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An Oil Painting in Three Stages

The images below show the three main stages in painting a Chaffinch in the spring, this studio piece has been developed from a plein air painting.

I chose to create a studio painting developed from a plein air study as I wanted to alter the composition of my original sketch by elongating my layout. Time is limited when working from life, there isn't always time to fully plan out a composition and sometimes I have to grab whatever panel is left whilst on a day out painting.

This new studio piece in on a 6’’ x 10’’ panel. I kept it small so as to avoid overworking my painting. I wanted it to remain as fresh and as spontaneous as my plein air study.

I framed the Chaffinch with the Spring buds which seemed to mimic the shape and colour of the Chaffinch- this bird landed in the right tree! I also designed the lay out of the branches to direct the eye back towards the bird. To keep the eye from leaving the canvas the distant chunky branch acts as a barrier and a frame at the top right side of the painting, and from it extends a smaller branch back towards the focal point. This also serves to break up all of that blue sky in the background.

As with most of my plein air bird studies the bird goes down first as it’s the first thing that’s going to change in a scene by flying away! The Chaffinch has a wonderful range of colour in its plumage from the deep orange on the head to the lovely soft dusky pink underside. Coupled with the bright blue Spring sky I have complementary colours to work with that also happen to be my favourite colours!

Once I have my bird down, I like to then work from back to front with my scene. This sets the light and atmosphere of the painting and creates a greater sense of depth as I come forward, increasing the values, chroma, colour temperature and texture.

It was a brilliant bright sunny day with reflective light and colour bouncing off everything!

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