Paint a Bird
Our subject for this exercise is this Whistling Kite.
All you will need for this exercise are two tubes of 
paint and two brushes plus a sheet of watercolor 
paper and a pencil



Burnt Sienna
1" flat brush
#2 liner brush

HB lead pencil

Watch this demonstration on RealPlayer

(click on the image to print out a larger version)


The first step is to loosely draw the basic shapes. The idea is not to carefully draw every detail then fill it in, but to get a rough guideline for the major shapes. Don't worry about accurate details, but concentrate on accurate proportions.

(HB lead pencil)


Once you are satisfied with your drawing, a very pale wash of Burnt Sienna mixed with a tiny amount of Indigo can be splashed over the body. Into this damp wash place a little Burnt Sienna and a grey mixture to slightly model the form. A darker grey forms the beak - a little lighter on top.

(1" Flat brush) Finer detailed areas such as the beak may at first seem awkward to paint with the 1" brush but with practice you can do amazing things with the corner of one of these

( greys in this painting are mixed from the two colours)


Some more detail can be added with a warm grey - shadows under, and at the back of the head and the suggestion of feathers on the wing. Add the eye with the liner brush and a dark mixture of the two colours. Dont forget to leave a couple of small white patches for reflections.

(1" Flat brush and liner brush)


Further modelling with Burnt Sienna and a warm grey give the bird a nice solid form. Feather textures add interest to the wing. The liner brush can be used to suggest feathers around the beak eye and head. Splashing some warm grey below the chest area makes a nice random transition from white paper to the body of the bird.

(1" Flat brush and liner brush)


The final step is to add the background. Because the bird is very warm a cool Indigo background will give more impact. Although the background looks simple and accidental, a fair amount of thought must go into arranging tonal contrast in the right places.
In order to draw attention to the area around the eye and beak, the darkest part of the background is placed behind the lightest part of the head. Below the dark beak and behind the shadow on the back of the neck the background is much lighter. Putting a slight diagonal thrust / through the background also helps draw attention to the head and balance the opposing diagonal of the bird \.

(1" Flat brush) softening the edges on this background wash is made much easier when you place an old towel under your work. It allows you to quickly and simply adjust the amount of water in your brush.

Good luck and have fun with this little exercise

back to painting lessons

john lovett 1999

Home  I  Lessons  I  Blog  I   Gallery  I  Store  I  Bio  I  Contact   I   Copyright