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Yellow Bird

October 29, 2009

In my Thursday art class we are encouraged to exactly replicate a picture from a supplied photograph. Dutifully, I duplicate the demonstration: background wash, then careful detail of the main subject until the entire paper is covered. Several new, interesting, techniques have been acquired.


Hard though I tried, I did not manage to catch my creative heart before it sank to the depths of my boots each week. Although each picture I’ve produced may have been technically correct, the results rendered me miserable. So that’s why you haven’t seen any of them.

Show me a picture that appears unfinished and I’m excited. I want to make the paint dance on the paper – my pictures to look spontaneous, loose, raw and expressive. Less is more. If I HAVE to put in background detail, it must be minimal.


Easier said than done. Here’s one of the cards I made to wish my friends a ‘hoppy birdie’. Looks simple? This was my eighth attempt. But, with plenty of excellent, helpful advice from my art teacher, (Doh! It’s amazing what happens when you actually communicate properly with a person, rather than expect them to mind-read) I achieved what I was after in the end and I’m pleased with this picture at last.

Using the unpredictable wet in wet technique I first painted the entire shape of the bird’s pencil-drawn body with water. Then I lightly traced a brush loaded with pale yellow along the edge of the bird’s tummy, turned the paper upside down and watched as the yellow found it’s way towards the head, fading as it traveled. I added a splodge of darker yellow, a dab of orange and finally yellow ochre. Pleasingly, they melded together without much persuasion. Once dry I pulled the image together with dark brown ink.


  1. October 29, 2009 5:00 pm

    Your way to hard on yourself, you create beautiful work and yet constantly bringing yourself down about it.
    I just hope that you don’t bring yourself to the point of not creating and enjoying anymore.
    Keep smiling and keep creating, your fantastic at both!

    • October 29, 2009 5:31 pm

      Oops! I actually left out a line (now added) saying I was happy 😀 with this little canary bird – that small line changes the entire post I think.

      Apologies if I came across as negative, it was meant to be about my rebellion at conforming to accepted ways of painting….thankyou for your comments and don’t worry, I do really enjoy my art now, thanks to a good friend who thoughtfully gave me a book that helped clear away all the mental blockages I had.

  2. October 29, 2009 5:03 pm

    owwww, man you are so most and diferently cool ideas!!!! 🙂

  3. October 29, 2009 6:11 pm

    BRAVO for you, JUNE! What your inner self is trying to tell you is actually not a mistruth about art. You are using your feeling center to say that you do not wish to have everything explained to you.You wish to be given credit for having some feeling and intelligence about the art that you are viewing.Thus, as an artist, you wish to give your viewers the essence of what you are rendering. Doing too much and not knowing when to quit is the noose around many artists’ necks. Bravo for you for realizing that you wish to create interesting art and not an encyclopedia for viewers to slug their way through. Love the techniques you explored to get your bird. It is lovely. Classes are for you to glean these kind of truths from. Love the soft remnants of line left in this bird that give it the suggestion of movement.

    • October 29, 2009 6:58 pm

      Leslie, Leslie. You are so encouraging. I knew I could rely on you to put a constructive spin on things. It’s not easy knowing when to stop, something we all probably struggle with occasionally. That sound? It’s me patting myself on the back.

      • October 29, 2009 9:03 pm

        Pat away. It takes some people years to discover what you have.

  4. October 29, 2009 10:59 pm

    May I respectfully suggest the following:

    1. this art class is not for you. If they make you dutifully copy pictures well, that sounds boring and you are not boring, nor is your work!
    2. methinks you need to see your work how we see your work. WITH JOY AND EXCITEMENT!

    I was so happy to see your new post and your bird, which is exquisite! Another image that sings with personality. Let Audubon paint exact birds and you can paint the fun, alive birds with oomph!

    I love that yellow too! Thanks for showing us your bird. I would love to see the bird you did for glass if you don’t mind showing us. : )

    • October 30, 2009 6:28 pm

      Oh, and I forgot to say….THANKS FOR NOT GIVING US THE BIRD! I wonder if that translates in British English? or is it just American English?

    • October 30, 2009 10:57 pm

      :mrgreen: :mrgreen: Carol you do make me larf and you’re TOO KIND. I really appreciate your lovely comment, thank you.

      I do enjoy the art class – just impatient to make the same rapid progress you have with yours – but need to accept that the tedious bits are necessary and worthwhile. At the end of May I’ll surely be singing a different tune. If I can’t bear to put the first bird on here I’ll e-mail it to you.

      Is this another one of those times when you think of the comment after the event? …And promise not to flip you the bird – you twit!

  5. October 30, 2009 12:19 am

    It’s such a happy bird! Love the yellow, it sings! Like the bird! If you will!

    Well, it sounds like the class was useful, both in that you learned a bunch of new tools, and also honed your sense of what images you do and do not want to make, so hey, time productively spent.

    Your voice is just getting stronger and stronger, and I love watching it all unfold. Somehow, it doesn’t come as a surprise that you love spontaneity in an image. It’s a very June thing!

    • October 30, 2009 10:44 pm

      Thanks Anya – it’s true that I am learning and having fun. Ditto! I get a big thrill seeing you soak your lessons up like a sponge and blossoming forth as with your Big Ass Drawing.

      Is that another way of telling me I’m compulsively impulsive? 😉

  6. Deva permalink
    October 30, 2009 11:43 am

    I love that this is an image of a bird – and just a bird. It looks so beautiful and chubby (like birds should).

    • October 30, 2009 10:45 pm

      He’s fluffed up his feathers and looks quite cuddly, doesn’t he? Not sure why I’ve decided that the bird is a male. Anyway, thank you Deva.

  7. November 1, 2009 3:10 am

    Great birdie! I sometimes like at least a suggested background but this works so well with no background.

    • November 9, 2009 9:34 am

      Thanks Bill 🙂 Leslie assures me I’ll start doing backgrounds when I’m ready – she’s always right.

  8. November 1, 2009 7:39 pm

    I totally agree: less is better. And this bird is spectacular, delicate, vibrant, beautiful… and does not need anything else. I lOVE it ! Way to go!!

  9. threadsoftears permalink
    November 4, 2009 5:18 pm

    Hello…how relieved I am to find you and your work. This yellow bird…if I were blessed to hear it and see it on my fire escape as I look out my window each morning… I think I would start to sing and hope that it would return each morning to wake me….how corny did I sound? It was not intentional… it was good to read that you were happy with your work, that you were pleased with your efforts ..the process and the end result. I am very new to blogging and am searching to find writing and art that reflect ones interest in being mindful and need to continue with working. I appreciate your honesty regarding your struggles. Your entries on Self-doubt and hunger were incredibly raw and inviting …yes the two need not be mutually exclusive. I look forward to your continuation of your work. Steph

  10. November 4, 2009 6:07 pm

    Just happened to visit your site. Very Nice! Will be coming back for more.

  11. Deva permalink
    November 11, 2009 10:02 am

    Will you check out my blog for a challenge? 🙂

    • November 12, 2009 5:06 pm

      Good thinking Deva and well done, hope it goes well – but believe me, just getting a picture up on my own blog is challenge enough for me at the moment.


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