View Full Version : Demonstration: Hummingbird on Gold Ground

Deborah Secor
12-23-2005, 01:43 PM
Hi all--I thought I would post this as a WC! Article but the system needs a tweak and I have to wait to do that, so I'm going to go ahead and post it as a thread now. Maybe it will become an article later. :wink2:

Hummingbirds on Gold

Hummingbirds are such exquisite little gems in flight that painting them on a dazzling gold background is perfect. Instead of investing in gold leaf, try creating sparkling gold painted paper to use as a ground for a pastel painting of one of these small jewels.

I've gathered my materials: a 6x8" piece of Wallis Professional grade sandpaper, Tro-col powdered paint by Schmincke, a spray bottle containing plain water, paper towels, my drawing board and masking tape. I'm all set.

1óI started with a piece of Wallis sandpaper. The deep grit of this paper allows pastels to adhere well and is impervious to water. I cut my paper larger than I plan for my finished image so that I can find the right placement for the hummingbird based on the textures and colors that come out. I donít want to try to over-control what happens but use the accidental qualities that occur.


Here you can see the Tro-Col powdered paint made by Schmincke. Iím using the pale gold color. I have sprinkled a light layer of the gritty powder over my paper. It takes less than you think, so be conservative. You can always add more while itís wet, if needed, but you donít want to waste it. Itís also a good idea to use this in a still area so that the metal powder doesnít blow around.

2óHereís a close-up of the powdered paper ready to be wet. You can see that itís a gritty, grainy powder but itís actually quite fine.



3ó I spray water carefully onto the surface of the paper using a small spray bottle, allowing it to puddle and swirl. The powder can blow away if the spray is too strong, so gently spray a fine mist instead of blasting it with a stream. The powder turns to shiny paint. The idea is to wet all of the pigment powder, since the bumps that remain simply brush away when the whole thing is dry, wasting the powdered paint.

In order to speed drying, and to create more textural variations, I lay a paper towel over the surface and remove it, leaving a nice pattern of gold paint. I sometimes use a brush to dissolve stubborn clumps.


4óHereís the dry paper ready to use. You can see that as it dried it flattened out nicely. It isnít stretched taught, but it can be taped down to a firm board and the finished painting can be mounted behind a mat with no problems. Itís best to wait until the paper is thoroughly dry before going on to the next step.

5ó Tape the paper to your board and examine the surface. Carefully brush away the majority of the loose powder from the paper, taking care not to scatter it everywhere. Oftentimes this is best done outdoors where the wind can carry away the sparkling dust. You cannot stop the flaking away of some fine powdery glitter at this point, so accept that.

Look for an area that isnít too thickly coated with paint to place the drawing. In the thicker areas the paint fills the grain of the paper, obscuring the tooth needed, although no matter what, the surface will be somewhat smoother than normal. I use the tip of my finger to smooth out the pastel where the bird is placed.

Knowing the gesture of this little Costaís female I plan to paint, I place the end of her beak next to an area of texture suggesting foliage or flowers. Iíve measured her wing length to be sure she doesnít get too large and structured the body on that scale. I plan to blur out the wings, giving the impression of movement there, so I donít want to over-detail them.

6óHereís the first pass with my pastels. I use regular soft pastels, not pastel pencils. With practice you can find the little edges that allow you to do fine details with larger pastel pieces. Notice that Iíve smeared the wings by painting in some colors and further blending them.

At this point there are still a lot of places where the gold paint shows through, but thatís part of what makes these little birds look precious, as well as making them appear to be almost one with the background. The smeared edge beneath the tail and the shape of the moving wings will be clarified with some surrounding color.


In this close-up you can see the little strokes of overlapping color. Itís still pretty raw.

7óI added a touch of sky color around the edges to give the impression that the hummingbird is hovering in mid-air. It serves to clean up ragged edges and define shapes, as well as diminishing the almost overwhelmingly bright background color. I rubbed the blue pastel into the gold paint using my finger and then further blended it with a color shaper, which I also used to blend the feathers together a bit more.

I decided to crop the paper to a square so that the bird is almost off the page. This gives the impression of quick movement captured in a split second and makes for interesting compositional possibilities in the square format.

The final touches were in the eye, in which I added a black pastel to define the shape, and then a tiny touch of light that brings this bright little hummingbird alive.

Female Costa's Hummingbird
The finished painting is 5x5", which means it's somewhat larger than lifesize here!

I hope you've enjoyed this demonstration. Please let me know what questions you have, which will help make it a better article in time.


12-23-2005, 02:23 PM
Beautiful. Thanks for the demo.

Bhavana Vijay
12-23-2005, 03:09 PM
Thanks Deborah for the very detailed demo. The painting is delicate and beautiful.
I find this very interesting.

You mentioned using this method instead of buying gold foil.This is off topic but can one actually paint over gold foil?

And is it possible remove mistakes on this paper without spoiling the gold effect?very important for me!:D Would love to try this out.

Deborah Secor
12-23-2005, 03:46 PM
You're more than welcome, Marina.

Bhavana, I'm glad you liked it. The answers to your question are no and a qualified yes. You cannot paint on gold leaf easily with pastel, but you can leaf over the areas you want to cover when finished. Leaf must be the last step. Yes, you can correct mistakes, but only minimally and carefully. I used the blue pastel over the top to 'erase'--more like hide--smudges of charcoal on the gold. You could easily go into it with more pastel, but you can never revive that sparkle the same way so you must be very careful to preserve the areas you want to have gold in the end.


12-23-2005, 06:09 PM
Thanks for this!

12-23-2005, 07:00 PM
Deborah, I really love your humming birds. This one's another beauty. What a good idea, to try it with the gold. Thanks for showing us.

12-24-2005, 02:51 AM
Thank you for this demo, it's wonderful. I have never seen the Schmincke paint before. Could this be done with an acrylic metalic paint or does it need to be a powdered pigment?

Paula Ford
12-24-2005, 11:12 AM
Wonderful Deborah! Thank you

(I've rated this thread)


Deborah Secor
12-24-2005, 12:27 PM
Brad and Donna, you're welcome! I'm happy to share my experiments...

Shari, I found the Tro-col paint in a local art supply store and gave it a go. I figured if there wasn't enough tooth I could always use some gel medium with pumice over the dry paint, so I say give the acrylics a try and see what they do, and then let us know how it works... :D

Thanks, Paula! Glad you like it enough to rate it...


12-26-2005, 11:59 AM
Hi Dee. Thanks for the great little demo! You make it look so easy.

I just wanted to mention that this also works with Daniel Smith metalic watercolour powder and I've also found that the Pearl Ex pigments do wonderful things when either used in the same manner or combined with the metal colours especially platinums or german silvers to introduce that irridescent quality.

Happy Holidays..Dianna :cat:

Deborah Secor
12-26-2005, 12:13 PM
Great to know that, Dianna. I knew there had to be other ones that would work, perhaps more commonly available then the Schmincke. (The bottles are labeled in German, so I can't even tell what is said there.) The thing I love about this paint is the real shine it has, but I would think on the Wallis paper almost anything not too thick would leave a nice bit of tooth to use.

I have five of the metallic colors in the Schmincke--rich pale gold, pale gold, rich gold, copper, and aluminum (which is too grainy to be to my liking). I sometimes mix the various ones together to give a different look to things. The copper is gorgeous, but it needs a lot of cool colors with it or it overwhelms. Each little bottle was about $5, but I admit to having bought them a few years ago and being quite conservative, so the price may have gone up since then.

One of these days I want to try the interference paints that let the colors change at different angles, too. That should add to the impression these little hummingbirds give, don't you think?


Deborah Secor
12-26-2005, 12:19 PM
Just Googled the Schmincke and came up with this page: http://www.aswexpress.com/discount-art-supplies/online/1549/art-supplies/3 There are others that carry it but this picture shows the colors nicely.


12-26-2005, 01:25 PM
Hi Dee...yes it looks like the same product only bottled under the Daniel Smith name. The Pearl Ex and Pearl Ex Duo are interference pigments and come in quite a few colours. Sennielier also has some wonderful irridescent soft pastels which I use sparingly on occasion as a last touch. Dakota puts out a boxes set of them for the artist who has to have every colour :D

Cheers, Dianna :cat:

12-26-2005, 04:16 PM
All very interesting. Dianna do you know what iridescent means? I have often wondered that when I read about the Senneliers pastels?

12-26-2005, 11:46 PM
Hi Marnia

Iridescent colours have a pearly, metallic sheen to them usually with one predominent hue such a pink, green or blue. If you were just talking about examples of iridescence that would be like mother of pearl or an oil slick on water.

Interference pigments have dual qualities. At one angle the interference colour is observed and that the other its complimentary absorption colour is seen. You may see purple from one angle and green from the other....both colours highly iridescent.

You can mix any of these pigments right in with your transparent paints for acrylics as well as over top for different effects. The only way to see what each one does is to play with it yourself keeping in mind that more is not necessarily better. Too much can be garish and take away from your intended focus. It is most successfully used as Dee has in an undercoat or applied in areas where you want to draw the eye momentarily.

Cheers, Dianna

12-27-2005, 09:36 AM
Thanks Dianna for explaining. I will have a look in the shops and maybe buy some to experiment with.

Deborah Secor
12-27-2005, 11:09 PM
Sorry--I've caught a bit of a cold and as a result I'm not spending much time in the cold part of the house where the computer is located. I'll pop in again when I feel better! Should be soon, I think. I also plan another hummingbird and will post the process in more detail, including how to measure the scale, etc. if I can. I'm considering another layer of the gold, with some varying colors, so will show that too, if done.



K Taylor-Green
12-28-2005, 12:13 AM
Deborah, I think it is a fabulous demo! Definitly something worth experimenting on.
Thanks so much for taking the time.
And take care of that cold!! I just got over one. Yuck, miserable.

12-28-2005, 10:07 AM
Thanks so much for the great demo. Oh, the possibilities. Wish I had more time for "fun" to try everything out. I hope I remember this when I can find the time. This looks like fun.

12-28-2005, 09:52 PM
As I have been about to start some small bird pics to place in a local B&B my discovery of your post is surely timely. I really like the effect you've obtained and can see all kinds of possibilities. Thanks so much for sharing this.

12-29-2005, 12:23 AM
I love birds.And this one is nice.

12-29-2005, 06:15 PM
Deborah, thanks so much for the great demo. Your demos are all so helpful. I'm in the midst of placing an order and intend to add some to it.


12-30-2005, 07:41 PM
Deborah- thanks for the wonderful demo- from the ground up, no less! I love the way you show the 'action' of these super-busy birds wings... really wonderful!

01-02-2006, 02:53 PM
Hi Deborah and Happy New Year, I hope your cold is better. Thanks for sharing this, what a wonderful painting, it has such life to it.

Deborah Secor
01-02-2006, 10:20 PM
I seem to be mostly over the cold, happily. I plan to do hummingbird number two tomorrow, so if I get something that will expand this demo I'll be sure to post it for you to see.

I'm so glad you all have enjoyed seeing this and thanks for your comments. Do try this technique for making these sparkling little ones, and if anyone tries any other things along this line I hope you'll share them here, too.


01-03-2006, 11:43 AM
Thank you for such a lovely demo! I have a jar of that Schminke powder around here, and was never quite sure how to best use it. I'm excited to give the spritz of water a go in some works in the future.

I love how you used it with the pastels. I also would never have thought to use sandpaper as a canvas.

It's quite lovely!


Theresa Pridemore
www.theresapridemore.com (http://www.theresapridemore.com)

Deborah Secor
01-03-2006, 12:29 PM
Give it a try, Theresa--it gives nice results and perhaps you'll come up with other ideas for its use, too!


01-03-2006, 06:11 PM

Thank you for sharing a very interesting presentation of the use of mixed media with pastels. Years ago, I used the 'gold' and other powders in 'abstract' mixed media acrylic and watercolor work but never considered the utilization with pastels. Thank you for awakening the 'sleeping giant"! I'm looking forward to some 'new' paintings! Always enjoy your work and look forward to all your comments on the site. Thank you so very much!


Deborah Secor
01-03-2006, 06:53 PM
I thought I'd take you through a second one of these paintings, and go into a teensy bit more detail. To start with I decided to add some color to an already gold painted piece of Wallis paper that didn't satisfy me.

I sprinkled on some slightly different colored Schmincke powder and sprayed it with water:


You can see that the paper has arched and there are two different colors showing. I think there's a little reflection here, though, and it isn't really so copper color.

I know the Wallis is strong enough to take this treatment, so I curl the paper and let the wet paint flow over the surface.


You can see here that I dab a paper towel over the top, blotting up some of the water and leaving a neat texture.


I discovered there was a place where it had gotten too boring, without enough texture, so I turned it upside down into the splashes of gold paint on the table. You just can't hurt it! I could have sprinkled more powder and re-wet it, but there was wet paint right there, so I used it.


This is the paper when it's dry. You can see that it isn't perfectly flat, but I have no trouble taping it flat to my board so it's ready to use. It has a nice variation of pale and bright gold (and that coppery color again is a reflection!)



I've chosen yet another piece of paper to use for the next one. I chose a special piece of paper to feature this ruby-throated hummingbird, since he's such a showy little guy.


You can see that I've done a drawing. This time I used a black charcoal pencil. I hope you can see the two dots, one at the root of his wing and the other at the tip. I marked out about 39mm, the typical length of a male ruby's wing. This is how I keep the scale correct. Rubies are fairly average in size--neither behemoths nor teensy ones (and, yes, there are relative sizes even in such a small little critter!)

I made a mistake on his little belly and had to narrow it down. Somebody asked about corrections, so I thought I'd get a close-up of it so you can see what it looks like before and after. I used my finger to smooth it away but it leaves a ghost, so I'll have to cover it with some pastel. This means that I have to take into consideration the color and placement of the background from the beginning, and I don't have quite as much freedom to leave the gold untouched--at least not there.


I skipped taking some photos, despite my best intentions so at this point Iím almost finished. Iíve detailed the colors, and added an exciting colorful background that suggests this little guy is flitting through a garden at mach one. Iím not quite happy with some of the details, however.


The front of his throat is messy and has a blurp of black pastel that is distracting. His wings need a bit more smudging, and his far (viewerís left) foot seems a bit misplacedóor maybe just a little too detailed.

As you can see, Iíve fixed all those distracting issues. I smoothed out his chin with the charcoal pencil, and arched his left brow a bit more, as well as blending his far wing into more of a blur. The left side foot just needed a little touch to push it back. I know such little things are picky, but this is the kind of detail I donít wan to leave undone and discover after Iíve framed it!


This is about life-sized at 5x5Ē. My little tuxedo clad Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird is done!

Hope this adds a little to the above information.


01-03-2006, 07:21 PM

Have you tried the gold ground on any large size paintings,(i.e. - 24"x24",etc.)?

Deborah Secor
01-03-2006, 07:27 PM
Nope, I haven't tried that. If you do, let us know what happens. I suspect there might be some challenges with flattening a larger piece of paper, but Kitty offers detailed instructions on how to stretch the Museum grade, so it's do-able! So far for me it's been just the little hummers.


01-03-2006, 07:43 PM

I'm planning a 'crashing' wave series (large sizes) and thought that the gold and silver may add some interesting backgrounds. I'll keep you informed - again, thanks for stimulating the 'right side' of an old brain!


Deborah Secor
01-03-2006, 08:27 PM
Sounds like it could be very effective to me! Have fun...


01-06-2006, 03:46 PM
Deborah! I just thought I'd take another peak here and now you have done another! I have to tell you I was so impressed with the first one that I started one of my own right away. LOL It happens to be a rubythroated because those are the only hummers we get in the great northeast! I did not do the gold the same way you did though. Hope you don't think I'm a terrible copycat when you see it - at least its a different pose!

Deborah Secor
01-06-2006, 04:37 PM
No problem, Barbara! I'd like to see it. Rubies are common there, here we have a zillion different varieties. In fact the Rio Grande flyway is a major thoroughfare for these little guys, so we get to see some unusual visitors now and then. I haven't had a chance to do it, but there's a woman nearby who bands hummers and has a license to net them (it's a federal thing) so I hope to see them up close and personal.

So, show us! I want to see what you did differently!


01-07-2006, 09:41 AM
You are so lucky to see different hummers Deborah! I planted lilies all across the front of the house and they come to the window when they are in bloom. We love these friendly little birds - they hover and look you right in the eye sometimes! My DH was fortunate to take a photo of one sitting still on the utility line overhead! I will start a thread with mine when I get a little more done. I just used gold Schminke over red velour for the BG.

01-08-2006, 09:11 PM
Thanks Deborah--that is beautiful. I had tried a little experiment with gold acrylic thinly washed on background and then tried a dove (Holy Spirit) in soft pastel--wanted to give it the feeling of an old icon--I think I shall try it again--I liked parts of mine but not others, and will try to really thin out the background to make it more in keeping with your pigment approach. Your painting is lovely and appreciate your sharing the technique.

Deborah Secor
01-08-2006, 09:35 PM
Ooooh, RobynFrance, sounds like a great idea for a GREAT subject! Do share it when you do it. I'd love to see that. I would think the whiteness of the dove could be very effective on the gold ground.


01-08-2006, 10:08 PM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Jan-2006/17435-holy_spirit1-1.jpg Hi again Deborah--thank u so much for your speedy reply--I dug out the Holy Spirit to see what I had done--and I really hadn't progressed too far--but I think I shall attempt it again--I had used some old fiber board for the background as I was experimenting while auditing an icon class at our University Divinity School--you have inspired me to get back to the subject. I was trying for sort of a Redon ethereal quality and I think I have it far too outlined. I am still quite an art beginner so please understand I am not in the ranks of most folks on board here.

Take care,
Robyn France

Doris Baggett
01-18-2006, 02:11 AM
I've been too busy to do much more than lurk around here, but I've enjoyed seeing all the steps you've taken to come up with your amazing works. It's very helpful to see how a pro does things-maybe I'll be able to retain a little of this-or I can always hang around like a vulture and marvel at everyone's productivity!:D
This is truly wonderful!