Emphasizing A Complex Subject

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

This group of Canada geese is only complex because it comprises three values: dark, mid-value and pale; otherwise, the shapes are simple. So the question is: what value is best for the setting? I chose a dark mid-value to contrast the black necks and also the white wake, but added value variation – lighter around the parents’ heads, darker near the goslings – to the water’s overall shape. The above shows the palest background wash, which was painted over the adult birds’ dark necks and even over their pale brown backs. As it dried, I lifted paint away to keep the latter shapes pale – and not green. (The yellow at right is frisket, which, I found, was actually unnecessary for this painting.)

All images ©Bivenne Staiger; photo by Chris Dyer

Once dry, a second, more saturated wash was quickly painted just as before, except this one only up to the palest reflections, as you’ll see more clearly in the next image. The one above shows hard-edged shapes around the goslings’ heads being softened with a damp brush before the wash dried.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Next, shadows on the parents’ white undersides and the goslings’ local color was added. I also softened shapes in the white “mask” of the bird at right. Do you see how the water’s second wash defines the pale reflections in front?

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Background wash #3 was added to the water and (again) across the parents’ heads/necks, this time with darker value to emphasize the goslings more. Its hard edges needed softening anew around the babies before it dried. Feather shapes began to take form with shading, and their color reflected directly below.

By this time as I painted outdoors with my class, ants were biting my legs and the heat and humidity were getting to me. Fortunately breezes kicked in at the right time and kind-hearted people kept the ants at bay. 🙂

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

As I was anxious to finish up more quickly due to the outdoor inconveniences, I inadvertantly painted over a sliver of space between the parents’ necks and fortunately realized that in time for a repair. I simply lifted the paint out and let the area dry.

Staying Safe, watercolor, 12×16″ ©Bivenne Staiger, 2020

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