Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dawn Patrol - Prairie Falcon

Dawn Patrol-prairie falcon 11 x 14 acrylic
 Just as the sun kisses the earth with it's first fiery rays of the morning, a prairie falcon takes flight. She is hungry and hoping for an easy meal before the heat of the summer sun causes her prey to take cover for the day. 

It's finally finished! I put the last few finishing touches on it just this morning, then put the brush down and stepped away. It's easy to over-work a painting and you can always see just one more little spot to tweak. This has been a wonderfully challenging painting to attempt, but I'm glad I did because, as always, I learned so much. Since I started this project as a work in progress here on my blog I thought I'd show the last few steps.

When I left off I was just transferring the bird to the board.
And this is where I finished it. This is also as far as I had envisioned it to go. I don't always get a complete idea when the inspiration hits. All I knew was it was suppose to have this spectacular sunrise with a prairie falcon. It's not bad this way, but it could be stronger. My art critic husband said it was beautiful, but needed some definition in the foreground. He was right again!
 I went back to my reference photos I shot that day and also referred to my knowledge of the habitat of those canyons. They are mostly grasses of various kinds, rabbit brush, and a sprinkling of wild sunflowers. Again using chalk I sketched some sunflowers and rabbit brush on the painting. Because of the gloss sealer I could sketch without worry of ruining my painting as the chalk would just wipe off. When I was satisfied with the placement I started to paint in the plants.
Here it is almost finished. Using the chalk I made some hash marks to indicate small stems of grass. When I apply the acrylic paint the chalk just disappears.
The finished piece has a lot going on in it now. Your eye travels around looking at the various elements. I hope you can get an idea of the breadth and depth of the canyons where this prairie falcon lives.The photo does not do justice to the warmth of the piece as it appears to glow, which is exactly what I was hoping to achieve. Of course, I'm not taking full credit for how it's turned out as it was, I believe, Divinely inspired, so the one who inspired it surely gave me  the ability to paint it. 
Thanks for joining me on this little painting journey. Now, I wonder, what my next inspiration will be?
This and many of my other paintings is available through my Daily Paintworks site. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Progress on the prairie falcon

W.I.P. Prairie falcon paper cut-out
In my last post I had nearly finished the landscape portion of my painting and was planning on using an airbrush to add a slight haze in the background to mute the colors and create more depth. It was a good idea, but I nearly ruined all my hard work in the attempt. Actually, the airbrushing worked out pretty well and did what I had anticipated it would. It was when I brushed on a sealer coat over the top of it that things went south on me. Either I had not let it dry long enough or the acrylic ink I used was thinned too much or maybe something else, but when I started to brush on the gloss medium to seal it the layer of haze lifted and started to smear all over my painting. In a panic I grabbed a tissue and tried to quickly wipe it off, but the tissue started leaving lint all over and it was drying rapidly. Next I grabbed a large brush and started flooding the whole thing with water and finally was able to remove the whole mess. Thank goodness, I had sealed the landscape with gloss medium prior to airbrushing because it protected my previous painting and left the surface just slick enough to give me time to remove it before it dried completely. (***Note to time I airbrush in an atmospheric haze, airbrush the sealer over the top instead of brushing it on.) Geesh!
Transferring the drawing
After I regained my composure from my near catastrophe I worked on my sketch for the falcon. Using a paper cut-out for placement and size I transferred my drawing to the painting by rubbing chalk on the back and tracing over it. Next I used some thinned down paint to outline the tracing on the painting so it wouldn't rub off.
First washes on the falcon
The falcon is painted using thin washes to begin with just to get the bird down. Over the next few days I will add increasingly opaque layers, adjusting for value and warmth as I go. My hope is that it will look like the sun is glowing through the feathers when it's done. We'll see how well I do.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Inspiration and Seredipity

 A few weeks ago I took a drive to find a common nighthawk that was seen roosting on a fence rail. It was a long shot that the bird would still be there, but being a crazy birder and never having seen a nighthawk that wasn't careening wildly overhead catching bugs, I thought it would be exciting to see one sleeping. So, armed with my camera, off I went to locate the beast. Of course, the bird was no longer there, but the trip was not a total loss. As I drove past wheat fields, scrub grass and steep canyons another bird caught my eye. 
Prairie falcon
A prairie falcon was perched on a pole looking for breakfast. I slowed the car down to a crawl, readied the camera and as I rolled to a stop the bird took flight. Amazingly, I was able to snap several photos that were somewhat in focus as it flew past me and disappeared. Ah, serendipity! Suddenly, I forgot all about the nighthawk and got an inspiration for a painting with the prairie falcon. I hurried home to do a sketch while the idea was still fresh in my mind.
My initial idea was to have the falcon cruising over the canyons looking for a meal in early morning light. Checking my photo references I found one of a canyon I sort of liked, but the lighting was all wrong and I didn't like the way it laid out in my thumbnail sketches. I was going to need different references. Now I was on a mission. I needed the perfect canyon with the perfect light. At 4:30 a.m. the next morning I was heading out to try to catch the light at daybreak that would match my vision.

It was a very warm morning and as I wound my way up the canyon the sun broke over the horizon and I was confronted with the most spectacular sunrise!
I pulled over, snapped a few photos and continued to the top to look for my "perfect" light and canyon. As I was driving I was praying for God to help me find the reference I needed to complete the inspiration He had given me for the prairie falcon. In spite of my early departure the light changed rapidly and I searched in vain for the perfect scene. I took some photos, but they didn't meet my expectations. Finally, I gave up and headed for home a bit disappointed that I was unable to find what I needed. 

Ah, but God had smiled on me while I was out there. Though I didn't realize it at the time he had given me the perfect sunrise and the perfect canyon. 
Sunrise over the L-C valley
 Back at home I loaded the photos on my laptop and there was the beautiful sunrise I had seen. I knew instantly that this was the reference I needed to use. I had envisioned a soft, low light for the painting, but clearly this sunrise was the answer to my prayer with it's fiery colors

Over the next few days I considered how I was going to use this sunrise with my prairie falcon. I decided to flip the photo horizontally to match the lighting in my falcon reference. I did a few more thumbnail sketches to firm up the composition, laid down some initial washes in acrylic and used paper cut-outs of varying sizes to get a feel for the correct size and placement of the bird.

Since painting landscapes is not my strongest talent I proceeded slowly, building up color in glazes and washes until I felt I had the correct values. 
Painting this way also allowed some of the previous layers to show through which added a sense of depth and luminosity.
This was where I stopped this afternoon. At this point I'm liking the direction it's heading. I like the warmth that it's taking on, but I can see the colors are a little intense. I think my next step will be to use an airbrush to soften the background and give it that hazy depth of a summer morning on what promises to be a very hot day. After that it's on to the foreground, then finally the falcon and with any luck it will come close to the inspiration that was given to me.