And for the first prompt, “Bird”, instead of settling for a quick drawing of a chickadee or robin, I decided to paint a pheasant. In gouache, which I’m not familiar with.
I painted on watercolour paper from art supplies store Gerstaecker’s house brand, which I like a lot (300 gsm, 17×24 cm).
I still wanted to do a “simple” painting, i.e. just the bird on a monochrome background. I expected to have some unpainted paper showing through (in the end it was less than expected, just a bit around the bird), and I didn’t want it to be white so I painted a warm watercolour wash (the evening before, so it had time to dry and I could start straight away in the morning! maybe I do start to learn from experience? 😅️).
Actually, the day before that I had already selected photo reference and done some observational sketches to get (a bit) familiar with my subject.
As I’ve never drawn pheasants before I referenced mainly one photo (from this article, flipped) with minor changes inspired from my other collected references, and from a pheasant I encountered on a bike ride here in Bremen (I had done some photos but they were pretty bad 😅️).
I was pretty happy with the sketch :)
Now it was time to paint, but I had no idea where to start 😅️
So I first watched some YouTube videos 😁️. I thought this one by Lena Rivo was a bit similar to what I was aiming for (size, single subject, animal), so I watched it first. I was surprised to see how she proceeds “detail by detail”, so to speak, with little patches that come together, not “from general to particular”, where you first make rough shapes and then detail more and more. Maybe this works when you already have quite some experience and know what you want to achieve and how. But I didn’t think I could proceed like that, so I looked further – and did find some examples from James Gurney and Arleesha Yetzer (arleebean) that made more sense for me :)
Fortunately this did not take that much time and I was able to stay focused :) And I finally dared to put some paint on paper! First an easy one, pure Prussian blue, then I dared some mixing, and started to feel a bit better about the whole thing :)
By the way this is the complete set of gouache tubes I own at this point – a bit of a strange lot, which is why I was not sure how to get the colours I needed 😅️. But in the end it worked quite well :)
Pheasants have feathers that create an incredible array of patterns! I wish I could have kept it even more graphical, but I’m mostly fine with how it ended up, with a mix of somewhat bolder shapes and fine lines.
A closer look at the finished pheasant – except when peeling off the masking tape I noticed I had forgotten the white collar ring 😊️
And now, the daring step! From the beginning I intended to make a pink background! (played for a moment with the idea of mint green, but no 😁️)
It’s a bit darker than I had intended (maybe in part due to the underlying wash), but I thought it was OK enough (also, I had already spent like 4 hours on that “doodle” 😅️).
Finally, peeling off the masking tape, and adding a bit of red grass (which I also had in mind from the beginning, and I think it works well to balance the red of the cheeks (called “wattle”, it seems :)). And signed, why not 😊️
Finally, some close-ups:
So what do you think, did the pink background ruin the painting, or reveal its true self? ;)