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

P2a-Potlood

Pencil sketch. First to be painted is an eye, so that the bird can begin to see the world and who is painting him

P2b-Grondlaag

Basic paint layer to establish dimensions and create volume

P2c-Deklaag

Top layer to prevent the background showing through and to intensify colour

P2d-Details

Details added


Details

P3a-Water

One cup for the main wash and another one with clean water

P3b-Papier

Schoellershammer 4G paper

P3c-Plankje

Underside of home-made hand support with pieces of rubber bicycle tyres to prevent sliding. Note the staples

P3d-Kneedgum

Cleaning gum for erasing pencil without damaging paint and paper


P3e-Mes

Schoellershammer paper can be very easily scraped with a scalpel to remove unwanted areas including complete birds

P3f-Inktgum

Ink eraser for smoothing any damaged paper surface

P3g-Penseel

The only brush I use is a long da Vinci synthetic no. 4


Research

P4a-Gang-Museum

Cabinets containing bird skins. In these corridors in the Natural History Museum in Tring (U.K.) are stored some 700,000 birds for researchers and artists to study

P4b-Lade-Museum

Tray with bird skins