really enjoy looking at the robin and the chickadee. Fat birds are my favorite kind.
This bluebird was commissioned by the same person who bought the cardinal. I played up the contrast between the red/pink feathers and the blue ones; a trick which I now use in my newer paintings. I mean, if paintings aren’t going to be more vivid and more interesting than real life, why not just take a photo? I’m still trying to figure out that whole concept, but painting little birds are a fun way to explore.
I learned a lot from painting these birds, most importantly to embrace failure and use it as a tool to learn and improve.