Blackbird watercolour (using a mixed black, from primary colours)
The Blackbird always nests in the garden hedge. This time of year they are busy collecting nesting material from the garden. Therefore I had plenty of opportunity to paint them. I organised my paint mixes, brushes and paper and sat with the pad on my lap. I sat on the edge of the decking to the studio and placed the palettes and water jars on the decking. Sitting very still, I quietly observed the Blackbird and began to paint.
First layers of watercolour wash
Four palette mixes were created to paint the Blackbird. A yellow, a green, a blue and a mixed black. First I used the blue wash to paint the highlighted areas of the blackbird. These areas were the head, chest, tail and the wing. While these washes dried I painted the first yellow washes of the beak and around the eye.
I continued to build blue layers of wash, these would be the underlying tones of colour to the black feathers. The black feathers have a blue tone when caught in the sunlight.
Using a Mixed Black watercolour
To paint the Blackbird I created a black from three primary colours (red, yellow and blue). I prefer to mix my own colours as I achieve the tone I’m looking for. I find the ready mixed blacks can be a very flat colour.
To begin with I painted small brushstrokes of a paler black mix across the bird. The small brushstrokes give the effect of movement for the feathers. There are a lot of brushstrokes applied, layers upon layers.
As the layers dry I add a darker tone of black wash, still allowing the blue undertones to come through. This gives the Blackbird texture and depth.
Issues when painting with a watercolour Black mixed from primary colours
By mixing my own black watercolour, I can choose what hue of black I want, but the mix does have issues.
Firstly the colours try to separate in the palette, so I have to keep re-mixing as I paint. This is a lot of work when you use small brushstrokes of paint. It can try to separate on the brush. If I don’t consistently re-mix the black mix, I can end up with a range of hues of black on the final painting. Therefore I have to quickly mix and apply the black watercolour mix to the paper.
Also as you build layers of large black areas of wash, the newly applied layers can try and separate the underlying layers. It’s a balancing act.
Despite the issues with a mixed black I prefer it. The washes have a wider tonal range and the mix seems to have more life, it doesn’t seem so flat.
Final stages of Blackbird painting
After many, many layers of black brushstrokes, I used the yellow wash to paint the pink tone of the bird’s legs. Next I used the green mix for the grass strands the Blackbird was standing on. Then I outlined the feet and claws with the black mix. All the white areas on the wing and tail are the paper. I don’t use white paint.