Size Creates Impact

All images © Bivenne Staiger

The black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is a very tiny, curious, cute, and decisive bird with a big personality. Enlarging a subject is one way to create greater impact. Since this chickadee’s face is very dark but its cheeks white with light coming from the right, a pale wash covers its face while dark value is loosely painted up to the bird’s back. This creates contrast between its head and the background. Any color covering the bird is then carefully lifted away before the paper dries.

All images © Bivenne Staiger

Once the paper is dry, the palest wash of its tawny belly color, which is similar to that of the branch’s stub upon which it’s perched, is added. While still wet or damp, a more saturated and thicker consistency of the same color is applied to the branch, with lit areas remaining untouched. Note that blue between belly and branch suddenly helps enhance this warm color.

All images © Bivenne Staiger

The palest shadow value and its wings’ pale gray coloring are added next. While direct light comes from the right, its shadowed left side picks up reflected light.

All images © Bivenne Staiger

Now the nooks and crannies of the branch are added from pale to dark and from warm to cool.

Cheery Chickadee, Watercolor, 12×16″ © Bivenne Staiger 2021

Like this bird’s disposition, watercolorists also often have to make quick decisions, especially when painting wet- and dry-on-wet, but that’s part of the fun. As usual, darkest shapes tie the elements in this painting together, and some triangle shape repetition and diagonal directionals become more apparent. Its dominantly warm color temperature contrasts with the cool sky, creating further impact on this otherwise diminutive creature.

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