Going off photo when the photo is… off

Caution: the following includes an artist with a serious case of “a bad workman blames his tools” syndrome.

As an artist who strives to get animals as accurate as I possibly can,
going off-photo goes against all my principals. 

Funnily enough, it is only when I perceive the photograph to be “wrong” that painting stops being a lovely relaxing experience that comes naturally to me.

Instead, it can instantly become stressful, and I can be heard muttering “hate this stupid dog / eye / leg / insert anything here”.

It’s at that point that I know that a quick fix is not possible. The photograph looks all wrong, and to avoid my painting looking all wrong, I have to go off book, or find a new bit of photograph to copy.

Exhibit A… the loveliest little King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Bertie.
bertie

Look at his lovely face, fluffy ears and glinty eyes.
Awww. That makes for a lovely relaxing painting session, with a hint of a challenge.

Now scroll back up and look at those legs.
What the heck is going on there???
They are all over the place!

Paws are conveniently cropped out of the image, so I can’t really even work out what is back leg and front leg, what is body and what is tail.

I am left stumped as to what is going on and to how on earth I will paint this random assortment of white limbs.

So I painted it as per the photograph.

And as expected, it looked all wrong.

My own mother gave herself the role of “Quality Control” and told me I needed to change it.

Grumble Grumble.

I love painting, but I don’t love repainting a painting that I thought was a finished painting.

 Back to the drawing board!!

How to paint a golden pheasant

I painted a golden pheasant to enter into the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition 2013. It is on a 70cm x 70cm canvas, and it used a lot of paint! But I am pleased with it, so thought I would share with you today how it was born.

 You will need:

  • A 70cm x 70cm canvas
  • Your photograph with gridlines drawn on, (this can be on your laptop screen)
  • Lots and lots of colours of acrylic paint (including GOLD, purple and yellow 🙂
  • A palette (I use empty foil dishes from quiches. My parents are quiche fans!)
  • Water
  • Masking tape
  • A variety of sizes of paintbrushes (large flat ones, a set of varying sizes of little rounded ones)
  • A playmat!
  1. Firstly I drew up my canvas, gridding on the main outlines of the bird and the many different sections of feathers to the corresponding square on my photograph.

    IMAG0777[2]

  2. Next I did a thin colour wash on each section. A bit like painting by numbers!
    IMAG0793[1]
  3. With the section of thin yellow feathers on his back, I firstly painted the section a darkish yellowy browny colour. I then used a little round brush and pale yellows and oranges to swipe little feathers onto the canvas. This part took ages as I really wanted it to match the photograph totally.
    IMAG0795[1]

     

  4. With the orange feathers with purple tips, I firstly painted it orange. I then sectioned off parts using masking tape as it all looked the same! This enabled me to paint the purple patterns onto the canvas in exactly the right place.

    IMAG0799[1]

  5. After I had finished this, I proceeded to go over and over this section with swipes of white, yellow, orange and gold to make the feathers look 3D. I used blue, purple and metalic blue on the tips, again using a little rounded brush.

    IMAG0811[1]

  6. With the blue feathers at the bottom, I used varying shades of blues and purple and white to create large feather shapes.
  7. With the pink feathers, I used the little rounded brush again, with a mix of purple, magenta and white feathers, constantly referring to the photograph to get areas of light and dark in the correct place

    IMAG0812[1]

  8. With the narrow blue feathers above the yellow section and below the orange section (I am losing track too!) I firstly painted it dark blue. Then I used metallic blue mixed with normal blue and a touch of white to create a 3D effect when I painted each feather shape.
  9. Next I concentrated on the face , using my littlest brush, and a range of browns and purples and my favourite colour, flesh tint! I used little curly brush strokes to make the face fluffy.
    IMAG0813[1]
  10. I painted the eye using white with a hint of green, to create a pale aqua. I made sure to put a little white gleam on the pupil.
  11. I used a fairly large round brush and thick yellow paint to create the mohawk, using long sweeping brushstrokes in varying shades of yellow. I then used white paint to create strands of hair caught by the light.
    IMAG0818[1]
  12. Finally, with the beak, I used browns and gold paint to create a shiny pointy beak.
  13. Its not my normal style, but I painted the background last! Im normally a firm believer in painting backgrounds first. However, I really couldnt decide what to do with it. I plumped with a base of sap green, using my hands to rub in lighter areas with white and yellow and darker areas with purple to create a soft focus.
    goldenpheasantjan13wm

Ta daaa – Hope you liked the guide and let me know what you think!
I will keep you posted on how I do in the competition!