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.
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.
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.
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!