View Full Version : Guidance for a new artist.
Hi, this is my first post. I am a self taught painter, and my focus is avian art- parrots to be specific. Last year I attempted my very first paintings in realism, and have recently started to offer my prints to parrot lovers.
I hate to admit it, but I paint from photograghs, because I do not have access to the species of parrots that I want to paint. My goal is to portray the birds as we parrot owners know them- silly, intelligent, etc.
So far, most of my paintings show them just sitting on a perch or branch, avoiding them seeming as if they are birds in the wild.
I need ideas on how to place the perches or brances- so far they are just floating in mid-air. Also, I would like to learn how to make the feathers more realistic. I have no formal training in painting, so am pretty much making up my own rules. My work can be seen at www.avianexpressions.com (http://www.avianexpressions.com)
Can you give me some pointers, let me know what's right and what's wrong? I really want to make my paintings the best they can be.
10-12-2000, 08:13 PM
I'll bet that Larry or animal could help you with the feathers. I wish I had the message with the thread where Larry describes feathers to someone else. He's pretty darn good.
Oh and welcome to Wetcanvas. Someone here can help.
Tammy "the I don't know what kind of Artist, artist"
10-17-2000, 09:35 PM
I have not yet painted birds but I have to paint them sooner or later, I just have to keep practising with my painting rather than drawing,.There is a book at Chapters called keys to painting fur and feathers,with a parrot/macaw done in coloured pencil plus many other birds and animals,check it out!
10-17-2000, 11:04 PM
Your work as a beginner is very impressive, and your site quite professional in appearance.
Quite honestly, I don't have a great problem with the perches as you have them, simply because you have chosen to present the birds in what is called a "vignette" pose. A clean and simple composition.
Though...these would look very nice with their native countries botanical foilage.
You might wish to visit a number of aviaries or botanical gardens. Perhaps even zoos, and see how foilage is arranged. You might wish to take a number of photographs of such foilage.
Next...you might wish to find a silk flower maker; someone that might be able to take your photo resources and build you actual fake/realistic looking branches with leaves, etc;
You might want to work with some sculpy white clay, and hand build shapes of some of your birds, and use lights to study shadows such that you can be a bit more dynamic.
I'd consider purchasing some of the past year's exhibit catalogs of Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum out of Wausau, Wisconsin's "Birds in Art" exhibition held each year. Top wildlife artists around the world enter works and between 100-200 works can be seen from carvings to paintings.
Next..what kind of photos are you using? Would you call them resource pictures? Do they show close-ups of feather groups, colors, etc.? You might wish to contact photographers online or bird owners, thru newsgroups and web sites and offer to purchase good study photographs from them.
Many young artists work hard to "detail" feathers in their paintings, but the experienced professional pushes a bit beyond the detail to layer soft washes of transparent color to "soften" the detail. Realism must capture the sense of softness that feathers have. You are well on your way!
In time...I would suspect you'll value to move away from local color, to suggest color.
What do I mean?
Look at the works of children. Skies are painted blue. Trees green. Water blue.
Experience teaches us that there are many many colors that create the illusion of green in a tree. There are many more colors in the sky beside blue...etc;
Your colors are a bit flat because I think you depend on black and white a bit too strongly.
Let me ask you....if a bird has a yellow crown, and you shade the back of its head, what color would you use to darken the yellow?
Me? I'd use a bit of violet. A red head, I'd use a touch of green...etc; complimentaries are used to shade, whereas use of black to shade would appear more gawdy, making color dull...even muddy.
Also...blending a bit of complimentary colors into the background would help the color of the birds feathers appear brighter, more irridescent, etc;
Well...we'll talk a bit more...gotta run for now.
[This message has been edited by lseiler (edited October 17, 2000).]
I'm replying to the three of you in one post, as I don't see where to reply to individual responses.
Tammy, thankyou for the response. I did catch a post on one of the other boards where Bearclaw mentioned using a fine new brush to detail the feathers. I was in awe over his eagle painting!
Animal, I do have a couple of books on painting wildlife. One is Painting Birds Step by Step, by Bart Rulon, and the other is More Wilderness painting, Techniques of Modern Masters, by Susan Rayfield. I also have a couple of Robert Bateman books, that I stare at in wonder.Howeve,r I wish I had the opportunity to sit and watch an artist paint! I'd learn much quicker that way. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
Thankyou for your input, and your comments about my work. I am relieved that the branch perches don't look too odd to you. I know nothing about compostion, and struggle with that.
The photos I work from are pretty much just ordinary photos taken with 35mm cameras. I do need to be able to see as much detail as possible, but for the most part, the bird in the photo is about 2 inches high or less, so you can imagine the difficulty I am having with seeing what is really there. That, and the lighting is usually poor, showing very little contrast of light and shadow, and very flat colour.
I am near Ottawa, Ontario, and there are no aviaries or zoos that I am aware of, at least closeby where I could study the birds. I have had to beg photos off of other bird owners. I will follow your suggestion of trying to purchase photos from the sources you mentioned. There are numerous pet bird magazines out there, and with any luck maybe the photographers wouldn't mind parting with a few photos.
I have no experience with colour theory, and am trying to understand as much as I can from books and looking at how other artists use colour. I think my painting reflects the limits I have with the photos, as far as the use of colour goes. I'm too hesitant to try to experiment with adding things that I don't actually see in the photo.
I think what I mean when I mention detailing the feathers, is really more how to define them, without making them look like either brickwork, or fur. I have been experimenting with washes of transparent colour, but yes, I am confused as to which colours to use for the glazing.
Question; when you mention using complimentaries blended into the background, would you mean blend a red if the bird is green? My next project will be a molluccan cockatoo- a white cockatoo with a peach blush and a dark coral crest. Similar in colour to my goffins, where I used the blue/grey background.
I wish I could show you the photo of the bird, so you could give me pointers on where to begin.
I've taken up enough room here, so I will now take the time to absorb everything you've said. I have a real hunger now for learning, and am trying to catch up on the 25 years I lost since taking art classes in highschool. Needless to say, I didn't pay much attention back then, and am paying the price now. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/wink.gif
10-18-2000, 01:29 PM
> I know nothing about compostion, and
> struggle with that.
that will come with time and exerience...
>I do need to be able to see as much detail
> as possible, but for the most part, the bird
> in the photo is about 2 inches high or less,
> I have had to beg photos off of other bird owners. I will follow your suggestion of trying
to purchase photos from the sources you mentioned. There are numerous pet bird magazines out there, and
with any luck maybe the photographers wouldn't mind parting with a few photos.
- well, at least you know what you need to do to step your abilities up a step!
> I think my painting reflects the limits I
> have with the photos, as far as the use of
> colour goes.
...and that is a common problem for many artists. Once an artist has the habit of painting even from life, he/she can anticipate proper color into the photographs. Photos tend to eliminate the color in darks and shadows, and just de-saturates the color to dark contrasts instead.
> I'm too hesitant to try to experiment with
> adding things that I don't actually see in
> the photo.
You don't need to fear experimenting. That's where learning comes from, and we all have to pay our dues. There's no escaping it. Simply give yourself permission, and set time aside for it. You don't have to show anyone the works you are experimenting on. As for learning to use complimentaries in mixing, it does not have to be related to your preferred subject. Simply stick a number of tomatoes on a table, and create a strong light source coming from one side. Then...do a small painting observing what you see. Use green pigments, (or better...mix your own green from warm and cool blues and yellows), and add to the red to tone it down, to shade, etc;
Beginners shade with black, but it kills color. Learning to paint this way, even though its dumb ole tomatoes will translate to better understanding even with feather groups. It is simply learning to control your medium and further your understanding of how color works.
> I think what I mean when I mention detailing
> the feathers, is really more how to define
> them, without making them look like either
> brickwork, or fur.
yes...I know exactly what you are saying.
I forget if you were working with acrylics??
You can paint the feathers using black and white alone. Laying and detailing the feathers, but leave it a bit lighter in value than the finished effect you want. Then, go over the value rendered piece with glazes or washes of transparent color to tint the work with color, but THEN go a few washes more to soften the detail. Bird feathers do not look realistic if "softness" is sacrificed. Then the feathers will look like wood!
I promised Animal, and I yet need to do it, but I will take a digital picture detail of my Snowy Owl and Hungarian Partridge painting to see how I did the soft detailed feathering. I have 35 hours alone in the feather work of my partridge, a bird about 8" x 8" in actual board space. It takes time.
If you are making prints...the time is well worth it. If you are doing private commissions, it is hard to create this illusion by yielding to less time spent in order to keep your prices down...unless of course you learn to paint "painterly" and learn how to suggest detail!
> Question; when you mention using
> complimentaries blended into the background,
> would you mean blend a red if the bird is
you might use a lighter value that leans toward a warmer tone, hinting red. In some illustration works in the past...I used to use 100% rag mat boards as painting supports. That is, I painted my vignette images right on the color that I thought would best suit my subject. There are an incredible range of colors for this available.
With oils, many artists would simply rag in a stain in the background, and build on that. Raymond Ching is an excellent artist, having done many birds this way...including exotics. You might want to see if there are any web sites up that show some of his work.
>Needless to say, I didn't pay much attention
> back then, and am paying the price now.
Life takes on a new meaning and purpose for you now, and you can be grateful for a new life energy. You are well on your way for making up time! Keep on keeping on.
You know...painting is tough, but who cares! If it stands to reason we are more alive because of it....
10-19-2000, 01:37 PM
Your parrots are lovely. You might like to go to http://www.biohaven.com/bus/ratnavira/index.html. His paintings are breathtaking. There might be enough detail to help you with feathers. If you brouse around, you will see that he also has a video. I have seen it and he completes a complete painting during the video and you get to see how he gets come of the effects.
Good luck and happy painting.
10-19-2000, 01:46 PM
Sorry, for some reason that link doesn't seem to be working. Try http://www.gaminiratnavira.com
Thankyou again for taking the time to respond and explain things to me in such a thorough way. I understand everything you're saying, and intend to put your suggestions to use very soon. My next projects are the moluccan and a greenwing macaw. If you aren't familiar with a greenwing, it is a striking bird with bright scarlet, greens and blues. Face wrinkles, too, so that is an area that presents a challenge. But, I did it once, so I can do it again. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
I contacted an avian behaviourist today that also happens to be a photographer. I hope that brings some photos my way. He is as good a place to start as any for parrrot photos.
I'll hang around here in the meantime, and try to learn as much as I can. I'll let you know how it's going, and may show the paintings as they progress. That is, when I can figure out how to post them.
[B]Your parrots are lovely.
You might like to go to http://www.biohaven.com/bus/ratnavira/index.html. His paintings are breathtaking.
My, aren't they breathtaking! To be in the midst of such beauty! I can only dream of ever setting foot inside the rainforest!
I'll watch for that video! I do pick up technique quickly when I can see how things are done firsthand.
I just wanted to tell you I hit paydirt! I heard back from the avian behaviourist, and he agreed to lend me his slides. He has 10,000 slides of pet parrots! I've seen some of his photos, in magazines and also in a slideshow that another avian behaviourist used in her presentation, and they were such gorgeous photos that they gave me goosebumps when I saw them. He also has travelled to the rainforest, and has many slides of the birds in the wild. These I've seen firsthand when he spoke here last year.
He's leaving town today for speaking engagements and we'll make arrangements in two weeks for him to send the slides. I think my search for photos will be over- this man has every species imaginable in photos, and has the poses I am looking for- the pet birds just being themselves!
Needless to say, I am VERY excited!
[This message has been edited by BevL (edited October 21, 2000).]
10-21-2000, 11:37 AM
This is awesome news Bev!! Congrats!!
Slides are really the best too, because of the full saturation of color. Hopefully you have a device to see them larger without losing some of that pure saturation.
Again...very cool!! Happy for you
10-22-2000, 11:01 AM
Glad to hear that you will be getting some slides. I was wondering how you get the texture of the birds? What is the medium used(acrylics,oils,watercolours,), and what colours do you use? Is Bart Rulon,s book a good book to get for beginning wildlife painters like myself? I have drawn wildlife birds,flowers and am just getting into people,so painting is pretty new to me,only have done a few paintings which aren`t very good at all, just have to keep practising
Bart Rulons' book Painting Birds Step by Step gave some good advice, stressing going out in the field and observing the birds in thier natural habitat, and making many sketches. For me, that isn't possible, with the subjects that I have chosen to paint.
There is also a book about painting wildlife step by step. I don't know how helpful it is, though, as I only just glanced at it for a minute.
But the book I found that really made me pay attention, is the one called More Wildlife Painting- Techniques of Moderm Masters, by Susan Rayfield (mentioned above). She also has another book, called Wildlife Painting.
In it, the artists describe thier techniques, for instance how some artists use flat sable brushes, with the bristles fanned, to achieve the hundreds of tiny hairs in the fur. From drawing in the animal fur, to airbrushing on watercolour, to stroking in the fur with gouache, every paintstaking step is outlined. There is all kinds of wildlife painting examples in this book, everything from birds to rinos to leopards and bears. Also, how they worked with light, shadow and colour, and how they got around some problem areas. I'd highly recommend this book. There is too much good advice in it to list here.
As far as how I do it, I depend a lot on old decorative art techniques. They are probably quite the opposite of what I really should be doing, but I really have no idea how else I should be doing things. I just try my darnest to make the bird look as real as I can with the little knowledge that I have about painting. I use acrylic- no special brand as yet. I pretty much mix the colours I need, rather than using straight out of tube.
One thing I know for a fact I need to work on is patience. I hurry through each painting, wanting to see the finished work. I don't spend near enough time on paintings. I try to paint in all of the feathering, rather than working on one feather at a time and getting it right, then moving on to the next. I must learn to slow down. Originally (before I started producing paintings for prints) I was putting out a painting in an afternoon. I have since slowed down, making myself take my time over a matter of days.I really need to make a painting last weeks, not days, in order to get better results.
Patience and practice. And gathering as much practical knowledge as I can in the meantime. Don't know if this all helps much. I am just a beginner in painting, too. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
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