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Friday, April 13, 2018

Lessons to be Learned from Painting a Bird Nest

'Time to Nest'          9x12         pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $145
 "Wow that was easier than I thought it would be!"  My student seemed surprised at her success in painting a nest.  The nest photo certainly did look complicated and full of detail...all of that intricate weaving of twigs, straw and other bits and pieces.  Where does one begin?  I reminded her that we need to first look at the big picture. We need to see the underlying shapes and patterns of light and darks. We blocked in the nest with these big simple shapes before we even thought about weaving in the details. "Think like a bird" I told her.  We want to build a nest that will be solid and will protect the fragile eggs. We needed to put in this structure before we could put in the bits and pieces.

It occurred to me that the thoughts I shared with her about painting a nest could easily be applied to painting other subjects. No matter what we choose to paint, it helps to see the big picture and build the nest (painting) from the strong simple shapes before getting caught up in the detail. Here are some tips:

  • Look at the Big Picture.  How will you place the subject?  What are the simple underlying shapes?
  • Don't start with the straw!  You weave in the details later in the painting process. These bits and pieces will need a structure to hold them together.  Block in the big shapes first and connect your value shapes whenever you can....this is the glue that holds the painting together.
  • Gradually build up your painting to the finish. Incrementally add and refine your shapes until you get to the level of detail that you are happy with. 
  • Take chances and trust your instincts. Play with color and texture and weave them into your painting.
  • Stop when you have said enough. Once your nest is built and you have decorated it with some details...step away.  You don't need to put in every piece of straw for the painting to say 'Nest'.

The variety of marks I made to build my nest
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