Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Swamp Milkweed Nectarbird

As shown in my previous post, I went with a variation of the grisaille technique for my most recent painting. Here is the completed painting, acrylic on cold-press illustration board, 8 X 10 inches:

To start where I left off with the process, I experimented with color in Photoshop to see exactly how things would look before I started putting the glazes over the gray painting.

What I suspected was that the tonal painting was too gray for the glaze technique to be successful, and I was right. The way I was taught to do this technique was to create a tonal painting with a grayed color, meaning not pure gray, but grayed green, for example. As I started putting down glazes, I saw that the gray showing through beneath was not what I wanted for certain sections of the painting, particularly those with higher saturation. Therefore, I had to add a bit more opacity to what were supposed to be glazes.

Although I had to deviate from my original plan with technique, I do not consider this to be a failure of a project. On the contrary, I learned quite a bit on what to do (and what not to do), and ended up with, what I feel, is a good painting. For future paintings using this technique, I will make sure my tonal painting is not so gray. I also found, once I started putting glazes down, that the overall contrast was too dark. I ended up lightening a lot of the composition during the color phase, when it should have been light enough at the tonal stage. All in all, a good learning experience!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Swamp Milkweed Nectarbird - Work in Progress

Back in 2007 I painted a bird with daffodils for plumage, as part of a personal project to create a bird for each month, mirroring the month's birthflower and birthstone. These birds, which I called "Birdflowers," later morphed into "Nectarbirds." Nectarbirds were birds with the plumage of the flowers on which they fed. Whenever I go exploring and find interesting-looking flowers, I try to get good photographs and create a Nectarbird from that, which usually involves me doing some research to try to figure out exactly what flower I've found!

For DragonCon, I try to paint new Nectarbirds each year. Last year was the exception, but this year I will have two new Nectarbirds. One based on the Hedge Bindweed, and one (currently in progress), based on the Swamp Milkweed. For the Hedge Bindweed Nectarbird, I tried a technique of using acrylic on cold-press watercolor paper in a very watered-down way, more like watercolor. I can't say I really enjoyed this technique, and decided for my next Nectarbird, to try a more traditional approach with acrylic. More specifically, a medium tinted canvas, and then introducing darks and lights.

I learned a bit about the grisaille technique at SCAD, where a grayish painting is overlaid by layers of colored glazes. The technique, traditionally used with oils, works exceptionally well with acrylic also. I try to put a bit of color in my gray, but the foreground elements ended up being pure gray in the end. I am excited about adding the glazes, which to me is the most fun part of this technique.