Step 1

If you're interested in my process of creating the Eskimo Curlew painting, here are my steps. This picture I started with what I normally don't do, and that's a pencil sketch on a paper. I was supposed to draw this probably extinct bird, with what little references I could find. I printed around 80 photos of the taxidermied (or what it's called) specimens and photos of a similar whimbrel and other curlews. I chose an elegant pose in movement and sketched it out.

image 1

Step 2

I skenned the sketch, adjusted it in Photoshop, added a simple blurred background including another curlew in the distance, and sketched where the foreground will be. The purpose of this painting was to make a realistic reconstruction of the curlew with all it's important features on a simple background. I roughly put in the birds colors and lighting.

image 2

Step 3

I spent time looking at what I have and tried to correct the obvious mistakes. I didn't like the unnatural angle of the right wing and the head, so I changed it. I also made the bird slimmer and changed the shape of the body a bit. Looking at the references and the great scan of a field guide where the Eskimo Curlew was featured (like the only one I saw!), I started rendering the feathers and tried to reproduce the patterns and colors as well as I could.

image 3

Step 4

I continued with the minor changes in the body shape and rendering. Bird feet are very hard for me to draw so I was sure to always look at references and pay attention to their structure and how light hits them, while the contrast stays similar to the body. I spent some time figuring out how to use the shadows and different values for the feet to read separately. I tried to imitate the feather structure on the belly, where there were no feather patterns by fine crosshatching using more hues. Then I spent time searching for the photos of different birds to see how the feathers under the tail are shaped and what they look like. I also started rendering the tail feathers by first outlining their shape and filling it with base color when the light hits it and shines through. Also looking at references and distinguishing the tone and value of feathers that shoulf different on the left and right, as well as the sharpness of the cast shadow where the feathers overlap.

image 4

Step 5

Added the feather patterns on the base color of the tail feathers and going to details there so it looks unified. Then I finally started working on the wings. Again I searched various photos to see what it looks like when a setting/rising sun shins through the black wings. So for the flight feathers I used darker orange than on the tail, where the feathers are lighter. The overlaps are much much darker as they are closer to the real color of those black feathers. After the photos of different curlews I draw and shadowed the small wing feathers as well as I could. I exaggerated the shadows so they won't get lost when I add the stripes.

image 5

Step 6

Added the stripes looking at the only reference I had on how the ventral side of the curlew wing looked. Then I went over it again with a tiny brush to mend the colors and vary the hues and values to make it look more realistic and sharper. Painted the base of the other wing's feathers before drawing the stripes there the same way. And made tiny changes of the patterns on the body.

image 6

Step 7

Finished the striping on the wings and added some shadows to make them look more 3D and the shadows cast by the upper coverts that stand in the light's way. I also put some blurred darker greens in the background especially to the places where the edge of the curlew is very light to help the contrast and make a clear border between the bird and the background.

image 7

Step 8

To make the grass realistic (which I had never done before), I again tried to varied the hues of the yellow-green. I darkened the grass closer to us and put in other kinds of plants. I took the opportunity and positioned some of the longer straws in between the bird's feet to again try to make them read separately. I shifted the bird a little to the right.

image 8

Step 9

I worked a bit more the shadows on the bird and finished the background. I decided to liven it up with a cotton grass that signifies a wet meadow which should be typical for a wader that the curlew is. I tried to connect the foreground and background by the plants being gradually less sharp. I played with the overall light, making it a little more orange and the picture ended up being more saturated (I actually did this throughout several steps). And finally, I finished :) If you're interested, there's a much higher resolution on my DA: and an animated process with many more steps:

image 9

Thank you Jac :) As far as I remember I only (or mostly) used one brush - a round one with a bit of texture in it.
Nachi 07/21/13 11:19 AM
fantastic wip... thank you for sharing!! You have great brushes :-))
Jac 07/21/13 9:41 AM
Thank you for this Wip Nachi, this is a real masterpiece and each step is very well explain. Congrats !
oliverlord 05/11/13 11:52 PM
awesome :D
vuogle 05/11/13 8:34 PM