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Plumed whistling ducks
Step by step work in progress during the making of "I see you" (watercolour and ink).
Masking fluid layers
In this painting I started with the background, because I knew it would be the most difficult to do, given the complexity of the leaf litter on the ground. For this reason, I used masking fluid to mask out the shapes of the ducks, and a first layer of leaf litter structures. I applied washes and masking alternately in roughly six layers, building the depth of wash from lights to darks.
Starting the ducks
The position of the eyes is always important with wildlife paintings, because they are the focal points. I painted the feather patterns in a high level of detail with multiple layers of pale washes, alternating with fine brushstrokes.
Since the ducks are all in a group, it was important for them to tie together well, but they each needed to have somewhat different characters or personalities. When originally composing this painting (from multiple photos taken in the field), I aimed to have the ducks all roughly facing the same way (as though their attention had been focused), but from slightly different positions. Clearly the threat was not sufficient to warrant the foremost duck turning from its napping position, and instead it shows one beady eye.
Even where the whole length of the duck's head on the paper is only 1cm, it is important to me to have sufficient detail to be able to see texture, form and colour.
Finally, once all ducks were finished in detail, and the legs had been darkened, I added hints of shadows for the ducks, and toned down the foreground with multiple warm hue washes.