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 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!

EMU 1

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