Or maybe it’s done

I scratched out some highlights and hairs, and now it’s looking pretty good.



Turkey feathers and travel brushes

I made more progress on the turkey beak and chin and a lot of work on the colors of the feathers. When that dries I will put in a few strokes to indicate the feathers more, but I want them to stay pretty abstract to keep the focus on the head. I am leaving for now, but I can see the end of this one.

For those who are into this sort of thing– some notes on travel brushes:

I recently added a couple brushes to my collection to round out my travel supplies now that the weather is turning. The first was a Da Vinci Maestro #3 (the small size makes it feel like a pen which I like for a detailing brush) and the second was a Connoisseur Kolinsky Travel Round. I’ve never heard of this before. It only comes in size 7 but it’s a pretty big size 7. It’s about the same as an Escoda size 10 or a Da Vinci Maestra travel size 8 but a lot cheaper ($35 on amazon) for Kolinsky. The construction isn’t as nice as Escoda—acrylic instead of wood, and the end pops off without a little tape inside the connection point–but the brush itself is very good. A little soft maybe, but I like it. Great point, can be very expressive.

There is something appealing about fixing up a brush. My Isabey pocket round #6 had problems too (I had to re-glue the wood to the little end cap and put tape at the connection because it was loose), but those little fixes make it more personal. I’d recommend all three. I use the Isabey more than anything else for smaller works, but it’s good to have all three as a pretty versatile set. I can’t wait to get out to sketch though even at home I find I prefer the feeling of the travel brushes to conventional brushes. At least for these three.

Thanks for reading.

Slowly adding color

This turkey is really fascinating and I am slowly trying to work out what strokes and colors to lay on top of each other. This feels like an ideal subject for watercolor over any other medium. This will remain a slow project. I want to get a few more paintings going, some of which should be faster. I enjoy the detailed work, but can only focus on it for so long at a time.

Thanks for reading.

Starting another turkey, some thoughts on paints

After a short break, I got back to painting yesterday with a new turkey. I am also trying out a few new paints: W&N Permanent Alizarin Crimson (PR 206), Sennelier Red (PR254), and Sennelier Yellow Sophie (PY93). I like the Sennelier paints a lot for their vibrancy, consistency, how easily they activate, and for the 21ml tubes, which are a great value. They won’t make up my whole palette–they don’t have some of my preferred pigments–but I have found myself checking their list first when searching for paints unless there’s a special color I need, such as W&N cerulean blue, which seems to be everyone’s favorite cerulean.

I am looking forward to working more on this turkey. There are some really fascinating oddities on the beak and forehead, with some nice lighting or the face and under the chin.

Thanks for reading

Technical recap of the turkey


IMG_3454.JPGThank you for all the great comments on this painting. This was a real learning effort for me, and I think it helped me push myself further in the right direction, and quickly too. I feel much more confident about my painting with the new year barely underway. Based on some comments, and with a thanks to David Tripp for asking specifically about the background, here’s a rundown of what paints I used and how I approached this.


Cobalt Blue (PB28)–Daniel Smith
Prussian Blue (PB27)–MaimeriBlu
Verzino VIolet (PR122)–MaimeriBlu
Perylene Maroon (PR179)–Daniel Smith
Yellow Lake, aka, Nickel Azo Yellow or Transparent Yellow (PY150)–Sennelier
Lemon Yellow (PY175)–Daniel Smith
Viridian Green (PG18+PG7)–Sennelier
Titanium White Gouache– M. Graham


Escoda Optimo #12 Kolinsky Sable (Just on the background)
Princeton Neptune #12 (just on the background)
W&N Series 7 #4 and #2 on the bird
Isabey Pocket Red Sable #6 (softer than the Series 7, and slighly bigger than the #4) on the bird

The Background:

I used all the above colors except lemon yellow, in roughly this order.

Step 1: Wash of Yellow Lake

Step 2: Mix Prussian Blue and Verzino Violet to make a very dark, rich purple, and lay that on top.

Step 3: Unevenly applied Viridian

Step 4: Unevenly applied Perylene Maroon

Step 5: To bring out darks I layered a mix of Prussian Blue and Perylene Maroon.

Steps 6-8: Some more Yellow Lake, Cobalt, and Viridian applied separately. I did this just to make sure I would have spots of colors in the background I would return to on the bird.

Because those are mixes of staining and granulating paints, with each application there was some mild removal or displacement of some earlier layers. This is why I switch to the Neptune brush later on, and also why some color variation came through pretty well.

The darkest darks were mixed with Prussian Blue and Perylene Maroon as the core colors, but had a few others mixed in to shift the mix.

The Bird:

I tried to channel John Singer Sargent’s watercolor portrait work for the use of brushstrokes and color variations.

For colors, I primarily used Perylene Maroon, Cobalt Blue, Prussian Blue, and Verzino Violet, accented with the other colors. I honestly can’t remember much about how I did this because I just had a few palette spaces going where I would just mix various colors in to shift the colors, so even if I say I mixed Cobalt Blue and Verzino Violet, there was other stuff in there toning down all the mixes and giving them harmony. The turkey is pretty incredible for all the little color variations, and I tried to bring them out here. Throwing in spots of green and yellow was an important realization that I think make a big difference. This is essentially a “primary” color painting, with red, yellow, and blue factoring strongly. Adding some of the “fourth primary” (green) helped to balance it and add interest. At the very end I used some Titanium White gouache to bring out some highlights in the eye and on the feathers. Another nod to Sargent.

For the marks on the paper, I wanted this to have the texture that would come from a mix of small washes and brush strokes. For the most part, I washed, removed with a towel, washed again to get some basic tones right (like the warm light under the chin), and then worked with brush strokes and little dabs and micro-washes of color on top. I had to decide on the most important areas to focus (around the eye, the warmth under the chin), and then make sure the rest worked with that.

Thanks again for following along with me on this one. I have a few ideas to get started on for more paintings this week, so I hope to get at least some preliminary drawings up over the next few days.

Is the turkey done?

My wife and I got some time to paint side by side for once, and I pushed this turkey a little further, darkening the neck, painting the odd bumps on the side, and modifying the shades feathers behind the neck. Is it done? This is the most detailed watercolor I’ve done, so it’s hard to say. If this were a landscape I’d leave it as is. Time to start something else and let this one sit for a while.


Light on a turkey neck


My dad suggested I watch Renoir, a beautifully lit and shot film about the painter at the end his his career and the start of the relationship between his son Jean (the filmmaker) and Andree, the new model. In the movie Renoir has a couple lines about the light on the flesh of the model, how that is everything. I was thinking about that idea as I worked on the turkey neck this morning, which is really fascinating in terms of light and shadow and warm and cool colors. I imagine this turkey is pretty proud of his neck. The key part is the warm glow under the chin. Still more to go on this, but I think I am on the right track. I need to let it dry so I don’t ruin in. There’s a lot of line work to do go get all the little wrinkles in the neck. I need to sort out how to convey that without going over the top in keeping with how it works on the head.

Thanks for reading.