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Work in progress – Pelican’s Gaze (day 1)

Work in progress – Pelican’s Gaze (day 1)

Since we’ve arrived back in the Low Country of South Carolina (Fripp Island, to be precise), I just love being surrounded by the marsh landscape. The marsh, the sea and the countryside here is just teeming with life. Crabs, fish, dolphins and of course birdlife galore. Wading birds like the little sandpipers that run all over the beach, resident Ibis colonies that are now nesting in the trees,  as well as birds of prey like Osprey and turkey vultures. But I have to say my favourite seabird found around here is the pelican. The way they dive into the sea, with full abandon, totally committed, whether they catch something or not, is just inspirational.

A pelican has been a subject of one of my paintings before, but it was a small 10″ x 10″ painting, of a brown pelican that we saw, perched on a pole at a local shrimp dock. This time, I decided to do something very different. I am throwing caution to the wind, like a pelican in a dive,  and decided I would create a close-up of the pelican’s head only, and make it the biggest painting I have ever done. Next, I went online and looked for photos I could use as inspiration.

Day 1, The Setup and The Sketch.

My first task was to get the soft green 32″ x 40″ Canson Pastel Board I chose to be my canvas mounted on my easel. This was a challenge. My easel is pretty lightweight, and is really more suitable for mounted canvas. The pastel board was simply too thin to provide enough support to work on in an upright fashion, and the easel’s clamp at the top would have bent the edge of the board and it would still not have been secured properly.

My solution was to tape and clamp the pastel board on top of a very big, unused mounted canvas that was laying around. The canvas provided the right size support all over the pastel board, including something for the top of the easel to wedge against. I taped some space out on either side of the pastel board, as the finished proportions I will be working towards is 28″ x 40″.

Now it was time to do a sketch and a colour study.  For that, I got out my pad of large newspaper sketchbook and clamped it over top of the pastel board. I did a quick pencil sketch (I found out I was without charcoal; otherwise that’s what I would have used), which I worked overtop of with thin permanent marker to work in the darker value areas. After that, I grabbed my Blick Artist soft pastels and completed the study with the colours I thought would work best. In the end, I was quite happy with the result, and I kept the pastels I used in the study set apart from the rest, so they’d be easier to find the next time. In fact, isn’t it often the case that when you are most relaxed and not too worried about creating a nice, finished piece, that the sketch turns out great? That’s why I’ve made it available for purchase in my Etsy store. 😉

The next blog post will show how I am making out on getting the ‘real’ painting started. What do you think of the idea of a ‘portrait’ of a bird? I’ve seen portraits of people’s pets, such as dogs, cats, horses, but a pelican’s portrait? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it or anything else this post has made you think of!



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