Don’t Have a Bad Day: Draw a Bird

July 16, 2012

Above: Mixed media page spread in a handmade journal roughly 8 inches square (TH Saunders Waterford 90 lb. hot press watercolor paper). The conure is painted in Schmincke gouache over a pen sketch I did from photos I took of this bird sitting on her owner's head! I elected to draw this bird because I'd just been to Wet Paint and it was there that I met this bird on another day—and I thought the orange feathers would work with the pre-painted background.

I think you can read the text on this page when you view the enlargement—but just in case, it reads:

6.26.2012  11 p.m.
Gruesome Day
Then I stopped at Wet Paint to get some paints for teaching…Greg was supportive without talking; Christina helped me reach down all the paints on the top row and read off pigments for me; and Steve showed me his Grover Cleveland portraits and told me all sorts of "presidential" facts—Franklin Pierce saw one of his children decapitated. Greg and I agreed that gives new perspective.

I'd just like to add that drawing a bird pretty much makes any day bearable. (OK it wouldn't have helped Franklin Pierce, but believe me it can help in some really awful situations.)

Having a local independent art supply store staffed with artists pretty much makes life possible on so many levels. Support your local independent art supply store! 

  1. Reply

    Great advice, Roz. This particular bird is exceptionally beautifully painted.

  2. Reply

    Thank you on behalf of Karma the cockatiel for this post. Although he knew everything you said already…

    • July 16, 2012

    Aww T.J!!! What a pretty girl she is! And awww my other dysfunctional/functional family!! Lovely sketch Roz! (So yesterday was the best day ever??)

  3. Reply

    Thanks Robyn.

  4. Reply

    Carol, I’m glad you have Karma (I typed that and had to laugh, but you get the idea). Happy sketching (and photographing!).

  5. Reply

    Yes, Liz, T.J. is so pretty, she’s stunning!!!! And so you get to see her all the time? You are very fortunate. YES, yesterday was the best day ever. (Well days spent with Em and Dot were a tad better, but…) Most of the time I didn’t even notice the heat. It’s so great that the yard was so shaded. But most of all it was so great that the chickens didn’t mind us being there! Thanks again for organizing it!

  6. Reply

    I love the way the background and the bird work together…

    Hey, GREAT NEWS, my package from Wet Paint with your selections of Schmincke gouache finally came. (Not Wet Paint’s fault it took so long, the shipment got held up in customs.) I can see why you love this paint. It has a lot of the butteriness of acrylic or oil, but so much more mutable (and better-smelling). Any tips for an artist on her very first day of gouache?

    • Suzanne
    • July 16, 2012

    This is a beautiful painting….the bird and background seem as one. And that link to the puppy cam you gave a few days ago….driving us crazy, getting nothing done…so much fun to watch. Thank you!

  7. Reply

    Ellen, thank you for your kind words about the bird sketch. I’m glad that you also find drawing moves you forward. I feel the same way about having something to show for your time, and the process of the process tends to bring me out of myself away from what might seem overwhelming. Keep sketching!

  8. Reply

    Thanks Lisa, it was one of those bits of serendipity. The background was prepainted about 2 weeks before when I had some time to do some painting, walk away and let it dry, come back and do other layers, etc. All while doing something unrelated. When I got to this page spread I knew I wanted to draw/paint a bird, but couldn’t think which bird, and thought of TJ because of her lovely yellow feathers. And it made sense too because I knew I was going to be writing about Wet Paint, and that’s where I met TJ.

    I’m glad you received your gouache, YES, they have arrived, finally. I’m glad that you can see immediately how lovely the paint is.

    As for tips, so many tips. Unfortunately (as you’ll see from the time stamp on this message) so there aren’t any gouache primers waiting to post in the next several posts (I work ahead for the most part). But if you use the gouache category and look also at Which white in the search engine, you’ll find lots of posts about gouache.

    Also I’m going to be giving a demo at the August MCBA Visual Journal Collective (but I don’t think you’re local).

    I would start by mixing your colors to see how they interact and how you can blend them into a range of colors, so for instance the Dark Indigo and English Red starting from each and working as close as you can get to a neutral, both watered down and in a more opaque mixture. Working your way through all the colors in this way will give you some interesting range ideas.

    Thicker mixtures would be watered down to about a heavy cream consistency to start, and as you get used to the paint you might also find a dry brush, thicker paint application useful.

    I would also practice putting down a thinnish wash and then adding thin washes and thicker washes both to a dry and wet base of the first thin wash. Just to learn how the paint handles.

    Progress somewhat methodically to get the feel of the paint right now and you’ll be able to adapt later.

    Have fun. Watch for more posts.

  9. Reply

    Suzanne, thanks for your kind words about the painting, I’m glad you enjoyed it. (I wrote in another comment above about how I did the background and then picked TJ as a subject because of her coloring.)

    All I can say to you about puppy cam(s) is what I’ve been saying to others. SORRY!!!! But remember, studies have shown that by watching you’re actually improving your fine motor skills!!!!!

    That’s got to be bood for sketching and binding. Right?!

    Thanks for reading.

  10. Reply

    This is an especially helpful post for me, Roz. I often need encouragement to get out of my own way – life IS so so much better when I draw. I’m gonna make sure I read it at least once a week for a while… Perspective.

  11. Reply

    Serena, getting out of our own way so that we can actually do what we need and want to do in life is something all humans seem particularly bad at. Good luck stepping back in the present moment and using it for something you love.

  12. Reply

    Oh how I wish I had an independent Art Supply Store near me! I am semi-close to a Dick Blicks, but its just not the same. I am so a bird fanatic. I just adore your Conure piece!! The colors are fabulous!

  13. Reply

    Rebekah, it’s difficult sometimes when all you have is a chain store near by. But when you can’t find something there you can always do mail order with Wet Paint in St. Paul. They are great about that just as they are great about everything.

    TJ is such a lovely bird that she is just fun to sketch. I’m glad you liked it.

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