This past couple of weeks the weather has really picked up in Germany as we fast approach the Black Forest area. As it was my birthday at the start of July I wanted to work on something that wasn’t a commission but for my own enjoyment. I took this reference photo of a peacock a few weeks ago in an animal park in beautiful evening light and have thought about painting it ever since. Well, I thought I’d give it a go. A new challenge for my birthday, a peacock! As I came round the path to where I could hear him making an awful racket, he just looked over his shoulder as if to say “Aren’t I gorgeous?” Well he certainly was even if his singing voice was not…
My reference photo. I didn’t like the roof so much as the grey edging seems to distract from the image. We were staying in a small town called Rockenhausen with lots of quaint, slightly wonky, red roof tiles. I went in search of a different roof to place him on.
I’ve got my line drawing sketched out on the yellow/orange velour. I’ve chosen this colour of surface as I want the painting to have a warm glow like the evening light in which I photographed him.
The weather was so nice while we were parked up in Rockenhausen where I started this painting that I moved my easel outdoors a few days. It’s difficult to work from a laptop screen outside so I built a cardboard box around the laptop to lessen the glare. It worked enough to let me enjoy a few rays while I worked on this background.
On our way to Rockenhausen I try to take some photographs as Andrew drives. The German countryside around these parts is so stunning. We climb in 2nd gear a lot of the time up the steep hills in our old motorhome, but it’s worth it for the views!
This is our spot in Rockenhausen on the edge of the town beside some sports grounds. The weather turns beautiful just in time for my birthday and we spend a whole week relaxing here while I start work on Mr Peacock.
I was so pleased on my birthday to have this red squirrel come and hang out in the trees next to the van. I quickly grabbed my camera and caught a few snaps of him, but this one appealed the most! Doesn’t he look like he’s got himself a lovely poke on a hot day? For non Northern Irish folk, a poke is an icecream cone 🙂
Walking into the town we pass so many lovely gardens. The perfume from the flowers are just everywhere this time of year!
Brocci doing some posing in the town square with a couple of bunny sculptures. She always knows just what to do when I point a camera at her 🙂
This is one of my favourite types of background to do. As many have asked, I will do a tutorial video soon on how to build up a background like this.
Almost there on the background with a few more highlights added and lots of blending on the velour paper I use. This paper is tricky to blend on but once you have a few layers of pastel down it starts to become workable. It’s about building up thin layers gradually and not putting too much pigment down in one go.
Starting on the peacock’s head. I love the sharp contrast in the photo and I’ve added some of the darkest and lightest areas first to give me a sense of where that light is coming from.
Here you can see some of the colours I’m using. Lots of Blue Greens from Unison and a lovely Terry Ludwig dark purple. Unison’s range of blues are delicious though and I’m hoping I have all the right colours to capture that iridescence on the peacock’s feathers.
So many times during the progress of this painting I questioned whether I was mad to try it! This was one of those days! The body which I thought wouldn’t take me too long took a whole day. So tricky to figure out all those dark markings which create the form of the peacock and then using different colours for the white areas to show where the shadows hit. I started to think I might regret ever taking this on!
Beginning work on the tail feathers. I suspect this part may take me the longest!
A full day spent from the last progress photo and I’m starting to get a feel for these feathers. Because they are all on top of eachother it’s making it very difficult to keep them individually defined. I’m spending long amounts of time just sitting looking at what’s going on and trying to plan my next step!
I’m still using the big Unison sticks but I’ve broken nearly every blue and green I own to find more sharp edges. I’m always willing to break a pastel as it gives me lot of new edges and I find my most useful bits are the smaller pieces that have either worn down or been broken.
This shows better how I’m going about building up the feathers by placing the main eyespots first.
Starting to lay in the roof tiles. I don’t want to go into too much detail on these as there is already so much pattern and detail in the image. I really wanted it to have the rounded rooftiles to mirror the feathers and this lovely terracota red should add some warmth and colour contrast to all the green.
Starting to add some shadow and texture to the rooftiles.
We have moved again and now we’re in Bruchsal which turns out to be a lovely town to explore, but the photos I’m sharing are from the allotments we are parked next to. Lots of little plots hidden down colourful pathways. Each plot was so unique and Brocci and I met lots of their owners out tending to their flowers and vegetables. It was like wandering through a dreamland of beautiful blooms and sumptuous scents! A treat for the senses!
The most beautiful smelling roses!
One of my favourite plots. So many varieties!
Beautiful globe thistles being enjoyed by many bumbles.
Nearing the end now and I have to say I’m exhausted! I don’t think any painting has ever drained my brain so much, but it has been most enjoyable!
Here is a final image of the finished scan. This is a close up so you can see how I’ve created the individual feathers. Hope you have enjoyed my progress both on my painting and my travels! Be sure to check out my shop for limited edition prints of this peacock which I’ve titled ‘Aloof on the Roof.’