Friday, September 14, 2012

White Naped Crane: Step-By-Step

 This is a painting I did recently based on a beautiful photograph by Jamie Trainor.  (You can check her out over at  JETeye.  Thanks Jamie!)  You know how I am about birds.  And I love a long crane neck.  I was very excited about this image and I thought I could do a nice watercolor.

Here's what I did.

The first step was to tape down the watercolor paper on a large board.  I drew the crane on the paper and taped in the body so I could do big, dark washes in the background (black, payne's grey, prussian blue, some greens, and a little burnt umber) and not touch the white paper where the crane will be.

When the background dried, I pull the tape off the body and brushed some ochre underpainting on the bird.  (See it on the back of the head, the beak, and in the wing.)  Then I added some greys and started painting in the eye.

As I started to paint in the body, I also darkened the background.  I wanted a STRONG contrast between the white bird and the dark background and although I used a considerable amount of paint when I did the first background wash, it lightened.  It always lightens.  That's one of the tricks of watercolor painting.  It has too look too dark or rather bad when it's wet in order for it to look just right when it's dry. 

I had fun playing up the face and I loved putting the red in.  I painted most of that area wet so I could add some orange and crimson for depth, but it would blend without edges.

Then, step by step, bit by bit, I built up the body.  Edges were OK here so I did it in stages that I let dry fully before doing the next stage.  This made it look more like layers of feathers.  Then I added the black strip along the neck.  I made it kind of choppy and pulled some paint out in whisps to look feathery as well.

Here's a detail of the face.  I'm very pleased with how the eye came out.

When all of this was done, I darkened the background more.

Here's another little tip.  It's helpful to take pictures along the way because the camera can help you find places that need more contrast or deeper colors.  You eye picks up a lot, but the camera simplifies things.

After that, I was satisfied.  You can go back to the top to see the finished painting.

Have a great weekend everyone!


JET said...

Julie, it's beautiful. I loved learning the steps you took to put it together. It looks better than the original photo!

Julie_c said...

I wouldn't say that Jamie - but thank you. I would say you took an inspiring photo, far beyond my photographic skills, and I interpreted it with my own strengths.

Angela said...

Oh it is marvelous! I am loving that eye too!