Monday, October 31, 2011


Here is the finished painting. Mostly it was a case of laying in more washes of watercolor building up tones and adding detail. I was careful no to go too dark with the plumage remembering the lessons learnt in the first of this series and in doing so retained a feeling of bright sunlight on the bird. The shadow under the beak that continues down the breast helps immensely here. So far I feel that this one is the most successful of the three and for the next one, I'm planning on doing something slightly different.
There is some difference in the color balance of this image in regards to the two previous posts probably because I photographed those stages outside while this one was done inside using photoflood lamps. The watercolor of this young Bald Eagle is 9" X 7.5".

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Here there is not that much difference from the last image posted but I have finished the eye and also worked on some of the smaller feathers around the cheek and crown. The beak has also some thin washes added to help define the shape and structure. Actually at this point I am moving along quite quickly and this is probably due to the fact that I have already completed two other studies so far. I feel that this one will come to completion quite soon (hopefully tomorrow) and I'll then be able to get onto the fourth and final work in this series of young Bald eagles. As a side note, the painting so far reminds me of a Golden Eagle which has a slightly more 'open' face look to it and consequently tends to look a little more friendly than many of the other large eagles.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Here we go with the third in this series. I wanted a slightly more relaxed effect with this painting so chose to pose the eagle with a little more light on the side of the head and with less in the way of deeper tones. Both of the earlier studies were of a young eagle looking quite intense. Time for something slightly different. Starting in my usual way with a careful drawing, I laid in a background wash all over the paper then some warmer brown tones to the plumage before letting it dry. When I came back to the painting, I worked for some time on the eye aiming for life and accuracy. I have found that if I don't get it right at this stage, I may as well kiss the painting goodbye. If this does happen, I'll just select another piece of watercolor paper then simply start again. Fortunately everything went well with this one so after a few lighter washes of Cadmium Yellow around the eye and beak, I mixed up a weak mixture of Cerulean Blue slightly greyed with Burnt Umber then applied it carefully to the bill. The shadow under the chin was the same mix but greyed even further. Next I'll finish the eye then work on getting some darker tones to the head and nape feathers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Working mostly on the plumage along with a few finer details added here and there has brought me to this point. It has taken me some time but I managed to get the feeling I wanted with this painting. As with most of my watercolors, I built up the tones by adding thin washes of color being careful to paint around the lighter areas. This is a sub-adult eagle, probably about two years old. The bill and the cere has started to lighten but the iris is still dark - this will gradually lighten over the years until the bird becomes an adult in about 4-5 years. Although I do like the white head and tail of a mature Bald Eagle, my artists' heart prefers the plumage of an immature and I find working on such a bird far more stimulating. In the early stages of this work I was continually reminded of a young White-tailed Eagle of Northern Europe and Asia - although that bird has an even more massive bill! I still hope to see and paint that eagle one of these days and greatly admire the work of Lars Jonsson who has done many paintings of these magnificent birds. This study is 9.5" X 7.5".

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


With this new painting on its way, I begin to feel confident that something will come of it. Since I chose a more up-right pose, my intentions are to capture something of the character of this young eagle along with a hopefully meaningful interpretation. Most of the head feathers of young or sub-adult eagles are tipped with pale spots so in order to capture this in my painting, I had to paint around all of these tips leaving the underlying washes to somehow represent them. This seemed a very difficult task so work proceeded slowly. I could have masked off all of them using masking fluid but I really don't like doing this and seldom resort to masking in any way. Once I had laid in more of the base colors and tones, I spent quite a bit of time working on the eye again bringing it close to being finished. The bill also received some work keeping the washes light for now as I wanted to retain the effect of bright sunlight which I felt I lost a little on the previous eagle painting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Now that the previous eagle study is out of the way, I feel a little more confident to start a larger piece. I'll be taking a lot more time with this one as the first study was really just a way to get back into doing this kind of thing. I have found that I sometimes need to do it this way especially if I haven't painted a watercolor study for some time. As usual I started with a careful drawing all the while trying to be as accurate as possible. I wanted something with the bird looking slightly away this time. Working on un-stretched hot-pressed Arches watercolor paper, I laid in a warmish grey wash over the whole sheet then when it was dry started on the birds eye and bill. A warmer brown was then washed over the top of the head and breast. Slowly building up a series of thin washes around the ere and bill brought me to the stage you see above. The painting still has a long way to go but so far, I'm happy with the start.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


To cut down on the contrast between the bird and the background, I laid in a thin wash of warmish grey all around the image which doesn't show that well in the photo. Also there are some strange marks in the background that aren't there in the actual painting either - most strange! I tried deleting and up-loading the image a few times but each time was the same - really weird as this hasn't happened to me before (fortunately all this disappears when you click on the image).
Anyway, feeling better about the contrast, I worked a little more on the feathers of the cheek, throat and nape. Mostly this consisted of darkening them and adding a little definition here and there. The bill was darkened also and the brownish areas on top of the head were adjusted to be a little more on the ochre side. I do feel however that something was lost in the last step, mainly the sense of bright sunlight on the bird and consequently a slightly washed-out look. I could have countered this by deepening the shadow areas but as this portrait is really only a work-up to the coming studies, I left it as it was - I'll remember this for the next one. Also I didn't take as much time with this study as I usually do for two reasons; one, it is a smaller work and two, I wanted this one to be a little more like a watercolor sketch. At the time of writing this, I have already started on the next eagle painting and it will appear here soon. This watercolor is 6.5" X 5".

Friday, October 21, 2011


There is quite a big difference between this stage of the painting and the last one. This is mostly due to the darker tones that I laid over the base color washes. At this point I'm trying to accurately depict the plumage without overdoing it. I usually build up the darker tones by adding successive layers of color until I feel that I am getting close to where I want to be. Often this is done without looking at my references as every painting demands something different. I'm also trying to get a balance between accuracy and an interesting interpretation. Just stating the facts usually leaves me a little unsatisfied and I'm always working to get a little more into each painting. Continuing this way allows me to build up the work into something I want instead of just putting down what I see in front of me. At this stage with most of the darker tones added, the bird is beginning to look a little stark against the background so I'll address that in the next part.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Here I have laid down a few more washes trying to modulate the form a little and also indicating the shadow of the beak. More color has been applied to the eyes and surrounding areas as well as some cad yellow to the gape. I mixed cerulean blue with a little burnt umber to grey it slightly then applied that to sides of the beak trying to be careful not to go too dark. A slightly darker brown brought in a little more detail to the eyes and under the chin. Letting this dry off, I came back ready to add some details and get the darker tones of the plumage in place. It's all looking a little wishy-washy at the moment but I realise that all paintings go through stages like this so I don't let it bother me too much. I'm keeping my eye on the final image which I hold in my head all the while I am painting. Next - big changes when I lay in the brownish-black tones of the head and get to some of those wonderful details.


This series of young Bald Eagle paintings all started some time ago when I was in Florida and happened across an immature Eagle. At the time I only had a ballpoint pen at my disposal so after grabbing a sheet of regular paper (from where I cannot recall) I quickly drew the head trying all the while to capture the essence of the bird. More sketches followed and later this was pasted into one of my regular sketchbooks. The head sketch appears above followed by the initial stage of a small watercolor. I decided on a head-on pose as I wanted to capture the penetrating gaze that I felt whenever this eagle looked directly at me. After a quick drawing, I washed in some raw-sienna followed by burnt umber for the eyes. A little cerulean blue did for the soft part around the eye on the right then I let things dry off. Next I'll work a bit more on the underlying washes which are often so important for a watercolor.

Friday, October 14, 2011


With this small painting I tried to capture the beginning of a new day. Both the dawn and dusk landscape are important times for me as an artist as I seem to respond to the landscape with a greater sense of depth and meaning during these times than at any other. I'm still working hard trying to capture exactly how I truly feel when out painting and transferring all this into my work. I'll be out a lot more now that it is a bit cooler as the fall always has some of the most spectacular skies of any season. This oil is 9" X 12".