Splash painting is a technique whereby the paint is applied to the paper or canvas in a freer manner than using brush strokes. This technique has purpose: a good solid background can be created using splash painting, a sense of movement can be achieved using splash painting, a suggestion of an element that is not fully in view can be achieved. These are the three main ideas I would advise to start with when considering this technique. My intention for the exercise is that learners can explore splash painting techniques where they will create a background suggesting flowers and leaves.

If the bird is painted first, which I did, then cover the shape with a template of the bird, easy to do using some cheap paper that can be quite transparent. I did not make a template but kept covering the bird with paper napkins as I worked.

One of the main tasks in this exercise is to mix up your palette. This took me around 35 minutes to complete. I used swatches to ensure my colours were as close to that of this beautiful little bird as possible. Yellow green, light green, mid green, dark green, I mixed all these colours first. Then the tail colours: pthalo blue, pthalo blue + black and pthalo blue + primary blue. Orange and a light red for the eye and beak. The feet and claws: I mixed the red with a blue. Important point: make sure you mix enough for the bird and the background otherwise you are going to repeat this process at least three times.

Paint the bird first, working light to dark. Paint in the bird’s crest after you have completed the whole of the painting.

Now time for the background. Cover the bird shape and also the branch, which I decided to paint greens, light to dark.  

You will need a range of different size brushes for the background, all round headed brushes: large, medium, small and even smaller, so you get a range of different sized splashes for the background. 

I worked in sections on this, to avoid over working. Wet the paper and then apply a very weak wash of blue in the area you are going to work on, take your large round headed brush (damp) and dip in light green wash. Now splash. I usually work standing and have the painting on the floor, with lots of newspaper in the surrounding area. The brush does not touch the paper at any stage of this splash process. Do the same with the blue and the orange and light red. Work through the process using the differing size brushes – large to smallest. 

Let your initial splash dry 100% … The Next Day 

Splash Layer Two – apply this to dry paper and the paint should be stronger then Layer One. You can apply a third and fourth layer, which I did. Now paint in the bird’s crest. I used a Titanium White Acrylic. 

The backgrounds you can create using this technique are endless. Always use the same palette as the subject matter.