Mutual Exchange

Among the things I love about teaching is getting to know workshop participants. I enjoy helping them learn new techniques and challenge themselves in order to grow as artists. And I love seeing the artwork they produce. But the exchange isn’t just one-way. My students push me to grow, too. This month, I’m teaching a four-week course focused on bird eggs, nests, and feathers, and it’s definitely forcing me to up my game. Here are two recent paintings I did, based on class assignments and with thanks to an exceptionally talented group of “Art of the Bird” participants.

California Scrub Jay Eggs
Black-chinned Hummingbird Nest

Tips & Techniques– Both of these paintings benefitted from a slow buildup of layers of watercolor. It’s especially important to have a delicate touch with eggs so that they remain translucent. I usually do a lot of experimenting to find the colors I want. For these paintings, I used combinations of raw sienna with phthalo blue as the main duo for the greens. You can see that I also carried raw sienna into the hummingbird nest, while mixing grays with combinations of raw and burnt sienna with cobalt and ultramarine blue. You might find doing a small mixing chart like this a handy reference for comparing color combinations.

22 Comments on “Mutual Exchange

  1. These are lovely Jean and I appreciate them even more while being in your bird class. The backgrounds add so much. It’s back to the drawing board for me!

    • I’m was pleased with these eggs, though the green color took some trial and error to get to. Then there’s the delicate balance between developing the egg form and overworking.

  2. I love the color combo you used, so calming and delicate, just like the subjects you painted. Your posts are also so calming to look at. Thanks for your work.

  3. Four weeks focusing on eggs, nests and feathers sounds like heaven. Are you doing any online classes? I would love to learn more about your beautiful layering techniques.

    • Hi Kat- This class is online, which is where I’m doing all of my teaching these days. I have a repeat of this class in January, but it is already full. I’ll be doing several single session workshops this winter.

  4. I’m so looking forward to joining your January class! Your mixing tips are very helpful, too.

  5. As always, the simple complexity of your work amazes – so beautiful, so delicate, so subtle.

  6. I wish. Maybe next time. These are my favorite subjects and the colors you combine are a surprise for me. But I’m going to give it a go because your style is tried and true. So beautiful!

    • I often avoid phthalo blue because it can get too intense quickly. But mixed with a lot of water and the muted yellow/brown it behaved very well. The foliage I was looking at was very sage-colored, rather than a true green. I like the greenish-grays of this combination.

  7. I love your eggs and nest, Jean. As others have so perfectly said, your color choices and style are so delicate and calming. You have a gift for making even a heavy, opaque nest look light and lively. Just gorgeous! ~ SusanA

    • Thanks Susan- I took a risk to add the foliage and I think I overworked the nest a bit in the process, but I enjoyed trying something different. Part of the trick is to stay true to your subject, while altering it to suit your artistic sensibilities. Talk soon!

  8. Your eggs and nest paintings are some of my absolute favorite. The eggs are amazingly, and stunningly real.

  9. Absolutely floored. I had to keep enlarging the photos, as the piece of straw looks so metallic in sheen- like you might have done it with gold foil, and the leaves surrounding the nest have such a softly textured appearance they made me think of swede leather. And the eggs- oh my beautiful beyond description. I am in awe.

    • Hi Linda- Thanks so much for your kind feedback. It took awhile to build up the color on the eggs and straw, which is part of what makes them glow. That’s one of the things I love about watercolor– there’s a point where the paint really sings (and also a point at which you’ve gone to far and it goes dull; got to watch for that!). Cheers, Jean

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