Thursday, July 22, 2010

Big Birds

At last my studio has had a good clean up and there is once again space to spread out paper and paint! It's quite a time since I've attempted a 'proper' watercolour so I went back to Hazel Soan's lessons, tentatively finishing my lioness - not wanting to spoil the textures of the dropped in washes and overwork it, but not sure if I've done enough to call it finished.





Then, on a roll and remembering how much I enjoyed painting single ostriches with minimal brushstrokes I searched for these photos I took last year in a mountain pass in the Cape, (I think it was the Barrydale Pass, but we weren't too sure where we were at the time!) when we stopped the car to allow a ...flock?... of ostriches to be herded down the road - not to the B&B where it looks like they're headed, but into the field next door.




I had an idea in my head of the ostriches forming a unified shape with many heads and legs, like this photoshopped version... but the necks and heads looked weird (dancing cobras?) so I added a background - too quickly and impulsively! After all the fast sketching I've been doing, it's hard to slow down and make a carefully considered painting. I do want it to look fresh and loose, but also have believable looking birds and not cartoon characters! It needs some variation in colour too, I think I might try it again.

19 comments:

Robyn said...

I think your mob of ostriches is great, terrific, Cathy. It didn't need the background. I really like the shapes of their heads against the white. The figure is good too. I always have terrible trouble with backgrounds - I've ruined a number of paintings I thought were going really well until I put in the background. I've been trying to find a way to do background tests with photoshop but that requires a learning curve and I never have the patience.

Cathy Gatland said...

Thanks Robyn - yes, I should've tried a background digitally first. The white background looks better on the screen, and small - on the (quite big) painting the heads weren't well enough painted to hold their own!

RHCarpenter said...

Had to pop over and see what you were doing - I knew it was a man in a red shirt with a bunch of ostriches - now who would paint that - and so well? Love it! Have to catch up, now, as I see I'm behind a few days again.

lesliepaints said...

The ostrich are absolutely fantastic! I do not see cobras. I see a scene that I do not get to witness here in the States and I quite like the motion of it. What a challenge! ...and such a good job!

Cathy Gatland said...

Hi Rhonda, well it seemed like a good idea at the time ;) - I am so behind on everybody's posts, catching up is hard to do! Thanks for trying!

Thank you Leslie - their motion is graceful and ungainly at the same time - you have to laugh!

Debbie Drechsler said...

I like the background, Cathy. It gives context to the scene, which is otherwise a bit surreal to someone not accustomed to seeing herds of ostriches cruising around the countryside! I absolutely don't seen cobras in either version -- the ostriches come across loud and clear!

Stilin Studio said...

Love love love the ostriches and the red shirt man. What a wonderful composition!

laura said...

I love the ostriches too--you've painted it loosely but with confidence! When I saw it, I thought of Hazel Soan!! I bought one hger books, 10 Minute Paintings, and it's full of good advice and lovely little paintings.

Marie Theron said...

You have such good watercolour technique, Cathy! The paintings are all very accomplished, but the ostriches are outstanding and so unusual!

Carol King said...

I love your ostriches and recognized them right away.

Some fun ostrich facts I learned on an ostrich farm in Curacao. Ostrich eggs make GIGANTIC omelets!!! Ostrich meat is very lean. Ostrich eggs are very strong. Both my husband and I stood on one and it held us up!

Your lion is fabulous too.

Pat said...

Hi Cathi, wonderful...wonderful
Well I guess that about covers it. I wish I could see a herd of ostriches going down the street. I am waaaaaay behind in my post reading too.

A Brush with Color said...

These are marvelous! I really love the ostrich image here--I like how you massed it and the pop of red on the guy here is awesome. I don't know photoshop at all, but what a good idea to think through a background first. I always panic at the notion of backgrounds, and wish I did better with them.

Cathy Gatland said...

Thank you Debbie - I've washed the background out a bit now, so its softer and I like it better!

Thanks Stilin studio!
...and Laura - she does have loads of good tips. I'm not trying to paint just like her, but her style does seem to suit me

Thanks Marie, they are fun to paint

Hi Carol - and they can kick like a mule, or worse. Also, if you very gently put your fingers around their necks, their heads tilt over and they seem to fall instantly asleep, and wake up when you let go (only try this on the docile type and from behind a fence!)

Pat, thank you - that about covers it ;) Come here and see some ostriches...

Thanks Sue - unfortunately I first did the background, and then thought it through this time - but as I said to Debbie, I'm happier with it now.

Debbie said...

Wow... lovely to see you practising your techniques from Hazel Soan's workshop. She'd be proud of this one!!!! I love it and was going to suggest you try and wash out the b/g a bit... it gives depth to the painting with distant trees, I'm sure it looks great now that you have done this?

Your lion looks great, and I would would be hesitant to touch it Cathy.

Enjoy your 'space' I find I need to have space too and when I get back after my trip to the States, I'll have a go at a HUGE spring clean too!

Laureline said...

So much fun and so inspiring to come here and see your robust and charming work, Cathy. I love your use of indigo or thalo blue/burnt umber to create shadows underneath the ostriches and to create their body shapes, too. You've got wonderful rhythms going both horizontally and vertically.

My studio is a mess, having been abandoned for a couple of weeks. Your having tidied up yours is a great nudge for me. I so wish you were going to the Urban Sketchers Symposium, btw.

Cathy Gatland said...

Thanks Debbie - you're off travelling again, you lucky fish... have a great time!

Laura, thank you - I would so so love to be going to the symposium and get to meet you especially, as well as all the others - I kind of wish I'd thrown all caution to the winds, but maybe next time.

Cathy Gatland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fay Akers said...

I looked at your blog. How wonderful.
I really love this one with the ostriches

SKIZO said...

Thank you for sharing
This fabulous work with us
Good creations