Pied Wagtail

What an inspiration this little wagtail was when I saw him land delicately on the grass in front of me. With his tail wagging proudly, he strutted off swiftly in pursuit of insects in the grass.

I made a quick sketch but I had not captured enough information to work from. So I referred to my Garden Birds of the UK app on my ipad and had good reference photographs to work from where I could get more detailed information, but still used my overall shape for my painting.

This painting is really an exercise in mastering tonal control of one colour. The striking black and white contrast of a wagtail is remarkable and therefore it needs to be remarkable in a painting.

After I made a detailed drawing, I mixed my black colours. I needed the head, chest, part of the back, and the tail to be bright black. I made three different blacks firstly using and 50/50 mix of burnt umber and ultramarine blue. For my second black colour I mixed the three primary colours, this had a slight brown bias. I then mixed perylene black (which has a green bias) with an ultramarine blue.

I used my mix of burnt umber and ultramarine for the eye, the head the beak, the chest, parts of the back and the tail.

I used my mix of the three primary colour for parts of the wing, the underside of the wagtail and parts of the legs.

I used my perylene black and ultramarine mix for parts of the chest, but this was more wash than a mix of paint.

I then used an acrylic titanium white to paint the white parts of the wagtail.

This painting took four hours to complete, not including drying times between painting sessions.

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