My Watercolour Painting Process - Magpie


I've had a few long weekends recently due to having to use up my work holiday allowance, so I've been using the extra days to do some painting. My main project was to paint a magpie, because they are one of my favourite animals, and my number one favourite bird :) I posted a few progress pictures on Instagram which received a lot of favourites, so I thought I would post all the stages here so you can see it from start to finish.

First off, if you're interested, I use Windsor and Newton watercolours (this set) which I got for Christmas, and a size 3 brush on Cass Art's own brand of watercolour paper. This particular painting is on A4 paper.

Once I found a nice picture I sketched the outline in pencil. Because magpies are mostly black it didn't matter too much about having dark pencil lines, as I knew they would be covered up, however if I was doing a lighter-coloured painting I would make the pencil lines much softer.

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The thing I love about magpies is their iridescent feathers. When they catch the light you can see very bright blues, greens and even purples sometimes, so I started off painting all the black feathers light blue with the aim of letting it show through in places and also giving it a bit of depth.

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Then I did the same with some green...

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Then I started adding the first layer of black, adding colour to the parts that would eventually be the darkest. With watercolours you can't remove paint or add lighter colours over the top, so I always try to build up the layers slowly.

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Here you can see how I built up the black paint on his body.

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The previous photos were taken in the evening lit by a really awful lamp, and the following ones during the day with my curtains open, so there's a bit of a difference in colour. (Isn't sunshine the best?)

Again, I've added more and more black to his body and wing, as well as some grey low-lights to the white feathers.

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And then the same process on the other wing...

I went to bed at that point, because I'd been painting for about 6 solid hours!

The next morning I tackled the tail  and made some finishing touches. I made that tail feather much greener too.

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And here's the final scanned version.

I'm pretty pleased with Mr. Magpie, especially since I only started painting again about 3 months ago. I think I'm getting there in terms of finding my style, as I've always leaned towards the cartoony side of things. I've never been great at very lifelike things, as my GCSE and A-level art projects of Kandinsky and horror movie posters will attest to. Anyway, I am really happy with my balance of real-life and cartoon style here.

He's now framed on my boyfriend's mantelpiece, but you can buy a high-quality print here.

I've already started my next project, which is to draw my cat with the aim of listing custom pet portraits on my Etsy shop.

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