|'Mountain Chickadee' 5x7 pastel ©Karen Margulis|
I was in the mood to paint birds today. My usual set up for small bird or animal paintings is to sit at a table with my paper on a small piece of foamcore. This works well for 6x8 or smaller pieces. I decided to use Canson Mi-Teintes paper in the Moonstone color. I actually love Canson for painting animals. It gives you a nice soft surface and allows for just enough layers to help keep the painting fresh. I am sharing the few photos I took of my process. It is a quick process and was hard to remember to stop and take photos!
My set up for today's painting. My reference photo is on my iPad. I put down a towels to catch any dust. My pastels are in a butcher tray although my big studio box is on the table as well. I chose a few pastels to help keep a limited palette.
After I did an initial quick sketch I block in the dark values on the bird and the branch. I layer 2 or 3 dark colors to make these areas rich and colorful. I put the highlights in the eye right away because the eye gives my bird life and I want to get it right! Besides it is nicer to look at while I paint!
I look at my reference photos and try to see what colors are in the feathers. I know that the Mountain Chickadee looks grey, black and white, but I see lots of colors in his feathers. I see greens and gold undertones so I put them in now. I exaggerate the colors a bit because I know I can always tone them down. I also start to put in some of the darker background colors. I will lighten this some.
Next I put in the lightest colors. I use pale values of yellow and blue in the white areas of the bird. At this point I am almost finished. It is just a matter of finishing the background and tightening the details on the bird. I also lost track of taking photos! For the background I added some pale blues and yellows.
Finishing touches: I uses a pastel pencil to define the beak and some of the darker feathers. I used a pale purple pastel to draw some distant branches. I dusted a bit of white pastel for some snow sparkle.