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.

Crescent Moon Moth Kickstarter

The Crescent Moon Moths are coming!! Today marks the launch of my second Make 100 Kickstarter. This year’s enamel pin is a companion to the Twilight Moth enamel pins from 2018’s campaign. These pins, like last year’s, are a limited edition run of 100. Last year’s campaign funded in under 8 hours and all 100 pins were claimed in 3 days.

Claim your Crescent Moon Moth Now!

I had quite a few requests this year for additional pins of other wonderful creatures. This has been something I’ve been pondering in the back of my head—there is an idea brewing—but there just wasn’t enough time to make that happen just yet. However, I did decide to add a little something extra to this campaign.

When all 100 of the Crescent Moon Moth are claimed, I will add a new reward tier for a Mini Moon Moth Badge. The badge is also a hard enamel pin, but it’s about half the size of the limited edition pins. These pins will be $10. Backers of the Crescent Moon Moths will also have access to these as an add-on to their pledge for the same amount.

Here’s a rundown of all the current stretch goals:

-- Stretch Goal 1: $900+ -- LOCKED!

All enamel pin backers will receive a Crescent Moon Moth Sticker.

CrescentMoonStickerMockup1.jpg

-- Stretch Goal 2: $1500 -- Mini Moon Moth Badge -- LOCKED!

When all 100 Crescent Moon Moth enamel pins are spoken for I will add a new reward tier for a special open edition pin, a Mini Moon Moth Badge. All backers will also have the option of adjusting their pledge to add-on this pin. This pin will be $10.

MiniMoonMoth.jpg

-- Stretch Goal 3: $2000 -- Crescent Moon Moth Prints -- LOCKED!

All enamel pin backers will receive a Crescent Moon Moth print measuring 4 x 4 inches.

CrescentMoonMothPrintWeb.jpg

There’s always the possibility I may add more stretch goals as the campaign progresses, we shall see what happens!

Back the Campaign Now!

Forest Scouts - Behind the Scenes

Forest Scouts is my latest painting for the Bird Whisperer Project. I knew from the moment I saw the reference photo for December’s bird, a stunning Stellar’s Jay, that he would become part of a fantasy world. I envision him and his little rider as part of a team of scouts that keep watch from the tree tops.

As you can see, I took my inspiration from the reference photo but it’s far from a copy. I always try to focus on capturing an essence instead of being exact. My goal is to transform what I see in the reference photo into my own vision. Here’s a process gif, showing the evolution from drawing to finished painting.

ScoutsProcess.gif

My Brushes

Brushes.jpg

Digital painting can seem like magic, but in some ways it’s no different than any other painting medium. You have to do the work. These were the main brushes I used for this painting. I don’t tend to use many—you don’t need many. If I’m working on a watercolor or an acrylic painting, I use about the same number. These are brushes I use in all of my digital work.

All of my digital paintings begin with a drawing. I like to have the reference photo open in Photoshop alongside my canvas. Then I pick up my stylus and begin drawing with my Wacom Inutos.

ScoutWip1b.jpg

Here are 5 process shots I took from the GIF image above (you can click on the first one and scroll through them). Besides filling in the background with the paint-bucket tool, everything is painted by hand. The more detailed the painting, the more realistic I want it to be, the longer it takes. I like to block in basic colors and then I try to focus on the background first. When I need a break from that I start focusing on other parts.

There are usually parts of my drawing that I keep simplified, especially when it comes to bird feathers. I prefer to focus on these as I paint. Here’s a look at that with this month’s Stellar’s Jay.

ReferenceWip2.jpg

As you can see, it’s still not exact, just my own interpretation—an essence. Sometimes, I have to take a break from the most tedious parts so I don’t lose focus. More often than not, when I return to them I see something I missed or want to change.

I’m hoping in 2019 to begin recording my painting process—snippets of it at least. Then you can see paint in real time. Stay tuned!

Art for Licensing

The artworks below are available to license for book covers and other publications. Please contact me to discuss rates at makepeace.arts@gmail.com.