An eye usually becomes the focal point of a painting of a bird: our own eyes are literally drawn to that part of the composition. And this particular example of an eye is no exception.I started with a line drawing using a H pencil. The proportions of the beak, eye, shape of head, wings, different feathers all need to be correct. There is a vast amount of colour reflected on this eagle’s coat.
Therefore, the palette is quite varied: an array of browns, from light to dark. I used a Light Red as my base colour. This pigment is a fantastic brown, with a red bias. I mixed proportions of the red with burnt sienna, then burnt umber and then ultramarine blue. There is also a lot of yellow, I used gamboge yellow, in varying proportions of paint to water. For the eye I mixed a cerulean blue with some gamboge yellow and white to get this teal colour. For the beak I used a primary blue and mixed a portion of that with burnt umber.
I used a watercolour pencil to start with. I started with the eye and marked in the larger circle with a burnt umber pencil. I used my teal mix working from light to dark, and also worked in glazes, so each subsequent layer of paint was painted over dry paint. Leave the colour of the paper for the light source. I used my dark beak mix for the pupil. I then used a watercolour pencil for the different colours around the eye and at the top of the beak. I wet those colours and then used a waterproof pen to stipple in the dot shapes on the side of the beak.
I then painted the beak working on wet to damp paper, using my dark mix, and let that dry. I used a weak wash of yellow under the chin and on the side of the face. When that was dry I used my pen to mark in the growth under the chin and on the side of the eye and beak.
I then started working on the feathers. This takes some time, due to all the different shapes and the variety of different colours. What you need to bear in mind is work wet on wet, from light to dark. If you are guided by that basic watercolour technique you will achieve the different colours and shapes.
For the background I mixed in some sap green to the colours remaining on my palette to make a dark green. This painting does take some time and patience, but it is a really fantastic painting experience to paint such a fine example of a golden eagle.
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