Part 10: Creating a Critter from My Mind

The yucky pink/purple beak color is now covered with a thin layer of muted orange (which worked beautifully for the lower eyelids).

Fine sandpaper wrapped around the end of a paintbrush handle and taped in place, is perfect for making major changes to small paintings. The old beak color (lower image below) had to be sanded a little to get rid of all the bumps created by the pointillism technique used for its original shading. The paint “dust” caused by the sanding is then washed off with a wet paper towel. Two minutes later, the lovely smooth surface is dry and ready for a new layer of paint.

When you draw/paint any subject that leans to the right or left, make sure that all its parts slant at the same angle. Note the white guidelines painted on the main section of the beak to help me stay on track.

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Part 9: Creating a Critter from My Mind

Hawk was just way too dark and scary (lower image below), so I lightened both her eyes and eyelids (upper image ). I also tried a muted orange color on her lower eyelids, which seems to suit her beautifully.

BUT! Now, the color of her beak looks totally wrong. The following short lesson in color theory explains the problem:

  1. Alizarin Crimson (a red) contains a wee bit of blue and was used to mix the beak colors (when mixed together, red and blue create purple).
  2. Most of her fur/feather colors are mixed with yellow. Yellow and purple are complementary colors and when placed beside one another, both appear brighter.
  3. The beak now looks a yucky purple/pink and sticks out like a sore thumb (pun intended). The beak’s shadow sections demonstrate the “purple problem”.

Thankfully, painting with acrylics is like putting on makeup – super fast and easy to change.

I have authored several lessons on painting. These two are FREE until Sept 12, 2017:

Painting Supplies for Beginners: Selecting painting surfaces, brushes, soap, palette knives, palettes, and paints

https://www.drawspace.com/lessons/1431/overview/painting-supplies-for-beginners

Color Theory for Beginners: Introduction to the fundamentals of color theory for painters.

https://www.drawspace.com/lessons/1438/overview/color-theory-for-beginners

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Part 8: Creating a Critter from My Mind

So close to being finished! The final step is to go back over everything from top to bottom and touch up sections I don’t like. Yeah!

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Part 7: Creating a Critter from My Mind

Here’s Hawk – an emu with pink and yellow hair! The values used for this under painting (including the beak’s forms) are based on a frontal light source from the upper right. As an aside, this painting is only 8 by 10 in.

The beak needs to be in the foreground (closest to the viewer) of the painting and will be the last part to finish. By first completing the background and middle ground (everything but the beak), I can then “move” the beak farther toward the foreground by painting it with stronger values, brighter colors, and more detailed textures.

The eyes are the focal point and their black sections will eventually be lightened. For now, the black enables me to determine my overall range of values in between white and black.

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Part 6: Creating a Critter from My Mind

It’s a girl! Humans don’t get to choose the gender of their offspring – but artists can. She’s developing a personality already, even though no section of the painting is completely finished.

Note the tiny vertical marks along the faint white guideline close to the top of her tilted head. This guideline is horizontal to the tops of her eyes (not the sides of the canvas). The curved lines represent vertical guides for painting some sort of hair extensions. The straight vertical line in the center is a guide so these new strands of hair are relatively symmetrical. Now – what colors shall I mix for the extensions? Yeah!

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Part 5: Creating a Critter from My Mind

Painting from your imagination provides opportunities to experiment with different techniques. Most experiments are a dismal failure, but some result in happy accidents. When you are happy with an experiment, you have learned a new technique to add to your repertoire of skills.

My favorite brush for painting fur/feathers is a script liner – especially for simultaneously painting both texture and form. The critter’s forehead appears to be both furry and three dimensional. An under-painting of the beak establishes form with several values of pink/red.

Tip: Never place a script liner brush (or other soft brush) sitting on its hairs in a container of water. If the hairs become permanently curved, the brush is ruined. Also, avoid soap that contains oil or moisturizer – oil and acrylics don’t mix (just as oil and water don’t mix).

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Part 4: Creating a Critter from My Mind

Where are all the emus with green eyes? Maybe they live on another planet. But – as an artist, I can bring a green-eyed emu to life on my canvas!

Eyes are surprisingly easy to paint (and draw). Simply add the three basic ingredients (pupil, iris, and highlight) to a roundish shape. The upper image shows a base coat that provides a blueprint for painting (ignore the lighter color painted on the wrong side of the iris). The second layer of paint fixes my mistake and almost covers the white of the canvas. The lower image is closer to a believable eye. The “dots” in the iris are painted with a fun technique called stippling and a range of different yellow and green hues.

When working with layers of acrylic paint, make sure the mixed paint is thin. Painting fine details over top of dried lumps of paint is not fun! Thankfully, a light sanding with a small piece of fine sandpaper flattens the lumps and prepares the section for more paint.

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Part 3: Creating a Critter from My Mind

Creating an artwork from your imagination is like driving a car in a foreign country without a destination – you never know where you’re going to end up.

My background colors have already changed! The old fur (feather) colors were too similar to the previous background. By adding a little green, the fur stands out better.

Experienced artists have their favorite brushes and techniques for painting fur. I love my liners (scrip liners) – they hold lots of thinned paint and can make lines that begin wide and taper off to points. Simply apply pressure to the brush when you start the line and gradually ease off until the lines ends at a point. If your painting is small, rotate the canvas so you’re always using only sideways and downward strokes.

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Part 2: Creating a Critter from My Mind

Using oils to paint a smoothly-blended, multi-colored background is relatively easy because of their lengthy drying time. On the down side, additional layers can’t be added to the background for a few days. Conversely, acrylics dry within minutes and therefore entail a different painting approach.

Thin layers of acrylic paint can be added over one another as soon as the paint dries (15-30 minutes). You can even “erase” (paint over) mistakes and sections you don’t like.

If you want to slow down the drying process, mix a little “retarder” (manufactured by Golden) into each paint color. However, make sure you thoroughly mix the retarder into the paint or you’ll end up with lumps (paint that didn’t get any thinner).

By working the background with layers of thinned paint, I can simply play with values and colors. The background colors are similar to those I plan to use for the emu’s fur/feathers (yellows and browns).  I begin with a few thin base coats to establish preliminary values and colors (which will no doubt change as I work).

My chosen light source is from the upper frontal right. I plan to paint the background’s darker values behind the emu’s lightest values (on the upper right and right side). Conversely, the lighter values need to be behind the darkest values (on the lower left and left side).

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Part 1: Creating a Critter from My Mind

On a personal note, I started this painting over two years ago but encountered additional vision problems (I’ve always been blind in one eye and now the other eye is giving problems). Being somewhat stubborn, giving up is not an option.

Creating drawings and paintings without any references is extremely enjoyable. You begin with nothing – in this case an empty canvas. Emus and ostriches are irresistible, silly-looking critters that always make me smile. My blank mind soon had a drawing of an emu on my blank canvas (at least I think it’s an emu).

I haven’t painted for a long time. The drawing part was easy; the painting itself will be challenging. My brushes are dusted off and ready to go!

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