Yesterday, I watched a Golden Eagle swooping down over some ducks on the Yellowstone River. Truly magnificent birds! Their shear size and subtle coloring give them such a regal look. A good quality to try to capture in paint.
Today, I had the opportunity to study a Golden Eagle at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center. Since my last blog post was about how to create a studio painting, here we'll look at creating a quick head study...
I chose to paint the Golden Eagle study on Arches Oil Paper. I've recently tried this paper... and really like it! It's a nice thick high quality paper made to accept oil paints with no preparation required. It comes in a pad where you can tear out the individual sheets. Here I just clipped the entire pad of paper onto my easel. Quick and easy for a study...
First, I paint a rough line drawing of the overall shapes using a mixture of transparent oxide red and ultramarine blue with a touch of titanium zinc white. I wanted a color that would blend in well with the overall colors of the eagle. In the end, I didn't want this outline color to stand out. With a small brush, I draw the outline of the eagle directly on the Oil Paper.
Next, I began with the beak and eye - focal points of the painting that need to be 'right on' for it all to come together. I also indicate the important dark shadow under the chin which will set it all off in the end.... I hope :)
Continuing, I'm always thinking about creating form with tones of light and dark, warm and cool. With a very dark colored bird like this, I really look hard for changes in tone where I can create form and interest... under the wing, the lower cheek, etc.
Quick studies, such as this one, have taught me a lot over the years. Not only am I learning the anatomy of the Golden Eagle intimately, but also the mechanics of mixing the paint and applying it to the paper. I do believe improving your art skill is just a matter of putting in your painting miles and flexing your drawing muscles often. I certainly try to put in my time - and quick studies like this can be an enjoyable and refreshing way to "practice"!
A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, and some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people. Edgar Degas