“The Chickadee for Muz”

9x12 Acrylic on Mix Media Paper

I’m reading “Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting” and it’s an extraordinary book.  I’m only about a third of the way through and I’ve discovered that it’s often most important to paint the focal point at step one, even through it’s in the foreground.  Then, relax and fill in the rest.  In this quick painting (~4hrs), the focus was on the eye. This was the steps to the painting:

1. Rough sketch of bird and grass blade, and sketch the eye (focal point) to make sure I see every detail.

2. Paint the eye until pleased with it

3. Quickly paint an “out of focus” background that will let the subject stand out

4. Fill in the bird until I’m happy with it

5. Paint the foreground grass blade, keeping the sharp focus on the bird

Overall, this was a LOT of fun!  Another point I wanted to focus on in the painting was lighting, which is the subject of Richard Robinson’s most recent workshop (visit http://thecompleteartist.ning.com/). Now that I’m finished with the painting, as I stand back from it, my eye is immediately drawn to the eye.  I’ll apply this to all my paintings from now on, especially the animals.

I used to paint the background, then fill in the subject (bird) on top later.  The problem with that was I was unfocused.  I’d spend too much time on the background giving it more detail than needed. Then, I’d try to paint the whites of the subject over the background and find the colors of the background would dull it out. Sometime it can’t be helped, like leaves on a tree in a landscape, you have to do the background first. But doing the main focal point first, I relaxed because from then on, I knew the painting would work.

As an ending comment: this painting was done in memory of my grandmother, “Muz” as we called her.  She introduced to nature in the mountains of NC and to the Chickadee.  Thank you, Muz, for the growing inspiration which is the foundation for why I paint, and thus this blog as well.


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