View Full Version : Ugly Chickadee

04-02-2007, 07:39 PM
Hey everyone - I know I'm posting a lot, but I blame y'all - you're much too inspiring. :D

I did this over the weekend, and I don't like it. I don't mind producing an ugly painting now and then, but I consider it a loss unless I can learn from it. I can't learn from this one until I figure out why I hate it.

I need your help. Would you tell me what you like and dislike about this one? I've overworked it already, and I think the bird is OK, but the leaves look like sweet potatoes. Please help! And be harsh, or I won't learn a thing.

Thanks very much.


04-02-2007, 09:11 PM
My little chickadee is nice. You're right about the sweet potato leaves. If it can be done, what about changing some of the leaves on the left, so they are not so similar to each other in shape and color?

I like the way you have the chickadee positioned and also how your eye travels around the painting, so be careful not to lose those aspects as part of your focus.:)


Old Tex
04-02-2007, 09:54 PM
Meg, I hope you don't mind, but I threw this into PS and played for just a few seconds. One thing that bothers me is the color and regular shape of the leaves. I know you're trying to stay with a limited palette here, but a light touch of color wouldn't hurt. That bird is beautiful, and I think if you did it right, you wouldn't lose him as the focus. I've just given the leaves a little variation in shape, not trying to be realistic, and the color may be a bit bright, but hopefully you get the idea. Just a soft touch of green, just a suggestion of leaves. You need the shapes to balance out the picture, but you don't want them to be noticed. I know how hard it is to work over gouache, but if you use a very light touch, you might be able to pull it off. Just a suggestion. Others may not agree with me, but it's just a thought. The bird and the limbs are wonderful!


04-03-2007, 02:16 PM
Thank you both!

Janice - Thanks for the composition compliment. It encourages me that maybe I only need to fix something small to make the painting work? I hadn't noticed how similar all the leaves were in shape & size. About the color - I had them brigher yellow, but they were stealing focus - hence the blah. My sister says they look like flying yam-aliens.

Ralph - Thanks so much for the paintover! Your leaf composition and color looks a lot better. Amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can see. I was trying to copy the reference, whose composition is good, but I executed it poorly. I'll try lifting the old leaves off and starting over. I'll try a hint of green, but I wonder how it'll harmonize with the rest of the painting? Maybe put some of the green into the branches? I loved the light yellow leaf color in the ref, but it was drawing too much attention.

I'm glad you guys like the bird. Since both of you mentioned the leaves, I'm going to tackle them, and I hope that fixes the painting... or at least makes me hate it less. At this point, I think I'll be happy as long as they don't look like tubers. :D I really appreciate your help.


04-03-2007, 02:24 PM
Hi Meg. I agree, the bird looks fine - those leaves just need a bit more tweaking. I had to laugh at your suggestion of "sweet potato" leaves. Look forward to seeing how you solve the problem.

Silent Jaguar
04-03-2007, 10:25 PM
Yes, the leaves look like sweet potatoes, and it gives the painting character. I actually like it the way it is now.

04-04-2007, 12:03 PM
I think your problem with the leaves is not so much the color but the shading you have them shaded sort of tubular instead of flat, may help also to add some veins in the leaves. Love the bird, overall a nice piece

04-04-2007, 02:55 PM
I think your problem with the leaves is not so much the color but the shading you have them shaded sort of tubular instead of flat, may help also to add some veins in the leaves. Love the bird, overall a nice piece

That's the ticket. :)
I liked the whole thing from the get-go (a lot - I liked it a lot), but if you want those to look like leaves, it's about looking at how shading and highlights act on flat leaves.

... I thought they were seedpods, and liked them immensely for their shape :p My vote is don't change a thing, but maybe try a study of some leaves, to satisfy your desire to learn.

04-04-2007, 06:36 PM
Wow, thanks for the advice, everyone!

Silent Jaguar and Dueck - I'm flattered that you both liked it as it was. However, I didn't like it, so I really wanted to change something. Makes you think about where artistic obligation lies - is the art for me or for all of you? Or both?

Ah, enough esoterics. I changed the leaves. They were definitely too tubular. The reference was of old leaves from last fall that never fell off the tree, so they were droopy. They were also blurry. I am learning good lessons about what to use from the ref and what to change to make it work. Thank you everyone for helping me see what was bothering me.


I like it better now. Not a ton, but enough. You can see the areas of background where the old leaves were - they didn't take to reworking very well. If you have more suggestions, please let me know! But if I need to rework the background more, I'll have to make up a new batch of color that might not match. Hmm.


04-04-2007, 08:46 PM
Yes I like the leaves much better now that they no longer resemble the dreaded yam-aliens. :eek:

Nice piece! :thumbsup:


04-25-2007, 10:23 PM
Definitely a major improvement. Just a personal feeling, but I would like to see the lower branch a darker colors. Try that out in Photoshop or such and see if you like it before doing anything real.

04-26-2007, 08:52 AM
Connie -

Thanks for the suggestion! I think I agree. I'll try it digitally. The branch matched the painting better when the leaves were orange, and I tried to put some greens in it, but it could probably use more definition with a darker value.