This weekend I FINALLY started the follow up piece to Hannah the Cow. It’s another watercolour on wood painting – this time featuring a rooster. Unlike the previous painting, this guy is a real-life animal named Ethan Hawk! He is a resident of a local animal sanctuary that a friend of mine volunteers at. I just love his feather colouring, and as soon as I saw his photo, I knew he would be the perfect model for my painting!
To get the ball rolling on this piece, I started with several rough drafts. My main concern was drawing him big enough to see the detail in his face, but small enough so his entire body fits on the wood board. I probably went through five or six drafts before I got it right. I typically start with the face, but when I did that I repeatedly kept drawing him too big. To help me get the sizing just right, I drew him as a stick figure and then drew and outline around that before adding details. This is my go to method for composition, positioning, and proportions when I work on difficult pieces or limited spaces.
I admit, the grid method would have been prefect for this, however, I don’t like to use it. It’s not a bad technique at all, and professionals use it too, it’s just a matter of personal preference. If you find yourself struggling with the same issues I did, I totally recommend giving the grid method a try.
Since I didn’t trust myself to redraw him again, onto the wood, I cheated and used some carbon transfer paper to transfer the draft I drew on paper onto the wood. Carbon transfer paper is great for when you have a solid draft and do not feel confident in recreating it a second time. It’s also great for surfaces that are hard to sketch on like canvas or wood.
It was mega-important for me to get his face perfect and for his personality to live with in the art. Since I had placed such intense pressure on myself to do so (kind of a bad habit, to be honest), I went ahead and started with that part first. I figured that way, if I messed up beyond repair, I wouldn’t have invested too much time into it until that point. There have been times when I’ve put several hours into a piece only to hit the point of no return – ultimately having to completely scrap a failed artwork that I had already spent hours working on.
Thankfully, Mr. Ethan Hawk’s face came out great! It was a little rough going at times though. An especially textured part of the wood runs right through his face, so getting those fine hair thin lines was not easy. I think I spent about four or five hours just working on his face. I built up layers of different reds, oranges, and yellow to create the crest and area around his eye with thick consistency white to create highlights.
Having success with his face was a total boost of confidence going forward with the rest of the piece. I felt like I could breathe easy…and I did for a minute before getting into the yellow feathers of this neck, lol. Wowzers, I mega-struggled with those! I hate to say it, but I had no clue on how to go about them. The process was totally trial-and-error. Yellow watercolour is so completely transparent, and I struggled with depicting the definition of each feather without the whole area just being grey mess. I internally freaked out a number of times while working on them, but I kept at it until I was able to get it right! I’m still not too sure how I achieved that, but I guess that’s just the magic of art, lol.
After his neck, I moved onto his wing. Basically, I’m working my way down and around to his tail feathers. The brown feathers were a little easier to paint than the yellow ones, but not by much! I mostly faced the same challenges of figuring out how to create definition and shading with feathers stacked on top of each other. I find the dark colour of the wood makes creating subtle shading difficult.
Currently this bird is paused at the half way mark, though I do hope to complete him this week. I would like to keep a flower motif going, as I did with Hannah the Cow. I’ve thought about adding small flowers around his neck and in this tail feathers, but we’ll see. I may only use flowers on the ground with some green clover around his feet.
I love artwork that has me stretching out my artist chops and seeing how far I can push my talent. I hope you guys enjoy it too! Enjoyment is the gold coin of an artist’s heart. 🙂