Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover looking for food amongst the gravel at Rushy Common, near Witney

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to finish a bird illustration. I’ve got loads of started-and-abandoned-for-being-shit ones from the last 7 months. I've been playing with different techniques, but up until now I hadn't have any successful results.

This time, instead of painting in vectors in Adobe Fresco, I went back to Procreate. Vectors are great for creating artwork that can be enlarged without limits, but they lack the expression and softness that can be achieved with bitmap brushes. They also appear quite unnaturally flat without any 'noise' to add texture. For this painting of a Little Ringed Plover I saw recently at Rushy Common, I used a combination of two brushes. Spectra brush for large areas (particularly the blurred background) and Studio Pen for the finer detail. While the blurry effect might make it look as I slavishly copied a photograph, it does take less time to paint. I like how it helps to draw focus to the bird, and it's eye in particular.

I've also been re-learning how to depict shadows and highlights. I was taught how to mix cool and warm shadows with specific paint colours at college, and while that method still applies, there is a better way to do this digitally. First: paint the base colours without any shading. Then add cool blue/neutral tones on a layer with Multiply blend mode, and light warm colours on a layer with Overlay blend mode. This can then be finely adjusted with the layer opacity.

I feel like I've regained my mojo a bit with these techniques, I'm really relieved at how this one turned out!