Drawing the Eye of a Pelican

The Painting of a Pelican

This painting of a Louisiana Brown Pelican was based mostly on a photo by Shelby Townsend , but I liked the feet on another from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so modified them to drape over the edge of the post.

Here’s Shelby’s story about the day he took the photo.

Brown Pelican, by Shelby Townsend.
Photo by Shelby Townsend.

I remember taking that shot. We were riding a ferry across some small body of water somewhere in south Louisiana and he or she posed perfectly on that pole in some very good lighting so I could capture that shot… ~ Shelby Townsend

 

The Pelican’s Color Palette

These are the colors I’m using on the painting. All of them except the lapis lazuli for his eye and the French green clay I mixed with the gray are colors I made from rocks, clay, and sassafras leaves from here at Wild Ozark. The sassafras is the only plant-based paint that has good light fastness. All of the others I’ve tried have faded to nearly nothing in my sunlight tests within a few days. The sassafras actually intensified in color, and it’s my only source of really clean yellow. So far. I might find others sooner or later. But I’m happy with this one.

Getting Started

Click to enlarge.

The first thing I always have to do when I start a new painting is the eye. I’ve had the hardest time with the eye on this guy. Who knew it would be so hard to get a pelican’s eye just right?

Pelican Eyes

Turns out that a pelican has a lot of lines in his face. And his feathers go to a certain point on his face but then they stop and it’s just skin. So many little details. On my first attempt, I did a pretty decent job. I liked his blue eye.

Pelican's Eye #1. The eye as it turned out the first attempt. Not bad, but too large for a pelican.

Then I had to go and try to make it better. And what happened? Of course. I messed it up.

Messed up his eye with too much black.
Too much black.

So I erased his eye. And all of the black lines I’d added around his face. It was just too much black. I seem to have a weakness for doing that. The same thing happened with both kestrels. I can’t keep my brush out of the black.

Erased and will rework the pelican eye. Good thing the black lifts off relatively easy!
Good thing the black lifts off relatively easily!

Anyway, I got his eye erased and re-painted, and the second go around actually looks more realistic than the first, if you ask me.

Totally reworked the pelican's eye and face. Much better now.
Pelicans always have a look of ‘attitude’ about them, don’t they?

I’m using mostly Ozark colors on this Louisiana brown pelican. But I needed some blue for his eye and that’s not something I can get from our local stones. So I used a little bit of my precious lapis paint.

Moving On

Once I finished getting the pelican eye done to a point where I liked it, I began working on the bill, then his head, and finally to the color blocks for the rest of his body. Turns out that a pelican bill is pretty tricky too. There’s a lot of nuance in shape and lines, and it was very difficult to paint it in the way to make it look like what I saw in the photographs. And brown pelicans seem to come in all shades of colors with yellow, browns, black and russets. Perfect for the paints I make.

Color blocks in place on his back and belly, bill is pretty much done. Still need to add the feather details.
Color blocks in place on his back and belly, bill is pretty much done. Still need to add the feather details.

The Finished Painting

For this pelican, I did have to resort to a couple of outside colors, although they were still my own handmade watercolors. I used lapis for the blue in his eye and French green clay to give the gray the right tint.
For this pelican, I did have to resort to a couple of outside colors, although they were still my own handmade watercolors. I used lapis for the blue in his eye and French green clay to give the gray the right tint.

About the Painting

The paper  is heavyweight, sized 8″ x 10″. (Strathmore 400 series watercolor paper)

This pelican is a birthday gift for my sister. I’ve never really looked closely at a pelican before. They’re very odd looking creatures!

If you want to follow along and see the progress pics of other paintings as I do them, catch up with me over at Instagram. I’m @wildozark there too.

Have a great weekend!

Nature Drawing in Progress: American ginseng in October

Two years ago I made a nature drawing of American ginseng in October, with yellowing leaves against the dark backdrop of the Wild Ozark forest.

Repeating the Same Nature Drawing

Since that time I’ve learned a little more about certain techniques I can use with my pencils, specifically blending, and so I wanted to re-draw the picture so I can enter it into a contest.

Usually I like to scan each step as I go along with a drawing, but for this one I forgot. This one picks up at the blending of the background stage.

Background First

You can see in the image that most of the drawing hasn’t been blended, only the very bottom part.

Although I have some color on the leaves and plant itself, I have barely begun on that part of it and have a lot more color layers to add before blending for that part begins.

Nature Drawing by Madison Woods. Background stage: Beginning the blending.
Background stage: Beginning the blending.

 

 

 

Needs More Detail

Once I finished blending the ground background, I decided I wanted to add some more form to the surroundings. So I added a christmas fern, one of ginseng’s habitat companions. Now it balances out the empty woods surrounding the main object.

Looking at it from Different Perspectives

When I scan each step, I’m doing more than just recording a step in the process.

When I look at the picture in another format, like on the computer or the small screen of my phone, I can see things I didn’t see in the original.

The first image I posted showed me that the background was too empty.

The next one showed me where I have spaces that are too light or need *something*.

"Ginseng in October", a nature drawing in progress. Ground floor background blended.
Ground floor background blended.

At the base of the fern and on the lower levels of the background above the floor, it needs to be darker and I’d like some vague suggestions of more fern to the left.

Here it is again, with the background blended, after I added darker lower levels and a bent fern frond to the left.

Background finished. "Ginseng in October" nature drawing in progress.
Background finished. “Ginseng in October” nature drawing in progress.

Foreground Next

The next step will be the dried leaves at the bottom. Those two dead leaves are the foreground. Once I get those done, I’ll start working on the ginseng plant.

Halfway There

Here it is again with the dead leaves done, and the background finished. I’ve just begun working on the ginseng now.

Ginseng in October, in progress

I really like drawing autumn and winter leaves. Here’s the dead leaves, closer:

Zoomed in on the dead leaves.

Signing off for today. So far, this has been several days of work. Today was the first day I spent the entire day on it, though.

Tomorrow I should be able to get this wrapped up and I’ll post the finished scan …

And here’s the finished drawing:

Ginseng in October by Madison Woods. Prints available.

The first drawing

I didn’t know about blending at all yet when I drew this first one. But that really didn’t matter at the time to me, because I drew it in situ, and it was only meant to be a journal entry. It was late in the afternoon and dark in the woods, and finding the plant to begin with was unexpected.

ginseng in october
Ginseng in October, the nature journal entry

I’m glad I have it now to go by, since I didn’t get any photos of the plant that year. Now I can’t find the same plant at all.

The Blending Process

The blending takes a long time. It’s tedious and it makes my arm and eyes hurt if I don’t take plenty breaks. So just finishing the background alone could take several days of steady work at blending.

I’m not sure if there’s an easier way to do this step or not. I saw on one tutorial video that the artist used mineral spirits. Well, I tried that and it didn’t blend very well at all. Perhaps we used different brands of pencils.

The Tools

I use Prismacolor. The only set I have right now is the Premier Soft Core and a colorless blending pencil. I need a set of the VeriThin, but that will have to wait until after the taxes get paid for this year.

The paper I’m using is a water-color paper for Epson printers. It comes in very large sheets that I have to cut down to size. Our printer does fine work for smaller art prints, like those I use on my note cards. And this is archival quality acid free paper. However, for larger than 5 x 7 prints, and especially those I sell as “art”,  I use Scott’s Frame and Art (Scott Imaging)  in Fayetteville.

Stay Tuned

I’ll post updates to the work as I make progress. Let me know if you have any tips!

ETA is the end of the week because there’s a deadline involved for the contest I want to enter.

If you’d like a print, stop in and see me at the Downtown Rogers Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, now open year-round!

Here’s their FB page and ours:

Custom Drawing – “Slug on Poison Ivy”

This is a custom drawing of a slug on poison ivy. In this post I’ll show you the process I use for drawing a picture with Prismacolor pencils. This particular nature drawing is for a business card client.

First, the Slug

I needed to do the slug first because it would have been very hard to leave the exact space for it had I done the leaves first.

Custom drawing for business card client

Leaf Shading in Progress

Leaf shading in progress on custom drawing.

I always add the lightest highlights first with a white pencil, and after the initial outline is done. There’s no way to put them in there once the darker colors are in place.

After the highlights I’ll add light shading with the predominant color. Then add the shadows and darker accents, like the spots on the leaf, the chewed part of the broken leaf, and the darker parts where the stems meet.

Leaf Shading Almost Finished

I just need to add some more of the lighter green highlights that are on the upper leaf. Then the blending will commence.

Leaf shading finished.

Shading

You can see the difference that blending makes. I didn’t know about this when I first started with the pencils, but it makes a huge difference. I use a colorless blending pencil from Prismacolor to do it. I might work on this leaf a little more.

Not yet blended.
Not yet blended
Blended.
Blended.

Finished!

Slug on Poison Ivy
Slug on Poison Ivy

Materials Used

I use Prismacolor Premier Pencils. For this sketch the colors I used were:

  • PC 946 Dark Brown
  • PC1100 China Blue
  • PC 910 True Green
  • PC 1056 Warm Grey
  • PC 938 White
  • PC 989 Chartreuse
  • PC 1020 Celadon Green
  • PC 940 Sand
  • PC 988 Marine Green
  • PC 1090 Kelp Green (predominant green)
  • PC 1082 Chocolate
  • Prismacolor Colorless Blending pencil

The paper is “pura velvet” fine art paper from Breathing Color. This paper works well for the original drawing and for printing.

Unique, Custom Drawing

Artist for Hire

If you’re interested in having me create a custom drawing for your business cards (or for any other purpose), contact me at [email protected].

My rates are $50/hr.

I can draw almost anything with a photo, but the best drawings to use for things like business cards or logos are of an individual item, so keep that in mind.

A sketch such as the slug in this post takes me approximately 4 – 6 hours, but I don’t work on it non-stop so the finished project will take a few days.

The original drawing is on 8.5″ x 11″ fine art rag paper and will be signed, matted and framed when complete. I keep this for shows and to use in various other designs, but I’ll never use it for anyone else’s business card image, or for whatever other purpose the drawing was commissioned for.

Prints will be available to the general public. If you want to have exclusive rights to use the drawing in any form for any purpose, ask me about exclusive rights licensing when the work is commissioned. These rights are no longer available once I’ve created other items from the drawing.

Client receives the first signed & numbered print at no added cost with nonexclusive rights.