Painting End of Spring

Novelist Christy Ann Conlin loves her some Flannery O’Conner! Southern Gothic may not only influence this author’s writing (Heave & Deadtime) but also her photography as evidenced from her shot of a dead robin on a shovel which she so kindly let me paint. It’s the beauty in the ephemeral fleeting nature of life that makes this melancholic image so poignant for me.

Here’s my process of rendering her photo, Sadness of a Gothic Bird, into my oil painting, End of Spring.

End of Spring in progress 1 Marie Cameron 2013

First I blocked in the negative space of the shovel.

End of Spring in progress 2 Marie Cameron 2013

I sketched in a loose grid with thinned oils allowing me to sketch the outline of the bird more accurately.

End of Spring in progress 3 Marie Cameron 2013

I wiped off the grid with a rag damped with mineral spirits so the lines would not show through.


End of Spring in progress 4 Marie Cameron 2013

Using loose washes of paint mixed with lots of mineral spirits and linseed oil I let the pigment drip and spread naturally.

End of Spring in progress 5 Marie Cameron 2013

I used the damp rag once more to pat and wipe the surface for texture. Great technique for pavement and rust!

End of Spring in progress 6 Marie Cameron 2013

More of the same.

End of Spring in progress 7 Marie Cameron 2013

Impatient to start working on the bird I started to block in it’s base colors. In retrospect it would have been more efficient to complete the background completely then overlap the shovel then finish the bird but there is something to be said for the integrity of working the whole at once too.

End of Spring in progress 8 Marie Cameron 2013

As the base is completed I’m starting to explore some of the details.

End of Spring in progress 9 Marie Cameron 2013

I return my attention to the shovel, wanting to achieve a glowing, almost halo effect aganst the dark backdrop.

End of Spring in progress 9 Marie Cameron 2013

Time to bring the bird to life, or as close as possible as though it has just stopped breathing. In this case it’s all about the realism, the deep careful observation of detail. This comes from the stillness of death, in life there would be an impression only.

End of Spring Marie Cameron 2013 40x30 oil on canvas

Dotting the (i)s and crossing the (t)s. In this case it was paying attention to the transition of pavement to shovel to make sure the shovel appeared to be hovering over the pavement instead of appearing as though the pavement was painted around the shovel.
Get out the camera again Christy Ann, I’ll paint ’em and fast as you can shoot ’em!


For more on Christy Ann Conlin’s compelling “Rural Goth”, click on her books below. FWI, I took the photo of the crumbling porch on the jacket cover of Heave. It’s so inspiring when friends share an aesthetic!

Heave by Christy Ann Conlin Dead Time  by Christy Ann Conlin

  1. Raha says:


  2. Betty Cameron says:

    The clarity of text along with the images and explanations of the process of all your paintings makes for a great tutorial in BOOK FORM! Although somewhat privately shared, they would, indeed, make for a wonderful art publication, a worthy endeavor of any Fine Arts trained professional and the ultimate generous sharing.

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