How to Paint a Bird Eating Berries in Watercolor
A bird in action always catches the eye, and this one in no exception. He struggles to hold on the the very thin twig and really has to earn his meal!
In this lesson you will learn:
1 How to paint the background
2 How to add the masking fluid
3 How to paint the wings
4 How to add the eye
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Painting the background
Mix a dark Mauve and, with your board at a slight slope, paint in the background. Be careful to keep a bead at the bottom of each stroke in order to produce an even background. Carefully work your way down to the bottom of the sheet, getting a bit lighter towards the lower edge.
Remove the masking fluid
Dry the background thoroughly before removing the masking fluid.
Painting the wing
Mix up a light blue-grey and begin painting the wing feathers. Be very careful in keeping the white lines between each feather. Mask them in if you feel you are not confident enough. Those light lines are an important feature of the opened-out wing. Also take note of the different value ranges in the feathers. I'm using a synthetic filbert brush. By twisting the brush I can easily lay in broad washes as well as narrow lines.
Go back and darken up where necessary. The main lighting is behind the wings, so there is a slight translucency effect on the wing.
Painting the berries and bird's body
Block in the lightest colour of the berries, and then start blocking in the body of the bird with Burnt Sienna. I normally block in all the dark areas first, because this way I can ensure that the tonal ranges will fit properly with the final result. Be careful in not making the white area for the eye too small. Continue adding in all the very dark, almost black, areas.
Now we can darken up some of the brown areas even more. It is good practice to check your colors on a separate piece of paper before adding it to the painting proper. Some mistakes are not easy to rectify. Finish off the tail as well.
The finer details are added to the wing. Also be careful in not overdoing it. Try to know when to stop!
Painting the base of the wing
Complete the base of the wing and blend it in neatly with the rest of the body. There is a lot of other finer detailing needed in this area, so carefully compare what you are adding to that which you see in the reference photograph. More than often these smaller details give the sparkle to the finished painting.
Painting the legs and claws
Use a fine round brush to paint in the legs and the claws.
Painting the eye
Although not easily visible in the reference photo, we need to show the eyes. This is done in a slightly lighter color value. Keep the highlight for the eye.
Painting the berries
Begin darkening up the shadow side of the berries and the stalks. Start with a middle tone, making sure to keep the highlights on the berries. Gradually add in each darker value to give the berries that rounded look. Don't be too hasty, as we want the berries to look realistic. They are part of the focal area. For the real dark shadow of each berry you will notice that I used paint directly out of the tube.
Don't make the berries all look the same. Some will be darker than others. Some will also have shadows darker than the rest. It is the variety that adds more interest to the painting.
With a fine round brush we can now go over to finalizing and refining more small details
This can be seen more clearly in this close-up
Adding more contrast to the background
I decided that the lower area was a bit too light, so I turned the painting upside down and carefully wet this area with a large soft brush. Use the brush very lightly so as not to distub the underlying pigment. Dampen further than you need to, to leave a clear area for the newly added paint to merge into. If you don't, then a hard edge will appear and spoil the effect.
A final touch-up and you're done!
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