The common belief is that males and females hunted together, with males digging holes in bark and females picking out bugs. I had meant to paint them feeding, but a short account about a pair in captivity struck me as a more interesting subject. The person observed the birds grooming each other frequently, and when the male died, the female pined away for him and died soon after. I made a pair of huia in better days. I took a few photos of my painting process too.
I transferred the pencil sketch to a piece of greenish watercolor paper (you can't really tell it's tinted in any of these pictures). Note the painstaking recreation of a New Zealand tree branch habitat. I started with a wash of greens and purples to be the iridescent colors in the black feathers.
Both birds are lightly painted now. I cheated on the perspective of the female's beak a bit to show how curved it is. Once again, bird feet prove very hard to draw.
Oops, a blurry photo since I turned the flash off when it made the picture all white and washed out. Building up dark color on the male with sepia, neutral tint, dioxazine violet, and perylene green.
I got the bright idea to use my lamp to light it! Now I could see the colors more clearly. I started working on the female too, adding some indigo, viridian, and ultramarine. I always leave the eye for last on a painting of an animal. This gives the work a freaky cotton-eyed taxidermied bird look at this point.
Almost done now. I've painted more on the beaks, legs, and tails. Art supplies in the background include a book of extinct birds and a Simpsons DVD set.
The finished painting. I washed a bit of color behind the birds at the end, a thing I do a lot. The photos show the greenish tinge of the feathers better than this scan. I enjoyed the process of making a sciencey illustrationy painting again. I love the research part, spending about an hour looking up mounted huia photos and contemporary art of them. It took about an hour to sketch them up, and about 3 Simpsons episodes to finish painting it.