Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vanished Huia

I think recent extinctions are pretty tragic, since it's almost always people who caused them. While doing research in college about the possibility of cloning extinct animals, I found out about the huia, wattlebirds from New Zealand. I have wanted to paint them for a long time, but never got around to it. Their claim to fame is the very different beaks of the male and female: males have shorter, thicker beaks like crows and females have long, thin curved beaks. The beautiful white-tipped black tails led to hunting for hat feathers, as well as museum specimens. They went extinct in the early 1900s.

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.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Beach Bods

A small page of ink sketches from the beach last weekend. No one was really next to us, so I drew people as they walked by. The weirdo in the lower left was a little old lady with hunched shoulders and skinny legs who looked like she was having a great time in her giant hat with her purse. More finished art as soon as I make some!