Paint re­al­is­tic bird feath­ers

Lee­sha Han­ni­gan il­lus­trates pi­geons and doves of var­i­ous colours, demon­strat­ing how to ren­der feath­ers while tak­ing a painterly ap­proach

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Us­ing a painterly ap­proach, with Lee­sha Han­ni­gan.

for this work­shop I’m go­ing to be fo­cus­ing on how to paint feath­ers, and have cho­sen pi­geons as my sub­ject mat­ter. This is pri­mar­ily be­cause they’re eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to most peo­ple for study pur­poses, but also be­cause it can be valu­able to sit down and ob­serve the more com­mon­place things in your en­vi­ron­ment, tak­ing note of sub­tleties you may have pre­vi­ously over­looked.

Pi­geons and doves for ex­am­ple, come in a va­ri­ety of colours. When choos­ing your own sub­ject for this ex­er­cise, try to find a species that will en­able you to ex­plore dif­fer­ent colour vari­a­tions. When paint­ing any spe­cific ma­te­rial, putting some time into both ded­i­cated stud­ies and fo­cused ob­ser­va­tion will save you a lot of en­ergy fur­ther down the road. Get­ting into the habit of do­ing stud­ies and representational paint­ings also pro­motes con­sis­tent growth when it comes to your tech­ni­cal skills.

The more you look at a sub­ject, the more you’ll un­der­stand how to ac­cu­rately de­pict it in your il­lus­tra­tions, and as with many things, once you learn the rules you can also break them. That’s where styli­sa­tion can then come into play.

I take a some­what painterly ap­proach to ren­der­ing, be­cause I find it lends it­self well to nat­u­ral­is­tic paint­ings. Na­ture is in­her­ently im­per­fect; al­low this to come through in your work – it’ll add to the char­ac­ter of the piece. Use ref­er­ence, but ap­ply the free­dom to use it loosely. It pays to know when to de­vi­ate from your ref­er­ence ma­te­rial and trust your own eye.

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