After a visit to Slimbridge Wildlife Park I was keen to paint Flamingo feathers. It was hard work trying to source some moulted feathers but eventually Birdland Park & Gardens in Bourton on the Water came up with the goods, thank you Simon at Birdland! www.birdland.co.uk
I selected three feathers from the bundle posted to me. I chose these three for their wonderful shapes and thought they made a lovely composition together.
A bit about Flamingos…
These tall wading birds are called Phoenicopterus and the feathers that were sent to me are from the Greater Flamingo species Phoenicopterus roseus. Flamingos have been know to man for thousands of years. They feature in cave paintings in Spain (5000BC) and the Egyptians used them as a symbol to indicate the colour red and even regarded it as the living embodiment of the sun-god Ra. The red/pink feather colour comes from a diet of crustacea and algae. Here are the Flamingos at Birdland in Bourton on the Water, Cotswolds. My feathers are from the paler birds.
Mixing the pink!
To begin my painting I had to match the beautiful pink of these feathers. After a few trials, I found that Winsor & Newton Opera Rose (OR) and Cadmium Yellow Deep (CYD) gave me the rich bright orangey/pink I needed. Today (2022) I wouldn’t use these pigments as they are both opaque and Opera Rose is unreliable where lightfastness is concerned. I prefer the translucency of transparent pigments. Please note: I would most likely use Quinacridone Magenta and Indian Yellow.
Some other colours I mixed were various pale greys, a pink/grey, a cooler grey and a very pale yellow using Transparent Yellow (TY) mixed with a tiny bit of the Flamingo Pink I had mixed previously. I also use some of this pink to make my pink/grey. You’ll notice on my swatch that there is a slightly duller looking pink which I used for shadows and stronger details, this was mixed using Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (SMRL – Permanent Rose could be used instead), Winsor Orange (W.O) and Cadmium Yellow Deep. When re-mixing the Flamingo pink I had to test it a few times as the mix would look different with the slightest change in quantities.
Painting the curved feather
The curved feather had awkward angles and so I had to make sure the drawing was absolutely spot on. I started by adding pale washes and then built up the colour gradually. There were some deep shadows where it twisted and for this, I used stronger versions of my pale cool grey and beige/grey. I added a very pale glaze of Transparent yellow to warm the underneath pale wispy feathers. I created these deeper shadows by working in between the whiter wisps, this is called negative painting. Note: the photo of the feather appears much darker than in real life. Again I used some iridescent paint towadd shine.
Painting the oval feather
The oval feather was a lovely shape but much paler than the others. It would be hard to keep the subtlety of this one without overpainting it. I built up the layers slowly and kept it as light as I could throughout. There were more highlights on this one which helped to keep it from looking flat. Also, notice the subtle shadows I have added along the right side and the left side of the rachis (mid vein), this enhances the curved appearance.
Painting the large feather
I saved painting this feather until last as it was my favourite one and the most striking in my composition. The top part has lots of furls and creases and the colour faded gradually down to almost white at the bottom. Plus, I thought to myself, how am I going to paint those tiny little strands!
I started with a very pale wash of my flamingo pink mix leaving the paler areas free of paint. I used a watery mix of the cooler grey and pink/grey to indicate shadows on the paler part of the feather. It took three layers to get the pigment up to the right strength at the top. I was now ready to add in the darker pink shadows on the folds and furls. To get the appearance of the tiny stands I used the same technique that I used in my Feathery Pursuits blog, the duller Flamingo pink was used to create the overlaps and shadow areas. The pink/grey and cool grey were used further down on the lighter areas. A little thin glaze of transparent yellow was also added along the right side near the rachis (midrib). Blog 5 contains a video showing you how to do this. See this link: https://jibotanicals.com/2016/10/01/blog-5-feathery-pursuits/
Painting the shiny white highlights
My paper was not white enough to show the shine on the rachis (midrib) and feathers so I turned to my Daniel Smith iridescent paints. Pearlescent White did the trick. If you shine a light onto the painting or turn it sideways you can see the glow of the pearlescent paint. I have yet to find a pure white that has such a good effect. The only time I use white or iridescent pigments is when it is absolutely necessary. On plants, there are sometimes very fine hairs which need a little white pigment to make them show up. White pigment is also opaque. I usually mix white pigment with a little colour as the hairs on a plant are never truly white. Well, I would just have to have a spotlight pointing down onto it if it’s ever framed and hung on a wall! This year, 2020, a good friend from USA purchased this painting and it is now framed and lit at her home in Conneticut.
Painting the after feathers – pale wispy bits
You have to approach this part with great care and start with a very, very pale colour. You can always add but you cannot take away! Pale watery mixes can be hard to work with but as long as you remove a little of the excess on your brush by wiping it on a cloth, you’ll be ok. They often dry darker than you think too, so test first. The grey and pink/greys are made with very strong pigments and would be almost impossible to erase out without damaging the paper’s surface. Using the cooler grey with a flicking motion, you can interpret the wispy feathers. Afterwards, I added a little pink/grey and very pale pink (see below) to define the thicker areas. Once I was happy with the result I added a few slightly darker strokes to imitate the shadows. It’s also good to add a few very fine chevron side hairs to some of the larger wisps. Not all of them or it would look too contrived! It’s hard to see on the image below but hopefully, you’ll see what I mean!
Now my painting was complete! Please excuse the greyness of the photos but these winter days are so dark and dreary in the UK!
I must apologise for no videos on this blog, however, I will be doing a blog in a few weeks about my Faded Magnolia Leaves painting and will try to video some things which will be of interest to you. I hope you enjoyed this blog and thank you for reading.
Until then happy painting and a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017