This is a commission that I just finished for someone who had seen the photo (below), and wanted me to paint it.

I knew that the photo below (taken by Luke Champion, a teenager who has split-second reflexes) needed to be a watercolor, as there were these wonderful layers of translucent feathers – perfect for this medium. I also knew that I had to invent the color, as it was to portray the rising sun, and the feathers would naturally pick up some of the early morning reds and oranges. I have to tell you that this was one of the more difficult paintings I’ve yet to do. I felt as if I’d entered a labyrinth, a maze of overlapping feathers and shadows.

I drew in the lines and started filling in the shapes. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was already going too quickly. If the shapes weren’t right, I’d have to start over again.

You can click on any of the images, if you want to see more detail.

I am not at all savvy about bird feathers. In fact, I almost flunked biology due to my lack of bird knowledge… However, I began to notice that there were at least three discernible layers, and I’ve read that there are six. Thankfully, I only saw three…

It was pretty early on that I began to get lost in the maze… which smaller feather was related to the larger one? Which feather let the light through? Which one didn’t?

I was also trying a new paper, Twin Rocker, a handmade paper that has quite a different look from my normal Arches cold press paper. I loved the colors that it picked up, but mistakes are not easily corrected. On my third try (two Twin Rockers, and one Arches), I started to pull it together.

Here you can see  how beautiful the granulation is that is unique to watercolor.
Here as well. This is the Twin Rocker with the beautiful subtleties.

I had to push my colors as I tend to lean towards the earth tones. I knew the bright oranges hadn’t really reached the blue sky as yet so I just hinted that the light and colors were rising. I hope you like this piece. 

Scary stuff to wait to see if the owner is pleased. Phew, he likes it!!