The sun broke through just long enough to shoot tulips in a teacup today.
I love these little teacups made in Occupied Japan, they’re hand painted with such vibrant colors and the flowers are so playfully stylized. Look for more coming up (when their flowers are finally in season).
Now what kind of bird? Here are some from my archives, though I don’t know…
Does it help to know that the tulip symbolizes “perfect lover” and “fame”? Perhaps not, I’ll have to think on it.
I couldn’t resist painting another Pansy Teacup and Lesser Goldfinch combo. I decided to keep with the ring theme too. I think it adds to the symbolism of the pansy - “Think of me”.
There will still be pattern in the background but I painted in the base first, after my outline sketch. Notice how the hue is warmer closer to the light source then gets progressively cooler and darker further away.
I painted in in the male Lesser Goldfinch right away – I like to make sure I get my main focal point right before I go too far.
The female Lesser Goldfinch is my secondary focal point. Having more that one focus helps to move the eye around the painting.
Roughing in the flowers and teacup and ring. Throwing caution to the wind with my use of whimsey!
The trick from here on out is to balance refinement with freshness. I had to call it a day here and hope that I don’t wreck it tomorrow!
Now that I have my reference material all composed, I am able to precede with my Pansy Tea painting.
I like to sketch out my outlines with thinned oils on a white ground. I feel it helps me to maintain a clarity and vibrancy of color.
I begin to block in a bit of color as I feel more confident about the way the drawing is going.
Since the bird is the primary subject, I wanted to concentrate on it first.
The next goal I had was to work the entire canvas (all twelve inches of it).
Here I’ve built up highlights, shadows and details.
I will continue along this path, adding glazes to tone down areas until I feel it has enough depth and presence. Speaking of presence, I see my little finch is looking more like a chubby chick! Taking pictures as you go along is a great way of seeing your work in a new way. Let’s see what I can do about that tomorrow!
Those wild birds simply refuse to join me in the studio but through the miracle that is Photoshop I am able to integrate my birding photos with my still-life set ups. I can use my magic lasso and drag them about with my mouse, scale them up or down and even flip them if so required until they find their place in the composition. So immediate, so satisfying! Here’s a tip though, make sure your light sources are coming from the same direction of you’re going to have to make it up on the painting side.
Now which one to choose?
Female Lesser Goldfinch
The overlapping of the pansies in the foreground help to anchor the bird in the space. I’m going to look at more reference photos for standing feet but this is enough to get me started.
Male and Female Lesser Goldfinch.
Cropping of the subject is a nice modern device and can balance out the male’s tail in the composition.
I love how this one is all stretched out and peering beyond the image but will need some legs though as there is no longer a perch available.
Lately I’ve gone from painting dead birds to live ones!
My teacup birds, while quite whimsical in concept, are a really about putting some life into the still life genre. I love the layers of artifice that go into these pieces, There’s the teacup artist’s interpretation of a flower and then my re-interpretation of that as well as my careful observation of the real flowers in their corresponding teacup that I’ve arranged in the low afternoon sun that comes streaming in my studio windows.
Then I coax a bird to land on my vignette while I snap a picture. Yes, I wish. I must rely on my growing collection of photos that I take myself as well as some other photo references which I combine with my own work and obscure beyond any point of possible copyright infringement. I need to invest in some more feeders – but I’m not beyond stalking the neighbor’s feeders. I find mornings are best! Although I’ve paused while writing this to take shots of junkos with my telephoto out here on the patio with my feet up on the fire pit and my laptop on my lap! Now if that humming bird will just come back for my pommegranate blossoms – no such luck!
Here are some of my better birding moments, not all teacup appropriate, but you never know…
Spotted Towhee – Los Gatos
Purple House Finch – Carpinteria
Oregon Junko - Los Gatos
Lesser Goldfinch (male) - Los Gatos
Lesser Goldfinch (female) - Los Gatos
Anna’s Hummingbird - Los Gatos
Steller’s Jay - Los Gatos
Starling- Santa Cruz
Seagulls – San Francisco
Sulphur Crested Cockatoo – Santa Barbara
Black Swan – Santa Barbara
Peacock – Cupertino
Albino Peacock – Ayelsford
Flamingo – Oakland