Acrylics: Crimson Rosella (demonstration)

I’ve painted a few crimson Rosellas in watercolour over the years. It’s hard to resist the beautiful deep red of their feathers with those soft, almost fluorescent blue highlights. I thought it would be nice to paint one in acrylics for a change.

Chroma Atelier Free Flow Acrylics:
-Pyrrole Red
-French Ultramarine Blue
-Phthalo Green
-Yellow Ochre
-Carbon Black

Golden Fluid Acrylics:
-Titanium White
-Quinacridone Magenta
-Primary Cyan
-Burnt Sienna

Generally you can use whatever brushes you have and are comfortable with using, though I would suggest some sort of synthetic (eg. golden Taklon) bristles. This is what I used:
Ebony Splendor Rounds (sizes 0, 2 and 4)
-Ebony Splendor Flats (sizes 2, 6, 10 and 12)

A small (size 4 or 6) Filbert brush would also be useful if you have one. I do but it’s old and ratty with hairs sticking out at odd angles, so I didn’t end up using it.

Mont Marte Canvas Panel (5″ X 7″).

Step 1

Start with a heavily watered down puddle of French Ultramarine Blue (to be honest it doesn’t really matter what colour you use here, I just choose blue). Using a size 2 or 4 round brush, draw in the outline of the Rosella and the branch he’s sitting on. Once everything is outlined, use this same colour to block in the blue areas of the bird. Make a similarly watery puddle of Pyrrole Red and Quinacridone Magenta to wash in the red areas of the bird, then put in his eye with a thinned down Carbon Black. It doesn’t matter too much if the red and blue areas overlap a little as you will go over it with thicker, more opaque paint anyway; this is just to cover the white of the canvas and give you an idea of where the final colours will go. Block in the branch with a watery wash of Burnt Sienna.

For the background, pour out separate little blobs of Phthalo Green and Yellow Ochre on your palette, leaving an inch or two of space between them. Bring some of each colour into the middle and make a soupy wash out of it; this will give you a light, yellowish green. Make another puddle of a similar colour but with more Phthalo Green added, to give a darker, leafy green. Wash these colours into the background with a large flat brush, starting in the middle with the yellow-green and blending out into the darker green. Again, you’ll be covering this up with thicker paint, so it doesn’t matter if it isn’t exactly right as long as you have a nice, naturally gradated background.

Step 2
Pour out larger puddles of Yellow Ochre and Phthalo Green and make similar mixtures as you did for Step 1, but this time don’t dilute the paint with water. Once again starting in the middle, upper left and bottom right, brush in the yellow-green with soft, crisscrossing strokes to avoid making it look to uniform, blending out into a mix of Phthalo Green with only a hint of Yellow Ochre in the top right and bottom left corners. If it was a bigger painting you might want more detail in the background, but since it’s only small I didn’t want it to detract from the bird, so I went with an abstract representation of foliage. Mix Titanium White, Burnt Sienna and a small amount of Carbon Black to get a dull, pale brown, and use this to block in the branch the Rosella is perched on.

Step 3
At this point I decided the top right and bottom left corners needed to be darker still, so I brushed in some pure Phthalo Green, feathering the strokes so it blended into the dark olive green from Step 2. For the branch, mix up various shades of brown, using Burnt Sienna, Titanium White and a little French Ultramarine Blue for the darkest shades. Using the size 6 flat brush on its side, add strokes of the different browns along the branch, following its slight curves. Switch between the colours, overlapping them and making sure the greyish brown undercoat is completely covered. Use more of the darker browns along the shadowed underside of the branch, while saving the lighter browns for the top part. Using a mixture of white with only a tiny amount of brown, add a few strokes along the very top of the branch for the highlights. Add a few strokes of dark brown around where the smaller twig grows out of the main branch to show its rounded shape and help differentiate it from the rest of the branch. Finally, mix French Ultramarine Blue with Titanium White to start painting in the blue areas of the bird (add a little more white for the highlights under the beak, along the front of the wing and on the left side of the tail).

Step 4
Mix a bit of Quinacridone Magenta into some Pyrrole Red for a deep crimson (the red you should end up with should be a cool red, not a warm red). Use this for the rest of the bird’s body (don’t worry if you cover his eye a bit, you’ll paint it in more detail at the end). Don’t forget his leg, just visible under his wing. Using some Carbon Black mixed with either Phthalo Blue or Ultramarine (you want a dark colour but not straight black), paint in his little foot. Add a bit of white to this colour to add the highlights on the top of the foot.

Now it’s time to build up more variation in the bird’s blue feathers. Add a thin line of diluted Carbon Black for the shadow under the wing, blending it down to avoid having a harsh, solid line (most of this will be covered by blue paint but enough will show through to indicate the soft shadow). In Step 4, we mixed French Ultramarine Blue with Titanium White for the base blue colour, but it has a bit too much of a violet tint (it almost looks like a pale lilac rather than blue). For this stage, add some Primary Cyan into your French Ultramarine for a more intense blue, and then add varying amounts of Titanium White. Most of the tail should be quite dark (aside from the highlight along the left and a tiny bit on the top right), as well the tips of the wings. Use a mid blue mix for the majority of the wings and for most of the blue cheek spot. Mix in more Primary Cyan and a lot more Titanium White, so create a more vibrant blue for the lightest areas along the outer edge of the wing and just under the beak.

Step 5
It’s time to put in the dark markings on the Rosella’s wings. Mix some French Ultramarine Blue and Primary Cyan in one blob on your palette, and then pour out a blob of Carbon Black nearby. Pull some of each blob into the middle and mix so you have a dark blue-black, but don’t worry about mixing it too thoroughly; it’s good to have the marks vary from being dark blue to almost black. At this point you could use your Filbert brush if you have one, but mine was too badly damaged so I used a size 1 Flat instead. Starting at the Rosella’s neck, pick up the dark blues and blacks and make little crescent-shaped marks to represent the feathers. Vary the size of these slightly, but make sure they follow the contours of the bird’s body. As you get lower, make some of the marks longer and wider. For the edges of the wings, use longer, wider strokes to show the long wing feathers. Add the thick dark mark along the bird’s upper wing with some of your blue-black (make it lean more towards blue than black). Water down a little of this blue-black and, using the smallest Round or Flat brush you have, draw in a faint line along the tail to show the divide between the tail feathers (you may also want to darken the shadow under the wing, as I did). At this point, I also darkened the bottom edge of the bird’s blue cheek with a little more Primary Cyan.

Add some white to the blue-black mixture and add the highlight along the upper part of the tail feather divide, then water this down even further and add some highlights to the edges of the dark blue-black feathers. Mix a tiny amount of Carbon Black into some Titanium White to get a very pale grey and use this to define the beak. Make it slightly darker and draw the oval shape for the Rosella’s eyelids. Then, once this is dry, paint in the eye with solid Carbon Black. Add the highlight to the top right corner of the bird’s eye in an almost-white light grey. Take the Pyrrole Red and Quinacridone Magenta mix you used for the bird’s body and add a tiny amount of Primary Cyan to get a dark brownish purple, then use this to shade the red area around the bird’s beak. To add the subtle background lighting around the edge of the bird’s feathers, mix a watery puddle of Titanium White. Then, using a dry brush, softly feather this white around the outside of the bird along the top of its head, down its back and on its chest. Finally, add the shadows under the Rosella’s tail and foot with a watery grey mix of French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna.

All that’s left to do now is to sign your name, which you can do with a dark green mix of Phthalo Green and Yellow Ochre in the lower right corner.

Now the painting is finished! I hope you’ve enjoyed painting this crimson Rosella. These lovely Australian birds are a wonderful subject for beginners as they are not too challenging to paint, but still look beautiful.

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