Friday, February 4, 2011

Painting a juvenile Tricolored "Hair Nation" Heron

Painting 109 - Tricolored Heron in Profile; the Beat Goes On...
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

I knew when I saw this juvenile Tricolored Heron through my camera lens he would someday end up in a painting. The image of his profile and incredible tufts of downy feathers bubbled around in my brain for a long time. At first I saw him as a crazy acrylic...something with lots of energy to match that crazy "head of hair," but slowly it morphed into a detailed watercolor. The downy stray baby feathers on the top of his head were so airy and breezy and soft. I could see them in my mind's eye floating with the gentle puffs of sea air on that very hot day, and watercolor seemed the only way to capture that feel. This was the first baby heron I saw on Pinckney Island this summer (the post is here), so he was special. There were lots of other juveniles with cool hairdos, but this guy stood out. You can just tell he's a Rock 'n' Roller!

Pencil sketch of a juvenile Tricolored Heron

Now that I'm not afraid to sketch and paint in public, a whole new world has opened for me. I sketched this guy during an hour and half hockey practice...then again the next day during an hour and half tennis clinic--that's three hours of drawing time previously I would have spent reading. During that time I probably erased and redrew him 4 or 5 times. I was aiming for accuracy and wanted to get the angle of the head and bill just right. Drawing and redrawing helps me get familiar with the subject of the watercolor painting, and I found I use the sketches to solve problems I anticipate while painting. When I first started drawing this guy, I had no idea how to render the feathers on top of his head without making them look like brush bristles. Playing with the graphite, erasing, darkening, etc., allowed me to see the subtle shading that was there and helped me learn how to bring dimension to the painting. I only use sketches for detailed watercolors...my acrylic paintings are spur of the moment and fast.

p.s. I did get a new scanner, so it can handle the 12x16 format, but I'm still struggling with an exact scan using the scanning software. The original of this guy is nicer...the baby down is finer and not quite as yellow... Matty just walked in and saw the scan and said, "That's no where near as good as the original..." Well, I'll keep working on it!

This painting is part of the 100 Painting Challenge. I'm doing it for my second year. If you're an artist and want to join, visit the 100 Paintings Challenge Blog.

35 comments:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Fabulous, Kelly... Love both the pencil one and the colored painting.. This is one of my fav's which you have done. Congrats. You are getting better and better.
Hugs,
Betsy

Kelly said...

...thanks, Betsy. I have a special place in my heart for this guy, and it was so much fun painting him. His "hair" still cracks me up.

Vicki Holdwick said...

Kelly, this is divine. I am a big fan of birds of all kinds and both your sketch and your colored painting are fabulous.

xoxo

Kelly said...

...thanks so much, Vicki!! It was fun painting him...birds are so inspiring!

grammie g said...

Hi Kelly I had a lol moment when I saw this "juvie punk rocker"
Great painting and sketching...you do good girl!!

grammie g said...

Hi Kelly I had a lol moment when I saw this "juvie punk rocker"
Great painting and sketching...you do good girl!!

Randy Emmitt said...

Kelly,

The heron is awesome, love the details and colors! Certainly your talent is just awaking here!

Montanagirl said...

Simply fantastic. You are sooo talented. Kellly, it's just really good. Love it.

freebird said...

I think you've done a great job in capturing the little guy. He is so cute and your paintings bring that out.

Nicole MacP said...

Awesome!! I like the contrast of the wild appearance and relatively tame pose - in a way, kind of makes me think of a kid-missing-his-front-teeth posing for a school portrait. ;)

Caroline said...

Well, if that scan's not great, the original must be super! I know the feeling though, those scans can be very disappointing - I sometimes spend hours trying to get prints the same colour as the original! I think you've done a terrific job here with the watercolour - seems all your sketching paid off!

Elaine said...

I love your heron, Kelly! This challenge has been good for you. Your work keeps improving all the time.

Kelly said...

thanks, Grammie! He's definitely worth a good laugh!

Thanks, Randy. Having a goal of 100 paintings in a year really helps me keep on track.

Mona...thank you!! :-)

timaree...thanks!! He was a cutie and stood out compared to the other juveniles.

Nicole...haha! Thanks...I love that image!!

Caroline...thank you so much. I hope i'm as creative as you one of these days!

Elaine...thank you! The challenge is definitely a good thing. It's like being in art school, so it keeps me hopping!

holdingmoments said...

Another excellent painting Kelly.
His hair style must make him the coolest bird there ;)

Richard King said...

Wonderful! I wish I had half the talent you have there.

Sarah Knight said...

Fantastic work!
It's so cool to know there's an actual bird behind the painting (so to speak) - that there's a story to it : )

Scanners can be finicky. Sometimes you have to scan things in on just the default settings and then adjusted it in photoshop. That's what I do with most things. Letting the scanner make the adjustments always seems to change my graphics in a way that I wouldn't intend - either that or I'm just difficult
; )

Bob Bushell said...

That is the most beautiful drawing that I've seen. I suppose that if I keep looking at your portfolio, I will see more.

Fleetwood Birder said...

Superb Kelly!

Abraham Lincoln said...

You did a bang-up job on this Kelly. I have seen several bird paintings recently. It must be the winter that brings the artist out in people. You sure are good at this.

Gary said...

Beautiful illustration!! If your son wants to read Boomer's story, use in google: http://vermilonriverwildlife.blogspot.com/2010/12/boomer-of-the-vermilon-river-post-to-pet.html Boom & Gary of The Vermilon River, Canada.

Adrienne in Ohio said...

Beautiful, Kelly.

As for the scanned image, I'm wondering if you have any photo editing software that you could use on the scanned image. If so, you could use it to adjust the hue/saturation until it more accurately represented the colors in the orginal.

Kelly said...

Keith...thank you...he's definitely the coolest!

Richard...thank you so much!!

Sarah...thank you. That's what Rick and I ended up doing. We scanned at the default and boosted the color a bit, but it's still not right and the filmy feathers on top are not as fine as the original. I'll have to keep practicing...and learn how to use PhotoShop.

Thanks, Bob! Since I've locked in to another 100 paintings this year, there will be a lot more too! :-)

Fleetwood...thank you!! :-)

Abe...thank you! When it's so cold and nasty out painting inside where it's warm is a nice option, plus...being able to conjure up greens of spring and flowers of summer is great for the mood. I bet that's a big part of it too... (I'm painting some shore birds now with memories of the Florida sun in my mind!)

Gary...thanks. I'll send Matty over to Boomer's story.

Thanks, Adrienne!! The software that came with the scanner is poor, but we did scan at the default (which is very faded) and then boosted the sat in Photoshop, but we still don't have it right. I guess it could also my computer screen, it might be calibrated off too!

Richard said...

Kelly...Words elude me. This has got to be the best painting you have ever done. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Out on the prairie said...

Amazing as usual, I had hoped you would work with a few of these you shot.

Jayne said...

Waiting to purchase Kelly's Coffee Table Book of Birds on Amazon! Beautiful, my friend... just beautiful!

Roy said...

I think they are both fabulous. You need a bigger sketch book Kelly, but then you would need a bigger scanner.{:)

Kathiesbirds said...

Kelly, if the original is better than the scan then all I can say is, OMG! That is gorgeous! I love the subtle shadings, the softeness, and the attitude. I noticed the striaght lines of the beak before you even told me! Wonderful painting! You have proven once again that practice makes perfect! You are so brave and so ambitious to participate in this challenge once again. It's great to see the results here on your blog!

Appalachian Lady said...

Kelly--this is a great painting. I like that it almost vibrates. I also learned a lot about your creative process. Thanks for sharing.

Kjell T. Evensen said...

Awesome! Beautiful art.

Lois Evensen said...

I agree, it's beautiful! You are so talented to be able to combine your camera and painting skills. Wonderful!

Matt Latham said...

Stunning art work Kelly

Chris said...

Gorgeous, simply gorgeous... BTW thanks for your ncie words on my blog!

Susan said...

You blow me AWAY Kelly!! Just like that little guy's tuft of soon to be full feathers! Have a hankering to go to Hilton Head again...Pinkney is a little treasure along that stretch of seaboard!

Mary said...

This is wonderful! You get better all the time! I just love your paintings!

Kelly said...

Richard...thank you! It's my mom's favorite so far too. I love it--it's tied with the little Screech Owl.

Steve...they are fun. I have more ideas for more of the too. They are hard to resist! Thank you!

Oh my gosh, Jayne...wouldn't that be cool!! Thank you!

Roy...thank you. I just drew a Black-bellied Plover and he didn't fit at all in my sketch book. I do need a bigger sketch book... thank you!!

Kathie...thank you! I'm learning that quantity is better than quality when you want to become a better painter. All the practice really helps! Thank you!

A-Lady...thank you! That comes from adding layer after layer of translucent color. It takes a long time because you have to let the painting dry in between each layer, but it's worth it.

Kjell...thank you!!!

Lois...thank you too!! I'm thankful I love to get out there and photograph birds all day because it gives me so many reference photos and helps me learn the birds so well.

Matt....thank you so much! :-)

Chris...thank you! And I hope you are feeling better soon!!

Susan...thanks! Once you visit Pinckney at the height of the nesting season I think you're hooked for life. I hope so much we get to go back there this year...that would be three years in a row, and I'd love that.

Mary...thank you!! I appreciate that..