Colorado, USA, Tadpole Takeout, watercolor, 19 x 29" (48 x 74 cm) Second Prize is a two-page editorial feature in American Art Collector magazine
I spotted this blue heron while cycling around Stanley Park in Vancouver during a vacation. I was amazed at all of the waterlilies in this small lake and I stopped to take some pictures. Then I noticed the heron, and I snapped two quick pictures and we continued on our ride. Later I realized that one of the photos showed the blue heron having captured a large tadpole. I am often inspired by nature and how a simple day-to-day act can be beautiful. In this instance, the challenge of painting the blue heron among the waterlilies was double the fun!
My Design Strategy
I knew right from the start of this painting that I would set the blue heron off by juxtaposing the vibrant greens against the grays of his feathers. Using several photos, I made adjustments to the layout of the lily pads and specifically positioned the pink lilies to help draw your eye through the scene. I increased the depth in the scene by blurring and lightening the background water lilies. I added a little more blue to the water around the bird to reflect the sky and further the contrast of bright and neutral colors. I created a circular path by using the bird’s beak pointing to the two foreground lilies, which draw you back to the other lilies and then return you to the bird.
My Working Process
I work from my photos and sometimes combine two or three to get the desired composition. I always do a detailed drawing and then transfer it to my watercolor paper using a light table. I used Arches cold press, 140-pound paper. I masked some of the wispy feathers on the heron, the bubbles in the water and the lilies. I started the background water by painting wet-onwet. The heron’s head and eye were next to make sure they were working before I continued. I used some very granular colors, Green Apatite and Zoisite Genuine from Daniel Smith, for some of the texture in the lily pads. I adjust values by glazing color over an area or by lifting to create the illusion of light.