Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wood Duck Drake Study

I'm not a big fan of this type of motif... the profile "field guide" pose. It's been done thousands of times and I usually make it a point NOT to paint things like this. The pose itself is pretty boring and the bright over-the-shoulder lighting in the reference photo wasn't really adding much. There are however, some redeeming qualities to this image that made it worth taking on.

"Woodie" 6x8 acrylic

I was immediately drawn to the iridescent feathers on this wood duck's head. I knew it would be a challenge to get this to look "right" and would likely make or break the painting. The subtle transitions between blues, greens, purples, and blacks also give the head some volume and hopefully keep the painting from looking flat.
There were a few issues with the head and neck in the photo I was working from... mostly the outstretched neck with the head upright and alert. This is a problem with a lot of reference photos (especially of waterfowl). Our mere presence is enough to put the birds on edge and they always seem ready to flee. I wanted the duck to appear more relaxed, so I tucked the head down and back a bit, all but eliminating the neck.
The biggest challenge and the main reason I didn't dismiss this image as a potential painting was the patterns reflected on the water around the bird. I knew if I was successful, the water would be a subtle, yet powerful element to the painting few people would notice. If I was not successful, it would be a glaring miscue and EVERYONE would notice.

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