Spring bird migration is in full swing! There are new birds singing in the woods and fields around our house nearly every morning. I note the first sightings of songbirds as they return and what’s surprising is how consistent most birds are year to year, coming back on nearly the exact same date. The wood thrush is among my favorites, and it returns consistently on May 4th or 5th. Sure enough, it was singing out in the back woods last Friday morning. Today brought several species of warblers; I’m hoping that an oriole and a pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks show up tomorrow, right on schedule.

Tips and Techniques– I knew I wanted to commemorate the wood thrush’s return, but I couldn’t decide whether to do it in watercolor or try gouache. As you see, gouache won. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing, and I haven’t quite figured out how to work dark to light, as is recommended. So, I can’t offer any tips other than to experiment from time to time, learn from new ways of seeing and painting, and hope for the best.

27 Comments on “Return

  1. Well, for not “knowing what you’re doing” with gouache, this looks pretty amazing!

  2. Beautiful! Would you consider a gouache class? I’ve bought gouache, but really don’t know how or where to begin (i.e. do I add water, how much, how to combine with watercolor, etc)

    • Hi Katie- Thanks! I don’t feel proficient enough to offer a class at this point, but I’m sure you can find some beginner tips or a class online. In the meantime: yes, you add water– generally the consistency is “creamy”, but you can add a lot of water and make it work like watercolors, or hardly any water and paint it on thick. You can combine with watercolor, but I don’t think most people do. I could see using watercolor in watery first layers and then overlaying gouache in small areas or focal points. Play around and see what you get.

      • Thanks for your suggestions. I’ll give them a try.

  3. Oh!! I love your wood thrush painting!
    Funny, I was just commenting to my husband, on our dog walk, that I love the wood thrush’s song… so beautiful!

  4. Pingback: Return – Tonya LaLonde

    • Hi Laura- Right. It can be frustrating and challenging along the way, but little by little it builds skills. I tried lots of different techniques with this page to see what worked and what the paint would do…then finally had to call it done. I’m pleased overall with the page and what I learned.

  5. Beautiful! Light and lovely. I can almost hear the thrush sing.

  6. I love your painting! Experimentation is a great way to learn. The Red-breasted Grosbeaks are on the way. I saw one at one of my feeders on April 29.

  7. This is really lovely. I’m surprised to read that it is all gouache though. I would swear that at least parts of the leaves/background is done in watercolor as I think I’m seeing those lighter values with some overlap and transparency. Guess I need to play with my gouache more – I’ve really only used it to “cover up” stuff until now. Thank you for sharing!

    • I added a lot of water in places to soften edges and treat the gouache more like watercolor. I liked the way that worked. The risk is that if you go back and add a very wet layer over a dry one, you’ll loosen the what’s underneath. Play around and see what they do.

      • Thank you for that advice. I will get my gouache out again and push its capabilities more. I didn’t realize it could be thinned so much. Duh. 🙂

  8. Did your oriole and the grosbeaks arrive as scheduled! Love your post Jean! Happy Spring to you. PS. You’ve got that gouache thing figured out!

  9. So beautiful! It is such a joy to see the beauty you create. I too find it hard to bend my head around working dark to light, but your gouache work is looking so good!

    • Thank you. I struggle with the dark to light concept since my years of watercolor training has me well programmed to do the reverse. But some of it makes sense and I’ll continue to practice. Thanks for the encouragement!

  10. I really love the idea of painting the birds that show up at spring. We have some small blue bird pairs that show up at the same time.

  11. What a delight the return of the Wood thrush is, I remember that! And the others. We have a different thrush and a different grosbeak here but in both species, I can see the resemblance to the ones I grew up with. Your Wood thrush looks proud to have made it, and maybe proud of you for experimenting. 😉

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