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Bird Painting 101: Wire-tailed Manakins

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Got myself a commission this past winter to paint wire-tailed manakins for an ornithologist who studies them. I love painting for ornithologists. I love it because it makes me ever so careful to get every particular right, and that appeals to the Science Chimp in me.

He wanted something that would look like a field guide plate, with a couple of behaviors, the varying plumage stages of the  male, the female and nest included. Why, it would be a pleasure! I adore manakins, and have painted a few of them and even gotten to ogle some at length in the wild, in Brasil, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras and Belize. I was stoked!

First, a draft.

It got reshuffled a bit.

Pencil drawings, in detail, of each bird on the watercolor paper. A map to follow. 

You have to paint the light bright colors first.

Laying in the blacks. I decide to use a true black (Lamp Black) rather than mix one. There is no brown in this bird, no blue...he's unequivocally black, white, yellow and red. Crayon colors. Great fun to paint. 

My reference for this bird is a photo of a bird, hand-held, with its wing stretched. I have to improvise on the far wing and everything else. But I think he looks fairly convincing. Now some darks.

Add his wire tail processes. I'll explain about those in a future post. (What are they for??) And some highlights, with Chinese white. Now he pops and shines, like a real bird. Or a slightly surreal bird. Manakins are nothing if not slightly surreal.

Next: Displaying males, and a female on her nest, all falling under the Zickbrush.


this is so cool. i mean its creativity at its best. awesome piece......

Love this!!! Thanks so much for sharing your painting process on this beauty!!!

Love when you share your painting in progress! Just Love!

Kathy in Delray Beach

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