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ABA Bird of the Year, Part Five--Finis!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

See why I was so excited to paint the male evening grosbeaks?

Here are their ghosts...

By now you’ve gathered that most of the work of doing a bird painting, at least for me, is putting the bird in a believable setting. For me, painting the birds themselves is dessert, because it’s effortless and fun. Well, I shouldn’t say it’s effortless, because male evening grosbeaks are tricky to paint. I’m really excited to move on to the males, knowing what impact their colors will have on the whole piece.

The key to painting male evening grosbeaks is laying down a bright yellow underpainting and letting it dry completely. When I then stroke burnt umber over top of the dry underpainting, the yellow shines through. The final effect should conjure a good golden-brown honey mustard, with touches of pure hotdog-ready French’s on the coronet, rump and flanks. Mixing the two colors would give mud, which I don’t want; I want an overlay of burnt umber and sepia with glimmers of yellow shining through, because that’s what I see in the plumage of the study skins I’m working from.

Here, in the upper left corner, is the male I thought would work for the “iconic bird of the year,” but the general consensus at ABA HQ was that the pose was a bit odd. In the end, the pose was deemed too outré for use on a sticker or patch, so I drew another male (also from the same batch of life sketches) in a more typical and easily interpreted pose for this application.
That’s OK. I’m used to having my better ideas not work out in the end. Like having a flock on the cover…

I'm always saving something back for dessert. In this case it's the pink apple blossoms.

The painting's almost done, with pink apple blossoms painted in. I’ve done a bit of glazing of Chinese white on the birds to give their plumage a sheen, and shadowed the whites in their wings as well. They’re eating apple blossoms, something grosbeaks like to do in spring.

Here's a more saturated photo of the piece. Juicing up the blacks usually helps any painting.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk through the process of creating Birding’s new cover and its Bird of the

Stay tuned for information on purchasing this painting! No fooling! Proceeds go to evening grosbeak conservation.


Evening Grosbeak conservation....goes right along with the Sandhill Crane chapter of your book the Bluebird Effect that I read last night. Big emphasis on conservation. I love how your mind always works towards solutions.

Kathy in Delray Beach

Posted by Anonymous April 3, 2012 at 5:18 AM

Yea! I've been holding my breath waiting to see the Finis! It was definitely worth the wait! Thank you for sharing your talents with us.

Posted by Anonymous April 3, 2012 at 9:29 AM

"juicing up the blacks." In video, we call it "crushing the peds." Same result. Confers a lot of clarity and depth, no?

I love the pose/attitude of the bird on the left... "who YOU looking at???"... just beautiful.

I was just going back over all the grosbeak posts, and you know? I liked it in the Ghost Grosbeaks phase, too!

I visited the new ABA location in Delaware with a group and saw this wonderful painting in one of the offices. I remembered your post and was glad to find it so I could tell you how lovely it looked there!

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