I have a thing about Blackbirds

I've written before about trying to loosen up my painting/drawing style. My illustration training meant I only ever saw one way of painting - as realistic as possible. I would love to be one of those artists who can conjure up a representation of something with just a few carefully placed marks. I may never get there, but I am taking time to experiment and see if I can find a style I'm happy with. This is the next of those tests, and one that I originally intended to be a Christmas Card.

Male Blackbirds are very appealing to me in a Graphic Design sense. They have a strict colour scheme - black with a yellow accent used sparingly (see Blackbird studies one and two). You don't need to worry about recreating speckles or complex plumage patterns - get the black shape right and you're 95% of the way there. This makes them ideal test subjects for trying out different artistic styles:

A digital painting of a male blackbird, in quite a loose, energetic style. The brush makes grainy rectangular marks
Version 1: Procreate with Nikko Rull brush

Painted mostly using the flat and grainy 'Nikko Rull' brush. I like how expressive this brush can be, and how it can work for suggesting the movement lines around the wing and tail. I was really happy with how this one turned out!

A digital painting of a male blackbird, in a linocut style. It looks sharper and crisper.
Version 2: 'Fake Linocut' in Procreate

This version was a 'fake linocut'. I started with a completely black layer in Procreate (with opacity at about 70% so I could see my sketch) and chiselled away at it using a Lino brush. To achieve the same level of detail in a real linocut, it would need to be quite large. However I liked how the marks left in the whitespace looked like falling snow. The shading lines could've better followed the form of the feathers more, OR, they should've been left out altogether.

A digital painting of a male blackbird, in a simpler linocut style. There is no shading detail, and the shadow underneath the bird is solid blue.
Version 3: 'Fake Linocut with two colour blocks' in Procreate

This variant removed a lot of detail, going for more a solid look. Instead of using black hatching for the shadow and footprints, I was thinking about how an under-printed blue layer might look like.

A real linocut print, looking a bit crude. The yellow eye ring and beak are printed first as a separate layer, with the black on top.
Actual linocut. Meh.

Finally, this is an actual linocut. Due to the small size, there wasn't enough room to create details. While I could use a drill bit to get a neat white highlight in the eye, the ring about it is too crudely done. In fact, I felt the whole thing was too crude, but I really liked the result of protective piece of paper underneath the Lino when I was inking up. All those accidental marks where the roller overshot the Lino were far more exciting to me:

Accidental marks left by the Lino inking roller look like triangles with motion blur.

I love the movement and expression in those marks, it made me think of a flock (parliament!) of Rooks. Maybe that's the next style to try?