Sunday, 31 January 2016

Thoughts on Hummingbirds - My Digital Sketchbook

A few months ago I finally picked up a paintbrush and started getting creative again. At first I was scared, it had been so long and I was unsure where to start. What was going to be my subject matter? 

Living in London there is so much to be inspired by. I visited the National Gallery and didn't even make it past the gift shop. It was filled with treasures. The most beautiful Christmas tree ornaments I'd ever seen. Glass, feathers, plastic, unique. I was truly taken up these hummingbird pieces. 

During my A Levels I always felt draw towards feathers. I marvelled over how delicate they are yet they are the very things that make flight possible. They can be represented in so many ways and in the past I have experimented with a bejewelled colour pallet (similar to the geometric bird above) of rich blues and greens. I decided to once again bring feathers into my work and began researching hummingbirds further. Which each new project I first study my choose subject matter with a bunch of sketches, working on the scale, positioning and textures. Trying to replicate what it actually looks like to give myself a deepen understanding to later rework the matter into my own creation. 

After a series of sketches drawing from secondary source images found online I visited the Natural History Museum and was so excited to find a case full of preserved hummingbirds!!! Containing over 200 species the display case was created in the 1700s to demonstrate their beauty, bright colours and wide range which most people where unaware of at that time. 

So far I had found the tail to be the most difficult part and was amazed to learn that not all hummingbirds have the same tail structure. My favourite became the racket tail, two very simple lines curving parallel to one another creating negative space. That would become my focal point. 

Watercolours became my main choice of median as it was so quick to use and didn't make much mess, meaning I could easily work sat on my bed. This was my first real experience using watercolours, I had tried it a bit at school but found it incredibly difficult. This time I decided to try it in my own way and not imitate the watery, pastel effects of others and so far it's worked out well. Although I worry that I might be using them 'incorrectly' if there is such a thing. 

 Oil paints have always been my favourite and honestly I was worried to use them again as it had been such a long time. I love the fluid and rich texture they create. Some of my happiest days were spent in the ceramics studio during Sixth Form, stood, working at an easel painting with oils. I can remember so much of that whole experience. I would always listen to BBC radio one, usually on my own as it was my free periods, the cold floor through my socks as I always sneakily slipped my dolly shoes off (I was alone after all) and the strong scent of oil paints, white spirit and turpentine.    

I created small (A5) watercolour pieces depicting single hummingbirds, usually from the side. Comparing simple tonal work with small brushstrokes building up coloured texture and use of white space on the bird. The eye posed a problem. Drawing on anime/manga influences I wanted the glossy/white light bubble effect. The eye was to give character to my little bird. He became almost Egyptian. I fell in love with my little Golden Bird. No longer was I attempting to recreate real hummingbirds but create my own species of bird. 

His tail was so simple and effective, I began to imagine him sat on a branch or holding a twig. It seemed important for him to be captured in flight. My work doesn't demonstrate the true rapid movement of a hummingbird in any sense, but it gives an almost impossible sense of still flight. 

I wanted to resist looking at how other artists had depicted hummingbirds but somehow came across this piece on pinterest by Beth-Emily Gregory and felt incredibly inspired. I created the piece below as a response; entitled Umbrella Tail. 

Having always worked on a much larger scale I bit the bullet and bought a few larger canvas boards to work on. Including three small boards for a mini series, of which I've painted one small  rather messy hummingbird with oil paints in bejewelled colours. 

Then I used one of the larger boards and it's still a work in progress piece however I wanted to share it. Most works in this series lack background depth so I decided to make this one incredibly dark. After a quick draft I planned out the composition of the wings, sketched it on the canvas board and outlined with a white pen bought especially from the London Graphic Centre. I loved the basic sketched element of the body and dramatic tail, taking all focus but subtly remaining a hummingbird.

For this piece I used oil paints. The tail continued to take inspiration from the work of Beth-Emily Gregory and The Chase's project for the Garden Lighting Company. It developed a natural and earthy feel, like a flower drooped upside down with each section of colour resembling a soft petal.  

This piece is still in progress and I'll be posting further developments to the series on the blog soon. In the meantime you can check out some of my older pieces on my new online portfolio!! 

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