THE CREATION OF A BIRD GUIDE
I paint on A4 paper taped to a piece of board and use a small palette. The board and palette are hooked over the upper rim of a small desk I made myself. I keep my hand from touching the paper by resting it on a small support. Dry gouache works better for me than fresh paint from the tube, so I need a separate cup with clean water to dissolve the dry paint on the palette. A piece of cloth (seen in the photo) is used to remove excess water from the brush. On each plate there are 10 to 25 bird figures.
On a good day I can paint 5-7 figures, so each plate takes 2-3 days to paint, preceded by one day of composing the pencil sketches. You can see that (allowing for 300 working days per year) the completion of 100 plates takes at least one year. This does not include the research needed in libraries and skin collections, such as the one at the Natural History Museum in Tring in the UK. Writing the captions and the introduction, together with drawing/painting other artwork, compiling the index and drawing the maps, means that it takes at least three years before I can visit my publisher to deliver the complete manuscript of a new book.
Painting a bird
Pencil sketch. First to be painted is an eye, so that the bird can begin to see the world and who is painting him
Basic paint layer to establish dimensions and create volume
Top layer to prevent the background showing through and to intensify colour
One cup for the main wash and another one with clean water
Schoellershammer 4G paper
Underside of home-made hand support with pieces of rubber bicycle tyres to prevent sliding. Note the staples
Cleaning gum for erasing pencil without damaging paint and paper