Painting Demo

Email: wayne@byardart.com.au   Phone: 02 4476 3035   Mobile: 0429 444831   Mail: POBox 602 Narooma NSW 2546 Australia


Kookaburras 1

Before each painting I do a lot of drawings, from small thumbnail sketches to larger more detailed drawings.  I am working on composition at this stage, trying to create something pleasing, rarely do I see something and paint it exactly as I saw it, there is nearly always some way of improving the composition by adding, deleting or moving part of the subject.  The branches, leaves or other props are used to lead the eye into the subject.  Care needs to be taken to match the plants and other props with the subject, also making sure the perch for the bird is a realistic size or shape so the subject will appear comfortable.  I spend a lot of time getting it right at this stage



A demonstration and explaination of how I created the painting “KOOKABURRAS” from start to finish. 

This is a good example of how I do most of my paintings.

(from an article in ARTISTS PALETTE Edition No 31)

Kookaburras 2

Once I am happy with the composition I usually do a more detailed drawing at the finished size.  Most problems become obvious and the final painting begins to take shape.  I use this stage to play around a little with tone, getting the darks and lights in the  right places and hopefully against each other.  Clearly defining the direction of the light and thinking about shadows and where they will fall. The proportions of the subject is important, for example, roughly speaking a kookaburras head is as deep as its beak, its body is 1 1/2 times the beak, about 4 beaks long and its tail is about a beak long.  Using these as a guide it is possible to draw kookaburras in different positions.  When sketching in the field I can concentrate on what the subject or the light is doing and quickly draw what is important filling in the gaps later.  If I haven’t painted a subject before I will often do a study, usually part drawing, part painting to help me get a feel for how to paint certain features unique to that subject   

Kookaburras 3

I then draw the image onto my board and mask all the foreground areas ready for the background.  I  use an airbrush to create the out of focus background.  Care needs too be taken to create a background to suit the finished painting, it takes a bit of practice to get it right. Its all about tone. 

I work from the furthest thing away forward so anything behind the foreground is painted before removing the masks.  (I use all sorts of things to mask areas, from masking solution to paper and removable tape, whatever gives the desired result)

The outline is then drawn in a little more detail so each element is given a position from front to back.  This is where the full size drawing is very useful, not only as a reference for tone but also as a guide for any items position, it can be very confusing once the masks are removed.

Now the real work begins

Kookaburras 4

Working on the next layer I begin to paint the leaves and sticks behind the bird.  Using varying mixes of yellow ochre, cobalt blue and ultramarine blue with a touch of light red and cadmium yellow here and there the leaves begin to take shape.  I do a lot of mixing on the painting, sometimes painting all the shadow areas in tones of ultramarine and then washing other colours using both wet on wet and dry brush techniques depending on the appearance needed.  Shadows are created over the leaves and branches paying particular attention to the shape of the object in shadow and the object casting the shadow, it is not always the shape you think. (neutral tint, ultramarine, cobalt violet)

Because of the initial steps, the sketching and drawing, I have a definite image in my mind of how I want the finished painting to look. When you work the way I do, finishing each section as you go, it is very important to have established the tonal range  of the painting as it is very difficult to try to change it later.   

Kookaburras 5

Light Red, Burnt Sienna and a neutral tint were used to paint the tail, again furthest feather away first.  It is important to create brush strokes in the direction of the vanes of the feathers.  Feathers are not always perfect (as often seen in field guides) and for me it is the often slightly tatty ends or places where sections of feathers have been pulled apart that add interest and reality to any painting.  Feathers do not lay in uniform rows.  I always THINK “interesting and round” when painting birds, in fact it is written on the front of my tackle box I use to carry gear around as a constant reminder.  Feathers are soft and light try to paint them like that.  It is very important to think round, the appearance of the feather pattern changes as viewed from different angles, sure they are flat in the middle but on the sides you look at the feathers from the side or the end.  They have to be painted like this to look right.

Kookaburras 6

The same colours are used in the rest of the Kookaburra with the addition of some yellow ochre in the lower mandible. The upper mandible is painted using more neutral tint and some cobalt blue for the reflection (just makes it look shinny and hard).  The brush  work in the body of the bird is a combination of overlaid soft washes.  The final detail is added by fanning a sable brush to produce more than one line per stroke.  I use my older brushes for this job and when the brush is loaded with colour I simply press it hard onto a firm surface to get the hairs to fan out, a little more pressure and they will stay that way for a while.  More work on the branches at this stage, they are behind the toes, remember the reflected light under the branches, they are round, shadows are round and their intensity changes as they go around the branch.  As for the birds feet, they should be relaxed, the bird should appear comfortable not hanging on for dear life.

Kookaburras Final

The final stretch, all the early work is paying off.  Composition and tonal balance look good,  as it will be as I am painting the picture in my mind from the early sketches. 

The subjects eye is very important.  It must look in the right direction, the iris size should match the setting, (bright light small iris etc.), it should be spherical i.e. light and dark in the right places.  An eye ring casts a shadow, feathers around the eye do the same, get it right and the eye will sit where it belongs.  The little flash of light is very important.  On an overcast day or deep  in the trees it is usually a longer flash over the top of the eye, usually reflecting some sky or it surroundings.  A small round dot usually comes from a flash, more than one from multiple flashes, whilst it may not be natural it can look good in some paintings. 

A quick look over the painting and a few touch ups.  I then set it aside for a while, usually out of sight, and get it out a few days later and sit it somewhere I can look at it often to make sure it is right.  I then try to remember to sign it.

MORE ABOUT WAYNEWayne_Byard.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0

WAYNES PAINTINGSWaynes_Paintings.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0

BYARDART HOMEWelcome.htmlWelcome.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0