Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Quick Way to Add a Bird to a Landscape Painting

'The Morning Meeting'          18x24          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
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 It's all about the birds. One of the things I love most about the marsh is the wildlife.  When visiting Pawleys Island my favorite time of day is the early morning when the herons and egrets congregate across the creek. One morning we counted at least 15 birds putting on a show for us.

I have painted the marsh many times but lately I am enjoying putting the birds in my paintings.  After all they are an important part of the landscape. They make it complete.  I have been hesitant to add the birds for fear of messing things up. What if they are the wrong size or in the wrong place?  I had to overcome this fear and did it by practicing!

Close up photo of my birds. They are  2 inches tall in my 18x24 painting

If you want to put some birds in the landscape and they are going to be a small part...mere suggestions of birds and not portraits of them.... here are some tips that have helped me.

  • Paint the entire landscape first. The bird will come last. They are the decorations. Once the landscape is finished it is easier to judge where they should be placed for the best composition. Note: they aren't always in the best placement in the reference photo. You need to evaluate how they will fit in and be balanced with the landscape.  If you paint the birds first and try to add the landscape around them they may end up looking pasted on rather than a part of the landscape.
  • Be Bold and Confident...even if you aren't feeling that way. You are going to make a quick 'bird shape' with a bold heavy mark of soft pastel. I don't draw the bird first. I am interested in getting a quick impression of the shape.  I want it to fit in with the rest of my marks.
  • Paint the bird shadow side first. For white birds I use two soft pastels. I start with a pale blue and add a pale warm creamy light on the sunlit part of the bird....two quick marks.
  • Paint the beak and legs with the sharp edge of a hard pastel. I used orange.
  • Use a steel pushpin to scratch in an eye. You can also use the pin to refine the bird shape by removing excess pastel.
  • If you have to paint a reflection remember that the reflection goes in the same direction as the bird (see photos)


Three pastels for an egret

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