Watercolours: Hummingbird (demonstration)

Any time I get new art supplies, I’m always looking for an excuse to use them in a painting. After I bought a limited edition Pearl Metallic box of Schmincke watercolours, I wanted to paint something sparkly but couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t look tacky. Then I stumbled across a photo by Linda Olsen of a hummingbird I’d saved from a Facebook group I’m in (Photos for Artists) and thought its iridescent feathers would be a perfect excuse to get out my new paints. Since I took photos of my progress, I decided to compile a demonstration post. Note that if you don’t have any sparkly paints or just don’t want to use them, you can stop after Step 4.

Materials
Watercolours
Schmincke Watercolours
-Lemon Yellow
-Purple Magenta
-Mauve
-Phthalo Green
-Yellow Ochre
-Spinel Brown
-Burnt Umber
-Payne’s Grey

Schmincke Pearl Metallic Watercolours
-Yellow Light Pearl
-Red Pearl
-Magenta Pearl
-Green Pearl

Gouache
Lukas Gouache
-Chinese White

Brushes
Isabey Kolinsky Sable Round size 1
Escoda Grafilo Kolinsky Tamyr size 4
Jackson’s Raven synthetic mop size 10/0

Surface
Saunders Waterford Watercolour Paper – 300gsm Hi-White Cold Press (180X250mm)

Procedure
Step 1
After drawing the outline of the hummingbird and the branch, lay in a pale wash of Payne’s Grey over most of the bird, leaving a few areas to the left of its eye and on the upper right part of its chest white, as well as the top of its beak. While this is wet, work in some more Payne’s Grey around the bottom of the belly, blending this up to create the soft round shape. The circle around the eye should be painted with a medium concentration of grey, while the eye and underside of the beak should be almost pure paint to get a deep dark. The underside of the tail and the feet should also be very dark (but not completely black), leaving some areas around the outside of the tail, the centre of the tail feather and one edge of each toe lighter, to serve as highlights. Put a very light wash of grey over these light areas in the tail, just to bring it down from a stark white. Add a few slightly darker areas on the left of the face and then, using a fine brush and light strokes, lay in the dark areas of the hummingbird’s face.  By using overlapping crescent-shaped strokes, you can create the texture of feathers; just be sure to keep the direction consistent and follow the contours of the bird’s head and neck.

Step 2
Continue building up the feather texture using Payne’s Grey. On the left side of the bird’s head and back (and on the part of the right shoulder that’s visible), use a mixture of straight strokes and crescent strokes to create feathers, again making sure to follow the shape of the bird and leave some highlights. Darken the area above its tail and blend this up into the side. Using a lot of crescent strokes (this stage will take a while), create the feathery texture of the bird’s belly. Make the strokes more concentrated under his belly to show the darker shade, and spread them out a little more as you go up its chest. Finally, shade the branch and create bark texture using long strokes, leaving the top of the branch white (except for under the bird’s belly) and making sure the underside is darker.

Step 3
This step is basically more of the same from Step 2: keep using Payne’s Grey to build up the feathers, both the straight ones on the head, back and shoulder and the rounded ones on the chest and face. Put lots of dark strokes on the lower belly and on the neck area directly under the beak, and fill in a lighter grey above the eye. I also darkened the ring around the bird’s eye except for the lower left corner, which I left lighter, and I darkened the mark to the right of the eye. The top of the beak needs a very light wash, leaving a pure white highlight in the top centre. Add another layer of almost pure grey to the underside of the branch, particularly under the hummingbird’s belly.

At this point I got out some white gouache to restore a little of the highlight areas around the edge of the tail and on the right side of the feet. I also created the fluffy texture of the belly by using light feathery strokes and following the contour of the bird’s shape. I also used a thin mixture of the white gouache to define some of the shapes in the bird’s tail.

Step 4
Now that we’ve build up the texture and tone of the hummingbird and the branch, it’s time to add some little bits of colour. For the branch, mix a thin wash of Yellow Ochre and Spinel Brown and wash this over the top half of the branch, then wash a medium concentration of Burnt Umber along the bottom half, letting them blend. This will give you a natural gradation between the colours, with the grey underpainting providing the texture. Let this dry, and then wash some more burnt umber over most of the bird’s tail, leaving the centre of the tail feather and some of the edges light.

If you haven’t saved highlights here, use white gouache to create a few white feather strokes in the dark area of the bird’s neck just above the shoulder and directly above the beak. Mix up some Lemon Yellow and add a tiny amount of Phthalo Green to get a bright acidic yellowish green. Use this to add some light accents along the left side of the bird’s chest and belly, just above the eye and on the right side of the neck and shoulder, over the new gouache highlights.

Mix some Purple Magenta and Mauve for a rich fuchsia colour. Wash this from the top of the beak up to the top of the head, letting it blend out into the grey, then create a brighter shape of this purple to the left of the eye, with a smaller, uneven shape just below and to the right. Let this dry, then mix a little more Mauve and some Payne’s Grey in and use this to make some crescent strokes over the fuchsia colour to create the feathers.

At this point, I signed the painting under the branch with Payne’s Grey, and then scanned it. While paints containing mica or other sparkly pigments look lovely in real life, they often either look awful or don’t show up at all when scanned. I wanted to have a scanned copy of this stage before I move on to add the Pearl Metallic colours. As mentioned above, if you have no iridescent paints or don’t want to use them, you can call the painting finished at this point.

(yes, I know there’s a dog hair in the top right corner. It gets into everything in our house, including our scanner, apparently :/ )

Step 5 (optional)
Mix some Red Pearl and Magenta Pearl together to create a reddish fuchsia colour. Using a fine brush and crescent shaped strokes, add some shimmery accents to some areas of the fuchsia feather on the cheek and on the face, starting above the beak and moving up along the outer edge of the bird’s head. Add a little Violet Pearl to this mix and use it to create some iridescence in the darker areas of the bird’s face (just a few; most of the shimmer should be on the cheek or the outer edge). Next, mix some Yellow Light Pearl with a small amount of Green Pearl to create an acidic yellow-green, and add this to most of the yellow-green feathers on the right side of the neck and some of the yellow-green feathers down the left side of the hummingbird’s body, again making sure your brushstrokes follow the direction of the feathers.

This concludes my hummingbird watercolour demo. I hope you had fun painting it, and remember, if you don’t have the exact supplies I’ve used, you can use whatever similar colours you already have in your palette.

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