I began this painting by under painting in tones of yellow. The only areas that remained paintless were some of the markings on the bird.
A key part of this composition is scaling, the berries have to be scaled in relation to the scaling of the bird and branches. If they are not the berries will be too insignificant (too small) or indeed they will become far too big and then the focal point, the bird, is lost in all that shape.
Under painting with yellow serves many purposes: it gives 3D effect to subsequent layers of paint, it can act as a source of light and it can be mixed with subsequent layers of paint, or it can remain in tact. The two former options will be dictated by your brushstrokes, water content on brush, and how many brushstrokes you apply to the painting.
The berries in this composition are a key part of its success. I counted these before I started painting. There are over 230 berries with a palette ranging from yellow, orange, red, purple and chromatic black red bias.
This is a painting that involves repetition of shape. Initially, I thought this may be an arduous task but I really enjoyed painting every one of these berries, you can really lose yourself in the painting process and this is one of these occasions where your mind is fully engaged with one shape, I used two different sized round headed brushes and varied my palette as I worked so some berries look nearer than others to create a 3D effect.
The Bird – quite a varied palette, blues, yellow, green, grey, pink. I worked on the head first and used both wet on wet (beak and top of head) and glazing techniques, painting over layers of light tone paint with stronger tones, until I reached the tone that made the bird stand out from the background. I used a small round headed brush and a rigger brush. Leave an area of colour of paper to suggest light in the eye. Even if this is not showing, it is usually A Good Idea to do this otherwise an eye will not look as alive as it should.
The Main Branch – branches should look round and the way to achieve this is tonal structure. Usually the underside of a branch is the darkest so I started the branch with a very light wash of yellow, and then applied a very transparent wash of a chromatic black. Whilst that was wet I applied a stronger mix of the same colour. I then used a dab brushstroke to apply stronger tone paint from the halfway point in the branch, leaving the topside the lightest tone to achieve my round looking branch.
I did revisit my yellow background, wetting the paper and apply some layers of purple and blue. This was not a random process: blue near top of composition, purples near berries to suggest some sky and distant shapes.