One of the big secrets of watercolor painting is water control, learning to get the right value (dark or light) without creating puddles. Puddles are not your friends. Many people think “I want a light blue, therefore I will add more water on my page”. This creates a puddle that takes a long time to dry and is difficult to manage. Alternatively people think “I want a really dark value, therefore I will add more paint”. Again a puddle. Instead of adding more water or paint on the page, change the concentration of paint in the mixture, not the amount of paint on the page.
A good way to practice water control is to create a monochrome painting. Just use one pigment (pick a dark color, dark brown is nice) and vary the concentration of paint to water. As you do, pay attention to the range of values, starting with the lightest, and building toward the darker values, and avoid making puddles on the page. Start with lighter values and make your way progressively to the darks.
Print out the Nuthatch sketch to follow along with this demonstration. Click on the first image to start a step-by-step side-show.
Start with a clear line drawing of the bird you want to draw. For this project, you may download and print out this drawing.
Work from light to dark. Begin with the light shadow on the belly and throat of the bird. Leave a subtle pale edge to the shadowed area to suggest reflected light.
Now mid range values. Paint the back with darker paint, again leaving a pale highlight along the back.
Now punch in the darks. These crisp details will not blur if you paint them on dry paper. Note the subtle highlight on the top of the bill
By adding a dark background, you will make the bird “pop” and the breast appear white, even though it has a pale shadow. The pale highlight on the back, chest, and bill make the bird stand out even more clearly. Notice the pale border around the legs so that they do not get lost in the bark background.
Use a white colored pencil to lighten any elements or add detail. Here I added pale margins on the wing (greater coverts and secondary edges).
This drawing is based on a photograph by Vivek Khanzode on birdpixel.com.
Drawing foreshortened fish is challenging. Your brain knows the real proportions when viewed from the side. It is tough to force your brain to shorten one dimension and not the other. Trust what you see. Use your pencil to make proportional measurements rather than relying on your intuitive sense of how the fish “should” look.
Click on the first image to start a step-by-step slide show.
Draw the posture line, or central axis of the fish.
Even though the pike’s body is long, block it in as a foreshortened oval.
Add a line for the base of the tail.
Use a set of parallel guides to block in the angles of the eyes and face.
Simplify the pike’s face to a simple box.
Observe the negative shapes around the tail.
With the negative shapes as a guide, draw in the shape of the tail, paying close attention to the angles of the tail and body.
Block in the locations of the posterior fins.
Draw two dots to indicate the origin of the pectoral and pelvic fins.
Draw lines from the dots indicating the length and angle of the fins.
There is space between the fins. Add another set of parallel guides (using the same angle you used on the face) as spacers for the fins.
Add another set of parallel guides from the bottom of the fins.
The final set of parallel guides shows you how long the far set of fins should be if the fins are symmetric.
Use the guide lines as a platform for drawing the details of the fish.
If you are going to add shading, light, details to the body keep in mind that the fish is a three dimensional shape. Visualize a set of ovals through the body.
Another way to visualize the structure of the fish and help you with shading is to think of the fish as a set of flat planes. Where would the shadows fall as you move the light source around?
So you want to keep a nature journal and try your hand at field sketching but have not picked up a pencil since elementary school? This workshop is geared for the raw beginner who is terrified of sketching and is convinced that they can not draw. You can learn to draw. This workshop will show you how to begin. In this workshop you will learn:
- How to look at a subject as an artist so you can draw what you see
- Where to start and how to make your first lines and the drawing “order of operations”.
- How to simplify shapes, values, and colors.
- Key drawing tricks that many any subject easier to manage.
- How to use a small set of colored pencils to get infinite hues.
Have you always wanted to keep a nature journal or are you looking for ways to make your nature journaling a richer experience? In this workshop we will explore fundamental principles to jumpstart and extend your journaling practice. You will learn:
- Why to keep a nature journal and see examples of many ways to practice.
- How to set up a lightweight journaling kit for easy access in the field and see some useful tools for fieldwork.
- What to put into your journal to get more out of every observation and allow you to use your journal as a scientific resource.
- How to motivate and inspire yourself to make journaling a regular habit.
- Strategies to get you started for a day in the field.
- Ideas about what to put in your journal.
- Ways to think outside of the box to enhance your creativity and joy in journaling.
Drawing a foreshortened object is not easy. Your brain must overcome it’s ability to understand that the shape of an object does not really change as you observe it from different angles. This object permanence allows you to understand that a frisbee flying toward you does not really change shape as the observed angle changes. When we draw a foreshortened object you must undo this essential observation with your mind and draw the object as you really see it, not as you know it is shaped. Take the long body of a fish. As the fish rotates toward you, it goes from a long profile to a shortened three quarter view, to the compressed front view. Features on the body such as fin locations or the edge of the gill plate get closer together as the body shortens.
Click on the first image to start a step-by-step annotated slide show.
Start with a circle. The long ovular body is compressed to this shortened shape.
A little hit of the tail is all you will see of the caudal portion of the body.
Draw a line down the midline of the face and up over the central dorsal line.
Draw parallel guides to align the eyes and the upper and lower edges of the lips.
One of the hardest parts of drawing this fish is to capture the change on the planes of the surface as features wrap around the front of the face. Block in the plane of the face.
A box frames the portion of the mouth where the lips face the front.
Block in the locations of the major fins (pectoral, dorsal, and caudal).
Observe how the details of the face wrap around and are aligned with the guides. Pay particular attention to the way the mouth wraps across the box framing the lips.
Learn how to draw and sketch fish and sharks in dynamic poses, breaking the mold of the static scientific illustration. Learn how a living fish looks under water and how this is different than what is drawn in classic fish illustration. This class will prepare you for sketching from live specimens in your fish tank or at an aquarium. This workshop emphasizes two key points: use of parallel guides and observing the planes of your subject.
How can you sketch the songbirds you discover along the trail or on your feeder at home? Those little birds seem to be always on the move but with a few tricks up your sleeve and knowledge of fundamental bird anatomy you can do it. In this workshop, learn: basic anatomy for the artist, simplifying what you see, sketching multiple positions of moving birds, visual memory tricks, how to focus on the most important details, ways to add a hint of habitat, and juggling your sketchbook, pencils, and binoculars.
Ducks and other waterfowl are extremely cooperative subjects. Yes they move, but they love napping if plain sight and will stick around for you to draw. Learn the details of duck anatomy that are relevant for field sketchers and bird artists. Discover tricks to get down the shape quickly and easily, even on a bird that is moving. Learn the basic feather groups and how to imply feather detail. Discover how to draw duck heads that look like duck heads. Learn how to suggest feathers without drawing every one. Learn new secrets of duck posture. Plus a reflection review as it applies to waterfowl.
Trout are beautiful and hearty fish. I grew up sharing Sierra lakes with these amazing creatures. In this step-by-step demonstration, we walk through the process of illustrating one of these fish. With watercolor, it works best to start with the lightest values and build up into the darkest layer by layer. Here I use the glazing technique in which subsequent layers of paint are applied on top of existing layers once the paper is dry. In the course of this demonstration I make a few mistakes. Watch how I correct them as the painting develops.
Click on the first image to start a step-by-step annotated slide-show of how to draw a trout.
Begin with the posture or central axis of the fish.
Look at the depth vs. length proportions and add a vertical line to approximate the depth of the body.
Add an open ended box (no tail end) to rough in the body proportions. Check these body proportions in this simple shape before continuing.
Continuing with the proportions, add a vertical line to show the head length.
Add a second vertical line to box in the body mass.
Add a third vertical line to show the length of the tail. Check your proportions again before continuing.
Now rough in the body shape (there are not very many rectangular fish swimming around).
Visualize the negative shapes of the forehead and chin angles and above and below the tail.
Block in these negative shapes (you do not have to color the shapes).
Add dots where the fins start and a line along the back edge of the fin to show the proportions and length of each fin.
To help you place these dots and lines accurately, look at the length of the body segments between each fin. How far from the front or back does each fin begin and end?
Also visualize how the fins overlap on the top and bottom edges. Where is the dorsal fin relative to the ventral fin?
Using the dots and lines, draw in the rough shapes of the fins. Using negative shapes is again a useful trick here.
Add lines along the front and back of the eye and note where the eye is located relative to the posture line (the first line).
I make all my primary lines with an erasable col-erase non photo blue pencil. These lines are so light that I can draw over them with a graphite pencil and viewers will not be distracted by the blue lines. In this demonstration I have exaggerated the strength of these first lines for readability. The real lines don’t even show clearly on my scanned images.
Start painting the fish with the shadow, here I use Daniel Smith Shadow Violet.
Lay in the primary body colors with light washes of paint. While the green-brown back is still wet, add stronger color creating a soft edge to the dark zone along the back. I was so excited to add the pink on the side that I made it to wide and bright behind the fish’s head. You will see that I correct this problem later but if you are following along with the demonstration, avoid this mistake from the start.
Add color to the fins, using more diluted paint on the ventral surface. I also made the mistake of putting dark values on the head to early. I am now going to need to work around these darks to insert lighter values on the gill plate. It would have been easier if I applied the lighter paint first.
Working around the dark spots, add lighter washes on the face.
Continue to develop the face with light washes.
To make sure that the whole painting has a good value range, I add a dark “anchor” this is a bit of the darkest value. This spot will force me to match my value range to this dark. Begin to develop the fins with fine rays and tonal patterns.
The cheek is still not dark enough so pop the color with bright magenta (Daniel Smith Quinacridone Pink).
Once the dark point (eye) is on the paper, the relative values will be more apparent. The back needs to get darker so add another green-brown wash to build the color.
Use gouache to add light fin rays in the dorsal fin.
Now to fix another mistake. The pink band was too broad and bright behind the head. I fixed this mistake by wetting the paper, letting it soak a moment, then blotting some of the excess paint away with a paper towel. This works better on heavier watercolor paper and some pigments lift out more easily than others.
Add light blue “parr marks” with diluted paint. Do not apply this paint in a watery puddle rather a thinned wash. Puddles form little lines around their edges as they dry.
Now begin adding the spots on dry paper. Do them a little group at a time, carefully placing each spot and continuously checking back to your fish to make sure the size, shape, and spacing of the dots are accurate.
Continue adding spots over the whole body but do not rush it. You are almost done and there is no need to hurry at this point. These dark spots will attract a lot of the viewer’s attention so place them with care.
Add spots to the fins. Note that the spots form lines instead of being randomly placed.
Make fine patterns of X’s across the body with a white jel pen. If the pen lines are too bold, blot them by tapping them with your finger while they are still wet. You can also add a few little highlights on the face and fins.
Crisp up the line around the edge and add white spots at the tips of the tail with gouache or a white paint marker. If you are drawing a fish as it appears underwater, stop here. For a wet fish OUT of the water, see the next step.
A slippery, wet fish that is out of the water will reflect the sunlight in crisp highlights. Add a few along the back, lateral line, and sides. Here I used a fine tip Presto Jumbo Correction Pen.
It is soooooo hard to know when to stop. I was having so much fun adding white highlights that I went overboard on it. Restraint is still something I am working on. I think this fish was better in the previous step.
Drawing shorebirds will train your eye to capture the subtlety and nuance of shape and the contrast of size. At high tide, shorebirds will flock together making comparison and sketching much easier. Learn the details of wader anatomy that are relevant for field sketchers and bird artists. Discover tricks to get down the shape quickly and easily, even on a bird that is moving. Learn the basic feather groups and how to imply feather detail. Discover the variation in bill shapes and how to draw them. Master tricks for drawing the long kinked necks of herons and egrets and learn to draw legs and balance your birds.