Over the last couple of weeks, I have been painting an African Penguin skipping on a beach and eating a tasty fish.
The photograph was lent to me by a man at work. I loved the beautiful lights on the water, the pastel colours of the background contrasted with the black and white of the penguin. It was an exciting project and a brand new challenge to me.
The perks of being an Artist over a photographer though, are you can eliminate the tell-tale signs of captivity – the tag on the wing, the half masticated fish. I could also get rid of imperfections like the irregular beak and the red eye.
The result – quite pleasing if you ask me!
You will need:
About 50 hours.
50 x 50cm canvas
Photograph to copy
Large flat paintbrush
Range of smaller round paintbrushes
Acrylic paint for sea:
A fully stocked artist’s box is not a bad thing – makes all that paint so much more affordable over many years.
Draw up your canvas: see here for a detailed how to guide!
Paint in the water: Firstly do a colour wash in a pale blue, then use a large flat brush to paint horizontal strips of colour in varying shades across the area. The photograph was better than life – with gorgeous shades of green, yellow, blue and even peach. The trick is keeping all the brushstrokes in the same direction and building up layers and layers which takes hours but is worth it!
Paint in the sand: Paint a colour wash in flesh tint over the area. They use a variety of rounded brushes to paint speckles of varying browns, silvers, white, sand colours over the entire area. This requires you building up layers, even more so than the sea. You will probably get impatient like I did and have to do this over several sessions. Keep referring back to your photograph to get big stones etc in the right place.Then paint the shadow. The trick here is to create a really watery black paint, with absolutely no white in it to make it creamier. Just neat black with water. Then use a flat brush to wipe this over the area so that all the stones and sand can still be seen through.
Paint the wings: First do a wash in black. Then use slightly paler purple and bluey shades to create volume and areas of light. On the near wing, use metallic blue and silver paint to give it a wet look, and paint a white strip where the sun bounces off it. Keep all of your brush strokes horizontal to match with the direction of the feathers.
Paint the back: If you refer back to the photograph, you will see lots and lots of black feathers standing on end, glistening with oil and sunlight. To capture this, do a black colour wash, then use a little round brush and dab lines of small silver, grey and white dots to act as the tips of every feather. Going further down the back, the feathers lie flatter, so use longer brush strokes, angling them diagonally down the back.
Paint the softer white areas: Use white paint with a teeny bit of black mixed in to create areas of shadow. African Penguins have little grey speckles on their bellies too, so be sure to show this in your painting.
Paint the face: Use the same technique as the back to create an area of light and areas of shadow on the face.
Paint in the beak:I went off photo for the beak, to find a more visually pleasing one on another African Penguin! Use black, grey and silver, score likes and texture into it, and leave a gap between the top and bottom beak to show the background through.
Paint in the fish! The original photo had a cooked and half cut up piece of fish. I wanted a fresh fish in my picture, so found one on the internet. Use shiny silver and pale greens to capture the beautiful shimmer of the scales.
Paint in the feet: Use similar colours to paint the feet, carefully following the photograph to create mottled skin.
This should really be called a “How I…” instead of a “How to…”.
I am sure that there are many ways to successfully paint a jungle background.
However, this guide shows you how I have achieved the background
on my current project,
along with some hints and tips to achieve a really professional finish.
You will need:
Your marked up canvas
Your photograph (with gridlines drawn on)
Lots of colours of acrylic paint (Blog to come about my favourite staple colours that every art box needs.)
A palette (I use empty foil dishes from quiches. My parents are quiche fans!)
A variety of sizes of paintbrushes
Before the existance of my playmat (a 2m squared wipable table cloth) I was not popular with my mum as my painting studio of choice is the lounge floor. Hello paint on the carpets!
Masking tape along major outlines. Masking tape is a great way to contain your colour. I use it in copious amounts on nearly every painting I do.
Here you can see I have masking taped along the logs before I paint the background
Create a colour wash over the whole background. This is a thin layer of background colour which is spread across the whole background. Try holding the picture up to the light and see for the areas you can see through which need more colour.
Here you can see I have painted in dark greens and purpley blacks around the lemur.
Make sure you paint the sides of the canvas. It is a pet HATE of mine when I see beautiful paintings with scruffy sides. It completely detracts from the painting and it is just plain lazy. It takes two minutes more to paint the sides. DO IT!!
Here you can see I am extending my colour wash around the sides of the painting.
Start with the out of focus details first. Using a small round brush and referring back to your grid, sponge in splatters of varying yellows, greens browns and deep purples. My favourite to use are emerald green, raw sienna brown and burgandy.
Here you can see the yellow and green smudges I am starting in the jungle background.
Continue with the soft focus areas, using a variety of colours and shades. Don’t mind if your hands get messy or it doesn’t look perfect, this is the impressionist part.
Here you can see I have copied the photograph using a variety of colours
Use a variety of different paintbrushes… or fingers and sponges. I always use my fingers to achieve a really smooth finish by rubbing paint into my canvas.
Here you can see that I use my fingers to rub paint into the canvas.
On areas of more detail, refer back to your grids in detail. If necessary, masking tape lines back in to make sure that leaves etc are in the right areas to get a truly photographic image. Use a thinner paintbrush with a round edge to paint in detailed lines.
Here you can see I have used greens, purples, white and black to create leaves.
Topaint a log… Re-masking tape the area, slightly overlapping the jungle background to avoid any white lines. Mix up a range of different browns and creams, and don’t be afraid to use purples, pinks and blues in the mix. Use your fingers to really massage the paint in to allow for seamless shading around the log.
Here you can see I re-masking taped the area, to avoid paint leaking.
Remove masking tape to check on your progress, and paint on details.
A trick I use is to use the opposite end of the paintbrush to scratch into the canvas to create a wood texture.
Here you can see that I have finished the background.
And now for the difficult part. The lemur. Although hopefully, for me, that is the easiest part.
Leaves took me out of my comfort zone, but I think I did a good job. Thoughts?
I should have a lot of time this weekend to create my lemur,
so that the painting is ready for my colleague upon her return from holiday.