Just finished two versions of the Painted bunting Bird Watcher’s Digest cover I’ve been working on this week, and have the third in the series well along. I’m pretty taken with the Canna Bunting version, though, gotta warn you. I hate to say how many times I’ve had to do this bird over, especially the face, which is so sweet in the real bird.
Getting to blazing hot red, royal blinding blue and vicious lime green in watercolor ain’t easy. You can’t get there straight out of the tube, at least I wasn’t capable of it, and I had to patch a lot of colors together to imply what I wanted. So I’ve been doing a lot of rewetting and lifting pigment, scrubbing the paper and even going over areas with goache (pronounced gwash) which is an opaque watercolor. I hate to resort to opaques but business is business. And I was not only trying to get a blazing hot red, but was trying to show the shape and volume of the bird. Pain in the butt, it was. I think it might have been easier and maybe more successful executed in acrylic paint, or possibly tiny bits of broken lapis lazuli, ground sulfur mixed with jade dust, and a soupçon of cochineal beetle juice with a dash of tabasco.
Recipe for a nice hot watercolor red:
Step one: Quinacridone Gold wash, let dry completely
Step two: Opera Pink (wow, what a color- bubblegum on steroids!) washed over QG, let dry
Step three: Rose Madder, use judiciously over both and be sure that the previous layers show .
Step four: small touches of Linden green goache, and goache tints of Cobalt blue and opera pink for further touches.
Step five: Cadmium red medium, Alizarin Crimson, Winsor Red, any damn thing that looks red.
Step six: Panic and scrub everything off with a stiff brush, dab paper dry and start over.
Oh well, whatever works. Experiment on a scrap of paper, for sure.
I keep a layout template for Bird Watcher’s Digest in a folder on my Mac and use it in Photoshop to check my composition and layout. It’s handy and lets me preview and crop at will. BWD uses a wrap-around cover, with the art extending front and back. Here are the two versions popped into the layout template: