View Full Version : Three Little Birds WIP由EACTIVATED

02-17-2005, 05:02 AM
I have been procrastinating about this WIP for awhile, so let's see how we go. It's a simple composition intended to have a tinge of the surreal about it rather than being impressionistic realism. I want to portray sense of something more than the sum of the elements.
I have decided to work on a full sheet of Blue Lake 340gsm, a textured hand made paper, soft and velvety, somewhat temperamental and unpredictable but magnificent. And I am pleased to say JJ that they still make it and have not gone bust.
As my subject matter is largely figurative and recently and it would seem ongoing portraits of kids. It's the little kid in the sun on the beach trick.
Palette: Raw Sienna, Cad Red, Scarlet Lake(secret ingredient) Indian Red, raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Blue Deep, French Ultra and a touch of Permanent Rose, I use Winsor And Newton because they're the best I can get in this part of the world, I won't slag Art Spectrum as they are a proud Australian Company and they make the best oil paint.
I work on an old Draughtsmans table made by Nike ....well it's brand is Nike but not sure if it's the shoe mob. It tilts 90 deg, height adjusts with hydraulic foot pedal. and only cost me $40 , just needed some lubrication. It's the best money I've ever spent on art materials.

02-17-2005, 05:41 AM
The drawing from a photograph took the best part of an hour, the most difficulty being facial features, not that they need to be very accurate and detailed as this is not a portrait...I have to keep reminding myself of that having painted myself into a bit of a corner with the commissions....it's hard to get out once you start.
Most important is ensuring shapes of light and shadow are defined. I don't see this figure as anything more than an object to demonstrate light, although strong light does do intersting things when falling on a fair skinned child...apart from burning the delicate skin.
Firstly i wet the whole sheet with a 2" Hake brush and turned it upside down, and as it soaked in a little I mixed a little perm rose in a puddle of raw sienna and mused at it's consistency which I did not want too strong, certainly more on the raw sienna side, but as it is an afternoon light i preferred it to be a cooler warm.
Now there are many who over-intellectualize the warm/cool terms and just don't get it.....you have to understand what warm and cool means otherwise you will struggle as a painter. I was recently browsing another forum(not the real artists site... WC) and a vigorous debate was happening over warm and cool....it aint that hard really is it.
So I run the mix from the top of my upside down sheet working around the areas of the figure I want to leave white.
Also graduating lighter over the midfield then getting stronger in the sky as it runs off the bottom. Mop up the edge to stop run backs, let it rest for a minute then dry it with a hair dryer.

You will notice a drew a couple of gulls and covered them with masking fluid. and a little on the edge of the hair but that's just for insurance, I intend to paint around the hair later(this happened before I did the first wash BTW)

Once the initial wash is dry which takes 5 mins with the HD ;
Again wet the figure and let it rest for until the gloss starts to go
Then taking care not to invade the highlights allow the brush to infuse it's load of raw sienna, scarlet and lake cad red , once again with the lean toward the sienna rather than too strong a red at this stage..
The important thing here is to remember this is a transitional midtone to carry the light into the shadow at the next step.

02-17-2005, 05:51 AM
Pulling up a chair. I am glad they haven't gone bust, I sure don't know where Peter got his info from..:( :)

I beg to differ on W&N being the best brand in Australia.. IMO M.Graham (http://www.theartshop.com.au/category698_1.htm) are the best Artists Brand of Paint in Australia..:D

Love your Table..:)


02-17-2005, 06:05 AM
As you can see the retention of white paper begins to give a strong sense of light. It can't be achieved in any other way but to reserve white paper.
The artificial light gives this image a rather more yellow appearance than the real image.

02-17-2005, 06:51 AM
I like my table to be tilted at about 30- 40 deg, it makes the wash much more controllable, gravity provides a nice even run and prevents run backs which you don't want in this type of subject. I'm aiming for clean, decisive washes and brushwork in this painting.
Aim is important to me even though hitting the bulls eye doesn't always happen.
Once the first exclusive body wash is down I dry it with HD. My life's too short to wait for paint to dry or discuss whether one brand of paint is better than another, I just stick to what i know works....I do trust W&N pigments I must say.
Eyes & mouth next, noseholes, and ear too. No need to be too fussy it's a matter of creating a reference for the facial structure which is more important than creating some likeness when a portrait is not the job.
Try not to paint features on but rather into the structure of the face.
The shape of the ear ought not be underestimated however, it lends a sense of genuinity in an otherwise shorthand technique. Like a car with clean windows.

02-17-2005, 10:15 AM
Can't wait to see more!! :music: :music:

02-17-2005, 10:35 AM
Me either David! Another Golden Child! Thanks for showing us your Neat studio too. Mine is such a Pigpen, that I can barely find the Paint and Paper.
Can't wait to see you get into the meat.
June :)

02-17-2005, 11:02 AM
So....Nike makes tables now, huh? I can just see the commercials. A sweat-drenched Michael Jordan leaping through the air, #10 Kolinsky in hand, laying down extreme washes, with a voice-over exclaiming, "Just paint it!"

ROFL, am I a product of American television, or what? :D

This is going to be a fabulous WIP and I can't wait to see more. :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

02-17-2005, 12:42 PM
It's glowing already.....

So jealous of your table.....hydraulic foot pedal....drooling....

Thanks for taking the time to do this...


The violet brush shadow in the 3rd photo looked like paint to me....and I kept scrolling back to see what happened to the violet??? duh! I obviously like pictures better than text :D

Celeste McCall
02-17-2005, 01:07 PM
Dear David,
This is very wonderful of you to show how to do this. The best thing so far that I read in...well, ONE of the best things as there are MANY...is when you said,
"Try not to paint features on but rather into the structure of the face."

That was the best way to put that! :D That's one thing that is the most important in a portrait. The only way that it looks real and not cartoon like. You did a great job in putting the features IN rather than ON the face in your painting.

Could you elaborate about why this is so important and give an example of painting ON (which is not as good as IN) so that everyone can understand....because this is very important IMHO.

Thanks for that great statement and the lesson so far. You're a great artist!!!!! :D Saving clappies for the end. ;)

02-17-2005, 02:52 PM
HI David
Iエm pulling out a chair...You are a brave man doing this but I know you master it so Iエm here to learn :D :D . I haveエnt tried to paint portraits or people yet. Dont dare...
I really looking forward to follow this thread because I love your paintings! Thanks for sharing David

02-17-2005, 08:04 PM
I use just 3 major passes with the brush in making a portrait, any more is remedial however not unusual, I aim for 3 is probably a more accurate way of saying it.
So far I've placed one tone defining wash on the figure and the feature placement. Now to define more light and form in the figure starting with the face. And the features here are ignored in terms of separate entities, they will be painted over in one continuous wash shape along with their surrounding structures. This is one way by which you paint the features into the face rather than onto. Light is the key, observe and paint the tonal shapes rather than the solid forms.
Wet the required shape and infuse the pigment as in the previous wash, simple really. Here I use more on the red side, scarlet lake, cad red, indian red (for the cooler shaded areas and cobalt blue, I always have a raw sienna puddle waiting to temper the adolescence of the raw pigments. These pigments are made into little puddles on my palette and mixed in differing proportions to suit the specific tonal and hue reqired to create the illusion of form and light on skin. One simple rule to remember is that the greatest saturation of hue lies between the two extremes of tone on any given form.
Care taken to preserve the light is really the main thing to watch as well as tonal value because you don't want to have to go back into the wash risking irreversable damage or even glaze later because it will not have a reflectiveness even across the painting. I prefer to go back in provided the paper moisture is equal to or greater than that of my brush and the pigments have not settled, than I would glaze. When I say go back in I really mean to touch the tip of the brush on the moistened area to infuse more pigment rather than brushing it on. This is predominantly a wash method at this stage.

02-17-2005, 08:14 PM
Got the pints, the stool and the interest, David. Terrific to follow along.

02-17-2005, 08:30 PM
Once the face dries, again with HD, I do the body with the same method, a controlled wash. I go warmer in the areas of stronger tone and allow it to infuse
under gravity. As I said earlier sun does weird thigs to a young childs skin, it tends to absorb and diffuse beneath the skin creating a translucent effect rather than reflecting off as in an adult male perhaps.
It's like putting a torch light behind your hand or as I used to do as a kid, stick a pet light torch up the nostril to try to terrorize little cousins etc.

02-17-2005, 08:38 PM
So....Nike makes tables now, huh? I can just see the commercials. A sweat-drenched Michael Jordan leaping through the air, #10 Kolinsky in hand, laying down extreme washes, with a voice-over exclaiming, "Just paint it!"


02-17-2005, 11:17 PM
I have made a mistake that will take some tricks to save.
However it highlights a very important factor and that is to paint the elements of the compostion as one where ever possible. I ought to have painted the cast shadow at the same time as the shadow on the figure, in one passage. It's to late to worry about so If it doesn't tie in later it may require drastic measures to tie in.

02-17-2005, 11:21 PM
Are you going to show us how you fix it???

That is all parting of the learning curve IMO..:)


02-18-2005, 12:08 AM
Very informative thread and form the looks of it - this will be a fabulous painting when done!

02-18-2005, 03:29 AM
I turned the paper upsidedown to wash in sky leaving the cloud bank white.
Turned it back over and washed in something to resemble cloud shadows.
Soften some cloud edges with a spray and tissue here and there. The stronger values in the clouds give a foil for the childs head.
Once dry on with the hair.

02-18-2005, 04:34 AM
I painted in the birds and a couple of figures , strengthened the tone of the sea to bring it closer to the sky... .
I put a matboard around it, sit back and decide if it's anywhere near where I expected it to be.... or whether it's merely a learning experience. The opinion is arrived at via some magical and subjective process and has only a small element of technical correctness associated with it. It either feels right or it doesn't.


02-18-2005, 06:06 AM
Thankyou Mee,
Thanks June, I feel i've hardly touched the meat as you put it, but i hope it provided some insight into how I paint this type of subject. Thankyou for your support :wave:
Hi Jessica, I liked your image of Jordan, it certainly bought a smile, thanks :D
It's really old, early 60s maybe, heavy and well made in Sweden if I recall
Hey Lauren, i'm pleased you dropped in thanks :)
Hi Celeste, I think painting in the features will happen automaticallly if you place place them secondary to the portrayal of light and tonal value.
I appreciate your votes of confidence.
Tom, thanks I hope you found something in this. At least perhaps some of the fear of figures in watercolour can be relegated to the bin. As you con see..not an overly complicated process.
Merlot, thanks, great to see you.
JJ cheers for taking a look.
I'm going to go and take a more accurate photo now..will post it soon

02-18-2005, 06:20 AM

02-18-2005, 09:00 AM
Wonderful demo! That little guy is so expressive!! I rated you!! THanks!!!


02-18-2005, 10:10 AM
excellent work and explanations, David

I find that if you tell folks to paint VALUE and SHAPE (insted of "ears"), a porttrait or figure becomes much easier...you have demonstrated that so well!!

02-18-2005, 10:37 AM
Great finish, David! This was a fun one to watch with great explanations. Thanks! :clap:

02-18-2005, 10:46 AM
Hi David, Amazing what a difference that last photo made!!!!! Either way I liked this but I'm lovin' the last shot! Wonderful. Gonna rate this thread.

02-18-2005, 03:38 PM
Thanks for taking time to do this wonderful WIP. I have also rated the thread.


Celeste McCall
02-18-2005, 10:21 PM
Yeah David!

You rate....literally....5 big stars from me too!
Great WIP!!!! :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :D :D :D

02-19-2005, 03:45 AM
Hi David
Youエre the man! Great painting followed by a very good explanation. I think I have to give figurative painting a go... You make it look so easy but I guess its NOT! ;) I rate this 5 stars... :clap: :clap: :clap:

Kate Mc
02-19-2005, 04:07 AM
:clap: :clap: :clap:

Thanks for sharing this with us. You've got my mentor point for today.


02-19-2005, 06:13 AM
I love the finish!....the true colors are wonderful! Terrific high key glowing bably "bird" skin! fresh and natural....Thanks :clap:


Arnold Lowrey
02-19-2005, 08:08 AM
Hi David
It's nice to see how you do your masterpieces, cobber.
How do you keep your studio so tidy? - Ha

02-19-2005, 06:07 PM
:clap: :clap: :clap: (looking for the thingie to award/reward you)

Thank you Dake. A thread to treasure. As a newbie here I am constanty amazed by the prowess of the members and by the fact that when I need
a boost in a particular direction it is right here...at my finger-tips.
I may attempt that portrait of me ole Mum now... :p

02-19-2005, 08:25 PM
Wonderful!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

02-19-2005, 08:43 PM
David... thanks so much for taking the time to not only demonstrate your technique, but share your thoughts about it as well... Some days I feel like a sponge, soaking up all this information... My only hope is to be able to retain and use it!!! :D :D

I've given you my Mentor Point for the day and rated your thread....

Oh... and this baby is adorable! Couldn't resist... :D

02-20-2005, 03:51 AM
A big thankyou to all who took the time to comment, rate and give your mentor points. I was quite tired when I did this after a very busy week, I felt an enormous pressure to paint a WIP and feel that I managed about 70% of how I envisioned the result. I think next time I will try not to rush so much. There is a slightly disconnected feel between the child and background, the sky may be a little insensitive and rushed....I think the light in the hair ought to have touched some white cloud area thereby connecting the figure into the sky the separation there was not a good idea. I think this could have been better by developing the background in the same wash as the figure thus becoming an extention of the figure layers. This method will not forgive a tired mind and even a momentary lapse in concentration, but who wants to bin a full sheet of Blue Lake at the first mistake? As i planned it that was the only error...it was a big one though.
But it's history now, not interested in dwelling on it, just learning from it.
Thanks again

02-20-2005, 06:46 PM
I think you are being way too hard on yourself. This is a lovely painting and most of us wish we could only do as well! :envy: Looking forward to future WIPs :D

02-20-2005, 07:12 PM
David, I am always awestruck when I see your work. (Normal Mailer is still my fave of yours!). I dream to be able to paint figures like you, and to achieve the 'velvetness' of the paint on the paper.

Do you think you felt rushed because you were doing a WIP? I know I always feel so pressure when I do them, and have not done one for awhile because of that very reason.

Truth be told David, I bet you are the only one who noticed what you should and wanted to do differently with this painting. I think it's like that for most of us.


02-20-2005, 09:21 PM
David ,
Glorious , simply glorious!
( My Mentor Point also)

03-04-2008, 01:41 PM

03-04-2008, 03:26 PM
This is another of our "Oldies but Goodies" that was originally posted in 2005. Lots of good info here to enjoy and learn from. :D