For The Birds

This is the step-by-step story of the largest oil painting I've ever attempted. 3ft x 5ft.

It's a self portrait inspired by an image taken during a family photo shoot by my incredibly talented friend, Julie Velez. (thanks Julie, for always managing to make me look good in photos!)

As with all good [painted] things, this painting started with an Idea and a concept sketch.

(The Owl actually started out as a bald eagle, but It felt unintentionally and overly patriotic and there wasn't enough interesting color variation in an eagles wings, So it swapped with a great horned owl)  The concept sketch for a painting is a great way to hash out problems with composition or placement. (I actually changed a few things as the painting progressed, adding a few more birds for balance.)

My next step was to get this image onto the canvas.  As usual, I sketched my under-painting in Yellow Ocher.

After drying for a few days, I begin to fill in the undertones and base colors for shadows and surfaces.

A pale blue/grey neutral background is filled in so it can dry a bit before the outer birds are painted.

I start in on the birds, the small ones first... (checking how hard feathers are to paint...)

... and then start to fill in the rest. 

At this point, I'm using the oils thinned with medium (a mixture of Darmar Varnish, Turpentine and Stand Oil.) so that the layers dry a little more swiftly (a few days instead of a few weeks) and a transparency can be achieved to create a "glazed" effect. Little by little, colors fill the space and details work their way in.

Work continues on the details... The owl starts to fill in and a pillow appears on the couch.

It ends up that owls are tricky to paint, with the mad patterns in their feathers...

Now for the solid colors and deeper shadows on the shirt and skirt.

With the colors laid into the clothes it's back to bird work!  The heron is starting to come into focus.

A self portrait is a hard thing because you either idealize what you see or are too harsh and put into paint flaws that only you notice.

Things are starting to look close to done!  One last bird to add, a little blue jay perched at the top of the couch.

Blue Jay details...

Last thing to add in: Shadows to make everything hold it's place in space.

"For the Birds", 3x5ft Oil on Canvas