Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Saker Falcon Painting Progress 3

This is probably the last progress shot before I finish the painting. One a painting reaches this stage, I generally work on it steadily until I finish.

I'm having a lot of fun with the hood. The silver adornment is especially challenging, since I get to experiment with a reflective, shiny surface.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Saker Falcon Painting Progress 2

I should have posted this last night, but I got caught up on other things and it slipped my mind. Here is last night's progress of the saker falcon painting:

Right now I'm trying to get detail in while making sure the colors move around the composition. This shouldn't be a problem, since the falcons' beaks are bluish, so there won't be an overwhelming expanse of blue at the top third of the piece without any blue anywhere else.

Despite being a forest girl inside and out, I can still appreciate the dramatic beauty of the desert. There aren't many places you get such vibrant color, and the burning orange of the sand with the striking blue of a desert sky definitely serves for an interesting color palette.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saker Falcon Painting Progress

Now that I've finished with the harpy eagle, it's onto the saker falcon. I hope the experience gained from the study will help me with the plumage and form. Already I feel more confident with the forms of my falcons. It's amazing what you learn by staring at photo after photo of falcons! You begin to discover things about feather patterns, plumage, even little bits of personality that you didn't see before.

I knew essentially what I wanted to do for this painting, but the composition was giving me trouble. My professor, Rick Lovell, helped me and his suggestions helped me get to the composition I have now. At first I was hesitant to put a bird in with a hood, but then I realized this is as much about the humans in falconry as it is about the birds, and hoods, jesses, and perches are important to show the details of falconry.

Here is a quick photo of the first washes. I will be using a similar technique as I did in the study, with watercolor washes covering the entire piece to give everything a unifying tone (in this case, yellow ochre) with white gouache to give parts opacity.

Things look a bit warped and wonky since I have to photograph the progress shots instead of scanning. This piece is 11X14 stretched on a 16X20 board, which is next to impossible to scan. The sky will be that piercing blue you get in the desert, which contrasts so nicely with the yellow-orange desert earth, and the reddish-brown plumage of the sakers.

Also, just a reminder - if you're going to be in the Atlanta area on April 8th, be sure to stop by gallery 143 at the StudioPlex at 659 Auburn Avenue, to see the opening of the Four Voices thesis illustration exhibition. More information can be seen on the cards here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saker Falcon Study

Here is the completed saker falcon study

They seem to be rather diverse birds in terms of plumage. I found some with heavily streaked heads, and some with only a few streaks of brown. Of course, I know some of these birds may have had more immature plumage than others, but even the coloring on the back seemed different - some had slight barring, others didn't, some were more blue-gray and others almost entirely red. I think I got it for the most part, however, and it is good practice for my next thesis painting, which will explore the saker falcon in Middle Eastern falconry.

For this, I covered everything in the background wash (which I liberally textured with splatters from brushes and a toothbrush - lots of fun!), and then went in and painted the details on top. I also used a lot of white gouache, since I wanted parts to be more opaque.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Four Voices - SCAD Graduate Thesis Exhibition

We finally have an official date for our thesis exhibition! In case you missed the first post of this blog, I am having my graduate thesis exhibition with fellow illustration students Goñi Montes, Heather Elder and Yossaya Aisiri. We officially have a date for the opening reception and the days and hours it will run.

If you will be in the Atlanta area on April 8th, please stop by and come to our opening reception. It will run from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the StudioPlex Art Center, Gallery #143, at 659 Auburn Avenue. If you can't come for the reception, the show will be open from 1:00 to 5:00 pm, April 9-11 and 15-18.

There are four sets of flyers; each has the same information as seen above on the back, but on the front, there are four sets of art that appear, each by a different artist in the exhibition. Below is the version with my work, which features my Mongolian Eagle Hunter painting. I know I said I wouldn't post them until after my thesis was complete, but since these are going to be distributed physically, I felt I could show it online:

The above flyers were designed by Goñi Montes, who never ceases to amaze me with his incredible illustration and design skills. It will be an honor to share an exhibition with these three talented illustrators!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harpy Eagle Progress - 2

I got a bit caught up in painting and forgot to take a progress photo, so it's closer to finished than I meant for a progress shot!

And the progress of the saker falcon study:

I'm being a bit more liberal with my use of white gouache on the saker study. I haven't used it for more than just minor opaque effects, and I really wanted to make this a study of both of the bird and use of an unfamiliar media.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Harpy Eagle Progress and Saker Falcon Studies

I did the first few washes for the harpy eagle painting. I'm not sure how I feel about the challenge of so much jungle green, but I think it will work out nicely. In particular, I'm having fun with the eagle's crest feathers.

My next painting is going to most likely be the saker falcon, looking at its relationship with Middle Eastern falconers. During my research, I found a video of a saker hunting a small (baby?) gazelle (or other small species of deer), which was quite surprising. I never thought a falcon capable of taking down such prey. The video is here if you're interested.

Of course, the inspiration to paint falcons hit, so I decided to do a study on saker markings. They seem to be a varied bunch, especially in the markings on the head. It appears that most have plain brown backs without barring.

The sketch:

The initial background wash:

Harpy Eagle Sketches

Now that the barn owl is finished, I've gone full speed ahead on my next thesis painting, which is the harpy eagle. Harpy eagles throughout time have been seen as birds of power in Central and South America. Even today, the Baniwa People in the Northwest Amazon forests recognize Kamathawa, a harpy eagle deity.

Here are my initial thumbnails. You can see the rather boring compositions at the top that always come out until my brain gets warmed up and starts coming up with something better.

I decided on the bottom right sketch (of course it would be the last thumbnail I do! Just proof that you can never always go with your first idea), and fixed it up. After studying photos of harpy eagles a bit more, I came to realize that due to their rounded wings (similar to those of an accipiter, required as they hunt through dense forest), you don't see the primaries poking out from under the secondaries. It does look a bit strange at first, but it makes sense - harpy eagles don't have the long 'fingertips' of other eagles. Harpies also have a bit of a protrusion above their eye, just as accipiters do to protect their eyes from branches and leaves as they zoom through dense trees.

The final graphite drawing on my stretched watercolor paper. I try to only put in important shading and markings (such as bars on the feathers) with graphite, and do the rest with watercolor. I fixed a few more anatomical bits. One of the wonderful advantages of doing three sets of drawings (thumbnails, final sketch, final drawing), is that you have three points at which to check your anatomy!

The branch the eagle is standing on is that of the Kapok, which was sacred to Mayans. In the middle ground you can also see one of the Tikal Towers in Guatemala. Harpy eagles are often seen in this area, and I wanted to connect both the ancient beliefs (Mayan) with present beliefs (Baniwa). Although these two groups of people did not live in exactly the same region, there are parallels between their cultures, and the harpy is a bird who ranges between Central and northern South America.

The sky on the left side will be heavy with rainclouds, where the sky on the right will be clear and blue. Sunlight will be streaming in from in front of the eagle, as one of the Baniwa beliefs is that the harpy eagle brings summer:

"Feathers obtained from Kamathawa aid the shaman in his ritual to clear the sky of clouds and make the summer come." --- Robin M. Wright, Guardians of the Cosmos: Baniwa Shamans and Prophets, Part I