Here is the finished painting. I thought I had better come clean up front so that you can decide if you want to read on. If so, here is the story of how it was painted.
I started the same way as usual, transferring a sketch outline across from one of my photos.
I use the squares method as you can see.
The next step was to block in some of the darker colours in acrylics. I have developed the habit of using acrylics to create a fairly developed under painting before proceeding to oils. I find I can relax and work out any technical problems as I go along. Any errors can be easily over-painted as the paint dries so quickly - too quickly for a finished work in my assessment, but fine at this stage.
I am already encouraged about the way this is going. I can see the serene sort of end product that I am aiming for. It is quite common in my experience for the painting itself to tell me how it wants to be. Sounds crazy I know, but that's how it feels! So let's try mixing the most obvious colour and see how that looks.
Beginning to look like a painting already. Actually, and seriously, I am not sure why I don't simply stop here. From now on I am at risk of losing the freshness which is evident here. Anyway, suppressing my doubts, I refine it a bit more, still using acrylics.
This is as far as I am going in acrylic. The head is shaping up nicely, but I sense that the body is going to be a problem. There is nothing very distinctive about the plumage and I am not sure how I am going to tackle it. You can see in the picture above that the pencilled grid is still showing through the blue background. I have decided that I do not like this particular shade of blue - again, a good reason to try things out in acrylic first.
Now I suffer my usual panic attack. I have to move to the final painting in oils now and I am fearful that it is all going to go wrong. So, what do I do? I have a fiddle with another painting that I have lying around. It was an experimental approach to painting a Long Tailed Tit. It didn't really work, but maybe that was because I didn't take it far enough. Actually, that was the opinion of Liz Shewan, an artist who was exhibiting at Lyme Regis at the time, when I showed it to her on my Facebook page. ( www.lizshewanart.com ) Thanks Liz, it is great talking to other artists. So this is what I ended up with.
Anyway, back to the Great Crested Grebe. I squeeze out some oils and start experimenting further with the background.
I have used two blues above, French Ultramarine and Phthalo, and added a little Yellow Ochre to the foreground mix to try to pull it forward a bit. I have blended it heavily with a fan brush and you can see that I have slightly over-painted the bird in the process.
So the obvious next job was to try to re-establish the colour patterns on the bird. I have made a start above and I continue below. I have painted the eye and refined the facial pattern a little. Still dreading that body! Carry on and try not to look!
Below I try out some suggestive patterning on the body, it had to come sometime.
Then I brush the patterning out again! I also try to paint some of the water features, a little bow wave and a faint wake.
Finally I settle for a few bolder colour strokes and add a few colour highlights to the water. These actually existed in the original photo and were reflections of the nearby reed bed.
And that is about as good as it's going to get on this one. Hopefully I have achieved something of the serenity I was aiming for without getting too fussy and tight. It is still on my easel and I may have a look at it again this evening in case anything jumps out as being awry.
You can see all my paintings for sale at www.johncrabb.co.uk , just click on the "Oil Paintings" gallery.