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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