One might think, with all of my New York City-centric subject matter of late, that my bird paintings have flown the coop. In a sense they did - at least temporarily. Since returning from Jamaica this summer, I invested much of my time coming up with new Metro Card paintings and also beginning a new series of paintings of subway riders on wood blocks. Now that I've made great progress in both of those series, and with sketches and plans in place for more, I've turned back to the tropical aviary and my bird project commission.
Next up -- John Chewitt. Yes, that's a bird. Something that took me a long time to figure out.
I'm afraid the John Chewitt, also know as the black-whiskered vireo, is not a particularly flamboyant bird. No flashy splashes of color like the Parrot, no sinewy silhouette like the Doctor Bird. Not particularly inspiring to a painter. I don't want to offend any birders out there so I won't go so far as to say the John Chewitt is a boring-looking bird but, well, it will be a challenge. So let's get started:
charcoal sketch on canvas -- 24" x 36"
I think I made this sketch before I left for Jamaica or may have made it while on the rock. I just can't recall. Either way, the canvas had been removed from the stretcher in order to transport it to and from Jamaica so I had to re-attach it to begin painting. It was a bit buckled here and there, not fitting exactly as it had originally done. It appeared to have have shrunk slightly, particularly on the vertical and I just couldn't get it to smoothly stretch across the frame. So, after I staple-gunned it to the stretcher, I used a spray bottle to mist water across the back of the canvas -- this would help it shrink up tightly again to the frame.
Ok, first steps -- the usual hot mess stage:
Ugh. That's always the stage that gets me slightly concerned that I'll never turn this mix up of pigment into anything resembling a bird. But I soldiered on.
Ok, so far so good. Things are starting to take shape. But the neck is looking a little lumpy/jowly to me:
So I worked on the head and neck a little more as well as spending more time with the foliage in the background. The intense blues along the bird's belly and branch don't appear quite so saturated as they do in this photo, but I guess I'd better tone them down a bit:
Which brings us back to the first image in this post:
Sweet bird, eh? Ok, going to let this dry for a while, and then I'll return to it. Still have a long way to go.............