I don’t seem to be short of things to draw right now, but sometimes some images appear that really get me inspired. My husband, Mark, does some excellent bird photography and he has taken to picking out images that he thinks I will like. When he came home with these pictures of male Common Eider, sporting their breeding plumage, I was itching to get started.
I loved the rosy breast on the right hand bird, and the green ‘Darth Vader’ helmets. I decided that three birds would make a nice composition, so asked Mark to dig out a good female Eider picture from his files.
Females may not be as showy, but there is a lot of fun detail in that plumage.
For this project I stepped a little outside my comfort zone in using a bigger and heavier format watercolour paper. I usually choose a lightweight, 90 lb paper that has a nice texture and takes the pencil very nicely. The downside can be a tendency to deckle when wetted, but this is largely eliminated by taping down all the sides of the sheet before starting. This time I used a 140 lb, 10 x 14 inch paper that I’ve had for years, lurking at the back of the cupboard. It doesn’t have as much tooth as the lighter paper and wasn’t as easy to work with. The results were different, slightly softer to my eye. The blacks on the drake birds were interesting to get some contrast between the feather layers. I think I had every black pencil in my collection out for this one. The female bird was a riot of browns and blacks, and was actually the most fun to paint. Eiders are weird-looking birds, they never look that real even when floating around in front of you, but they are one of my favourite sea ducks. I enjoyed this challenge very much.
‘Loafing Eiders’, watercolour pencil, 10x 14 inches, on 140ib watercolour paper.