Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Where have you gone, Mr. Robin...

I don't know about you, but I am extremely ready for spring.  We have had snow on the ground since October 22 - that is five months of winter.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm glad it is melting slowly.  No one needs flooding.  But ohhh how I long to dig in the dirt and stick my naked toes in the green grass.  Or even just smell the green grass and hear the birds sing their spring songs.  I guess we got a little spoiled with some easy winters and early springs a couple of years ago.  Hopefully we will reap the payoff with fewer bugs this summer. 

I saw a few robins back in February along the side of the road.  But, so far, I haven't seen a single one in our yard. (Just as well, I am sure, since it would be pretty hard to dig for worms in the frozen ground.)  So I decided to paint my own 'sign of spring'.

I used a photo I found on the internet on a Wikipedia page about state birds.  I first drew the bird freehand, but then I wasn't satisfied with the proportions so I went ahead and printed out the photo sized for my watercolor paper and traced the outline.  Lazy, I know, but using a computer to size things is just too darn easy - and quick.  And I wanted to get on with the painting.

Before layering the light washes on the background
Once I had the image outlined on the paper, I wet the background and added color.  My initial attempt looked very splotchy so I went over the entire background with a couple of light washes of Ultramarine Blue to blend and smooth things a bit.  I made sure the painting was completely dry (using a small hair dryer) before adding the washes and dried the paper again between each layer.

Here are some photos of how the background looked before and after I added the washes.  Big improvement and now the background doesn't distract from the main attraction - Mr. Robin.

After adding two light washes of Ultramarine Blue.

Before painting the robin, I applied masking fluid around the eye and on the white areas of his breast to retain the whites.  The white areas on his wings (feathers) I was able to create by picking up the paint with a slightly damp brush.  Here again, you want to make sure the painting is dry and that you are using a brush that is very clean and just slightly moist.  I use the chisel edge of a small flat brush for this.

I always use good watercolor paper even if it is just a small or experimental project.  You can't learn technique on cheap paper - it only frustrates you.  My favorite is Aquarelle Artist grade paper or Kilimanjaro, which is a brand sold by Cheap Joe's.  Both are excellent.

Here's hoping everyone has a beautiful Spring - and soon!  As always, thanks for stopping and I would love to hear from you if you have time to leave a comment.


  1. Hi Cathy, couldn't believe that you've had snow for so long - I don't know how you cope - I hate the stuff!

    Your robin is stunning, love your background treatments and your beautiful bird is full of life and character. With painting skills like these you really MUST give art journaling a try.

    Hope spring comes quickly, but not too quickly! Hugs MMx

  2. Love the way you've created the background for your beautiful Robin Cathy. Hope you get Spring very soon. Jenny x

  3. Hi Cathy, glad you liked my pages - Happy Easter to you and yours too. Hugs MMx


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