There are certain scenes which catch my eye more than others when it comes to picking one for a painting. This particular scene had all the elements that I look for and more. I knew instantly I wanted to paint it. Not only did it have two Pelicans with character, pilings, roping, a simple horizon line, windswept water, and a beautiful sunny day, but also a strong composition.
The two adult Brown Pelicans appear to be good traveling buddies (one can tell the birds are over 5 years old by the white neck and yellow head, the all brown ones are younger). They most likely grew up together and when not flying like to hang out on pilings. Pelicans are social birds, growing up in colonies and usually travel in groups called pods.
In my painting Feathered Friends, I depict the two of them resting and enjoying the sun and a summer breeze. Perhaps they are waiting for the afternoon fishing boats to return?
From an artistic standpoint, the composition offered many challenges and opportunities. Knowing that I wanted the yellow heads and the white necks to stand out in the painting, that helped determine how blue to make the sky. As I blued up the sky, it helped determine the rest of the tones in the painting, i.e., the lightest lights and the darkest darks.
As I darkened up the sky, I darkened down the water. I reworked the water numerous times in order to gain a sense of depth to it. All that helped with how dark to make the cast shadows on the pilings, and how dark to make the Pelican’s feet.
I like the way the roping leads nicely into the scene, creating a sense of depth and drawing you toward the focal point of the painting. Having one bird standing and one sitting created a nice juxtaposition of the birds. It also added multiple points of interest in the painting, allowing the viewers eye to move from one bird to another without traveling too far and causing one to lose interest in-between.
Weathered wood, roping, feathers, and moving water all are secondary points of interest, when moving beyond the Pelicans’ heads. To me, the combination of primary and secondary focal points is what makes this composition so appealing.
In order to give the birds a sense of scale and portray their commanding presence, I decided to work larger than usual (oil on canvas 28” X 22”). The Brown Pelican is a very large bird, ranging from 3 ½ feet in length to over 4 feet and has a wingspan of between 6 and 8 feet!
When I paint on canvas, I sometimes find the weave of the canvas an unwanted look. Take for instance the feathers. If you use too little paint, you can see the canvas weave in the larger feathers. I applied multiple layers, and thicker paint to cover up the canvas weave where desired. This is a personal choice, which requires much more time and effort, but I think in the end creates a stronger painting. There are many opportunities when the canvas weave can provide wonderful texture and be most helpful.
As you can probably tell, I love this scene. I enjoyed painting Feathered Friends very much. I would love to hear what you think. Please feel free to contact me through my journal, email, or Facebook.
Thanks as always for following my art, and taking the time to read my journal!