How can you keep painting so many birds? No one but my inner voice actually asks me that. But she’s a bit of a nag, so I’m going to go ahead and answer her.

It’s simple, really. I am constantly changing the way I do it. Those birds? They are my little, light-footed, hyper-aware, graceful, elegant muses that lead me to new discoveries about paint, design, and color.

In the first painting of the splendid fairywren, I started with a charcoal sketch on a cadmium red/burnt sienna wash. I then used the palette knife to layer on thick (almost obnoxiously so) chunks of paint. When the bird was almost completely filled in, I scraped all the paint away using the long side of my knife. Scraped clean, the canvas revealed a ghost-like remnant of the bird. I then went in with a brush and added softer bits of color.

Painting two, the bluebird. I started with the same sketch and wash combo as the first painting, but this time used just one large brush– a flat size 10 which is HUGE for a 4×4 canvas. I worked with only a brush, careful to leave that red wash showing in select places where bird meets background.

Painting three, the cardinal. This one was an old palette knife painting from weeks ago; one I had scraped away in frustration. I took the old, splotchy painting and started to rework it. It was different from the fairywren painting because the original layer of paint was completely dry and those bumpy textures firmly set. I worked over the underlying mess with a smaller flat brush than I did in the middle painting. I wasn’t expecting much from this re-working but it turned out to be my favorite.

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, joy is approaching the same painting with new strategies time and time again.

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