How should I paint feath­ers that are muddy? Jenny Con­quest, Eng­land

ImagineFX - - Imagine Nation | Artist Q&A -


Sara replies

It’s not easy to paint dirt and mud re­al­is­ti­cally, so hav­ing some ref­er­ences to hand is es­sen­tial. The same goes for feath­ers. Let’s start with the lat­ter and try to un­der­stand their con­struc­tion.

Feath­ers have a rigid, thin cen­tral part called the rachis (com­monly known as the shaft), which is joined to the skin of the bird, and a soft part called the vane that stems out from the rachis. We per­ceive the vane of the feather as a sin­gle thing, but it’s ac­tu­ally formed from a set of soft barbs. You’ll need to de­pict these fea­tures care­fully if your feath­ers are to look real­is­tic.

I roughly paint the feather with­out too much de­tail. I’m go­ing to get it dirty with the mud, us­ing brown­ish brush­strokes that fol­low the shape of the feather. When paint­ing the mud, I bear in mind that it’s nei­ther solid nor liq­uid. Mud is shiny and ir­reg­u­lar, and con­tains lumps of earth. When it dries it leaves a lighter, dusty mark.

In my im­age I use a dark colours to de­pict the wet mud on the droop­ing feath­ers, and choose a lighter colour to paint the mud that’s dried on other parts of the head­dress. I fin­ish with a tex­tured brush that gives a rough idea of the earthy and dusty com­po­nent of the mud.

To make the mud look

ir­reg­u­lar and slimy, I add some lumps and drips. I use very strong lights and shad­ows to ac­cen­tu­ate its wet look. Know­ing a feather’s con­struc­tion will help you un­der­stand how it’ll ap­pear when it’s dirty.

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