Watercolor Bird Study Process // Painting in a journal

Watercolor Bird Study Process // Painting in a journal


Today I want to show you how and why
I’ve been creating full watercolor studies in my journal before I start my
proper painting. I painted this little eastern yellow Robin this week for a
tutorial. Before I painted this one I painted it in my watercolor journal. I’m not a big fan of new year resolutions
probably because I make them and I never keep them but this year I resolved to
work smarter not harder and one of the ways I decided to do that was to start
painting more watercolor studies. When I say watercolor studies I
don’t mean a quick thumbnail sketch to work out the composition or a painting
that I can paint really quickly I mean a full painting in my journal. That sounds like it might be more work
but I’m finding that it’s not. I’m finding that it’s saving me time and I
expect that it will save me some money because I won’t be wasting my expensive
watercolor paper. Watercolor always surprises me. I start painting and I’m
never sure how the final painting will turn out. We can’t hide our mistakes when
we paint in watercolor because the paint is simply too transparent so for me
there’s always a level of anxiety when I first start the painting. I find I’m
anxious because I don’t want to fail but I’m also anxious because good quality
watercolor paper is expensive and I don’t want to waste it on failed
paintings if I can help it. By painting a study in my journal before I start the
painting I can iron out most of the wrinkles that are likely to occur. I can
play around with the painting in my journal and see what works and what
doesn’t work. I can make decisions about lots of different things before I start
my proper painting. I can experiment. Experimenting in the journal lowers
those levels of anxiety and I find that I can begin painting with a much calmer
approach. So I’m doing everything I can to set myself up for success.
I drew a Robin in my journal. This is a Winsor and Newton watercolor
journal. At this point I wasn’t sure whether I was going
to paint the feet in and the branch so I didn’t draw them in at this stage. So
once I got my drawing right then I started to paint in the gray feathers
and this allowed me to work out whether I was going to paint the feathers in
individually or whether I was going to paint them all as a whole. I decided
to wash them in all at once and then while that was wet I dropped in another
color just to make the gray more interesting. I find this first wash is always the freshest and most vibrant so I want to make sure that I
get it right. When that was dry I could paint the yellow feathers in and I had
some decisions to make here. There’s more than one color yellow on the bird’s
chest so I had to decide what color I was going to use to paint that darker
area that I could see on the reference photo. I also had to decide whether I
wanted to put this darker color on the damp paper or whether I wanted to paint
it wet on dry. There was some feather detail that I could see on the reference
photo. I had to decide whether I was going to include that or leave it off.
I put it on on this study just to see what it would look like. Here I’m
painting on some more feather detail. I wasn’t sure whether I needed more or
whether I should leave this section off so I put it on again just to see what it
would look like and by seeing it here on the study I decided to leave it off my
painting. When painting Birds it’s always important to get the beak right so I
like to spend a bit of time on the beak and make sure I’ve got the shape right
and the color so I was able to work out how I was going to paint the beak on
this little study. There was some detail around the eye that I wanted to include
but I wanted to see what it would look like and I wanted to see how much of it
I should include. So here I was able to work out just how I’d paint that area
around the eye. This allowed me to determine just how
much information I needed to give. After I painted the flight feathers in I
thought they looked a bit stiff so then I decided that if I put this wash over
the top of them then that would soften the look of them. Then I got down to
the feet and the legs and I was thinking at this point that I would leave the
feet off and I would just paint the legs in and then just leave a suggestion of some
feet but after I did that I realized I didn’t like it so it’s good that I
determined it on this study before I started doing this on my painting. I
looked at that and I thought, no that’s just not working. Then I knew I had to
draw the birds feet in and the branch that it’s standing on and I went ahead
and painted it and I was able to work out the colors that I was going to use
and how I was going to paint it. Sometimes the feet can be a bit tricky
and I don’t want to put too much detail on the feet so I was just able to have a
play around and see what I liked and what I didn’t like and also how much
detail I wanted to put on there. Then once I finished painting the bird I had
to decide whether or not I was going to paint a background. If I was going to
paint a background, how was I going to paint it? Was I going to fill the entire
background in or just put a splash behind the bird and what colors would I
use? So I was able to play around with what I was thinking I would do
on my main painting. I was just trying to determine where I should put this splash
behind the bird, where I should stop it, what shape it should be. I was able
to determine quite a few different things from this little painting that I
did it in my journal. This painting in the journal allowed me to see that the
back leg was too long. I needed to make sure that I didn’t do that on the main
painting. The feet, I wasn’t sure whether to paint them in or not so the painting
in the journal meant that I was able to make a decision on that. The branch was
tapering at the top and I need to watch that I don’t do that on the main
painting and I was able to make decisions about the background by
painting it in the journal first. All of these things I could work out before I
put my brush to the paper and I was able to paint this painting with ease. I was
relaxed when I painted it and I painted it quickly with minimal fuss. I did the
same thing with this koala painting here. I painted it in my journal first and
when I came to paint the larger painting I painted it with ease as well. It made
the process of painting so much more enjoyable. This painting is the
subject of my next Skillshare class and Skillshare are kindly sponsoring this
video. I’ve been working with Skillshare for a few years now and I really
appreciate their support. I’ve published ten classes now and I’m currently
working on this eleventh one. Skillshare is an online learning community with
thousands of classes. There is so much to explore and there are real projects that
you can create. Topics include illustration design photography video
freelancing and more. Skillshare is also affordable when compared to expensive face to face classes and workshops. An annual subscription is less than $10 US. a
month. I’m currently enjoying this class by
Sorelle Amore – it’s called “YouTube success build an authentic channel
that’s worth the follow”. Sorrell is a youtuber, photographer and videographer
and this class is all about growing your online presence authentically so that you
can enjoy a long term career with platforms such as YouTube. She talks
about the importance of finding your niche and being authentic and she takes
you behind the scenes of her own work. Make 2020 a year where you explore new
skills or just improve the skills you already have. Try some of my classes and
you’ll have access to thousands of other classes as well. I’ve found lots of
different classes that have both surprised and inspired me. Because Skillshare are sponsoring this video I have a link for you in the description.
Thee first 500 subscribers to click the link will get two months of premium
membership so you can explore your creativity.
Ok back to this. As I said I painted this painting for my next Skillshare class
and I want to give you a quick look at the study that I painted in my journal.
With this study in my journal I could work out the colors I was going to use. I
could work out the technique I was going to use to paint the fur. I decided to use
a wet on wet technique for most of this painting. It also helped me to decide
what to leave off and what to put on, what was important, what wasn’t. I wasn’t
sure whether to use the same colors as the Koala on the branch or whether I
should go for warmer colors so this allowed me to try out the warmer colors
and see what they look like. Although it takes time to paint a small study I find
that time isn’t wasted so I highly recommend painting a study
the painting before you paint the proper painting particularly if you’re not
feeling confident. For me it takes away most of the anxiety that can sometimes
creep in whenever I start a new painting and I don’t want that anxiety to hinder
my creativity. Ok thank you. I hope you enjoyed this video. If you did give it a
like and make sure you hit the subscribe button because I post videos like this
one every week. I’ll see you soon. Painting in the journal allowed me to
see that the black, the black, like this allowed me to see that the black leg was
too long to make sure that I didn’t do that on the main painting didn’t didn’t
so didn’t didn’t didn’t I’ve been working with Skillshare for a few
years now I really appreciate their support – motorbike so if you want to make 2020 a year where
you explore new skills even though I can’t say skills then for me it takes
away most of the anxiety I can’t say anxiety now

23 thoughts on “Watercolor Bird Study Process // Painting in a journal

  1. I too struggle with that fear when I start a painting, and this is an excellent idea to go into a large piece more relaxed. At the very least I usually do a thumbnail sketch to help me iron out some decisions and find out if a color mixture won't be quite like I wanted. It's nice seeing your process. That journal will be so amazing to look through once it's full! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Yay! Have literally spent the last half an hour searching for watercolour journals (I'm just down the road from you in Newcastle) and had settled on the W&N Watercolour Journal!!! Freaked out a little by that coincidence. Anyhoo, thanks for being so honest. Oh yes, also, YAY for Skillshare (had subscription for over two years now and use it for 3 different areas I want to improve on, watercolour being just one). Hope you have a great weekend.

  3. Thank you for the SkillShare freebie. I went ahead and purchased a year—I had never explored it before—so I’ll have 14 months for the price of 12!

  4. I've been thinking about doing this as well, but so far I have not found the paper that is good enough for the practice paper, yet that is similar enough to the expensive paper that it gives me an actual idea of how the final painting will work out. I will see if the Winsor and newton journal you use is affordable.

  5. Do you ever work on more than one painting at the same time? I tend to do that sometimes so I can keep painting while waiting for one to dry.

  6. Thank you very much Louise for these instructions, I am looking forward for the Koala and the Robin on Skillshare 🕊 😇 💕 💕 💕

  7. Hi Louise big thanks for the 2 free months of Skillshare Premium, I am finding it really lovely to have the full class and not just the 'intro' video as other artists have done, so many thanks for that and hopefully will paint along with you within these 2 months the Fox one looks like it will be my first try 🙂 Please don't get too good at doing videos though as would really miss your 'bloopers' they make me smile in a nice way .. your a gem!

  8. Another great video Louise, thank you! I love painting in a sketchbook as it takes the pressure off ! Have a great weekend 😊💜

  9. I totally relate to your bloopers! My mouth tends to lose the ability to form words as soon as I hit the record button. 🙃

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