Starry Skies - Painting Feathers

This month I was able to squeeze in a quick study for the Bird Whisperer Project. How could I not? This Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo is magical! I only had time for a study, so I decided to crop the reference image down to a portrait. Here’s a look at that initial sketch in Photoshop.

I’m a messy sketcher! I’m not worried about things being exact on my first pass. I just want to start drawing. Once that first sketch is finished I usually go back to adjust things, refine shapes, etc. However, even then I’m not concerned with things being exact. I don’t need a copy of the reference photo. I want the essence, something that captures or creates its own magic. In this case, after I finished the initial sketch I decided I wanted to work on a square canvas, so I cropped things further. Here’s a GIF showing all the stages:

CockatooProcess.gif

My first painting strokes are messy too. My goal is to get the color down fast and then go in with details over that. I often switch between small tipped and large tipped brushes. For this piece, I only used 4 brushes for the bird.

What makes this a Study?

If you look closely, you can still see my sketch in some areas as well as parts that are less finished. In a finished painting I would have refined some of the feathers more too. A study may not feel finished to an artist, but it’s still a piece of art and in some cases it becomes a valuable reference for a future painting.