Lilac-Breasted Roller

The time has come to paint another fun and colourful Roller piece! I’ve said it many times before, I love to paint birds, I love the intricate feather detail, the interesting colour patterns and the different textures and effects that one gets to experiment with.

I am quite chuffed with this particular reference photo, I captured this shot whilst visiting Kruger National Park last Oct. Well actually, saying I “captured”  the shot might leave open to interpretation that there was great skill involved in the photographic process when actually the lovely obliging Roller was sitting rather still, perched on a branch for quite some time, allowing me to take a ridiculous amount of photos, some of which were actually in focus and not half bad by my standards.

I’ll be the first to say that my photographic skills leave much to be desired, but I really enjoy the process. I suppose though, I enjoy pretty much ANY activity that requires many hours of sitting quietly in the bush, at home in my surroundings. But yes, Lilac-breasted Rollers are quintessential Kruger residents and their habit of perching in exposed areas whilst hunting means they make wonderful photographic subjects for even the least skilled photographer. Of the countless failed attempts I have stored in my Kruger files, this one was perfectly acceptable, lovely detail in the eye, interesting posture, good light, most definitely one I wanted to replicate on canvas.

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Of all the things I enjoy about painting pieces like this, matching the bold, beautiful colours has got to be one of my favourites. That’s actually one of the things I love most about painting in general, taking a selection of assigned basic shades of colour, as they present themselves inside the tubes that confine them, and mixing them together in unexpected combinations to create the colours you see before you. Colours can be experimented with and in some cases pushed, when you can see opportinuty for exaggeration. That’s where “painting” becomes “art”, when you start to identify the green tones in the “white” of a subject for example, that’s what truly excites me. I have the best time mixing colours and I like nothing more than the look of a well used palette at the end of a successful, productive day in the studio.

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Yesterday I laid down the “under layers” of the Roller. Layers are most important to my painting style. In an effort to capture as much depth and detail as possible I like to build up colour by using a layering technique, searching for the tones that lie below the colour as your eye sees it in the finished product. These layers often result in the initial layer looking completely comical and unrealistic and I always get a kick out of sharing this first stages of my paintings with friends and family who try their best to be polite and encouraging but really have the look of “this painting looks like a complete mess” written all over their faces. The colours of this piece however are pretty strait forward and the textures are not overly complicated so the colours as I have laid them now are not too far off what they will look like in the end.


It is worthy to note that it is ALWAYS a good idea to lay down the background layers first to avoid losing any of your work in attempts to blend paint behind the subject of focus… I have made things difficult for myself here by not laying the background down first, but I was just so excited to get working with the turquoise and lilac that I got a bit carried away 🙂

After my statements about crazy colours in under-layers I thought I had better share some other examples of the change from initial colour layers to finished work,  just to give a better idea of how exaggerated these layers sometimes need to be.

African Buffalo   African Buffalo

     Maasi warrior, website size

Anyway, I have been waiting for the first layer of the Roller to dry before starting to add any detail. Allowing layers sufficient drying time is most important to avoid a finished  painting that looks smudged and messy and could even end up cracking somewhere down the line. So as much as I wanted to work on it today I did some hard concentration portrait work instead. Hopefully tomorrow morning the paint will be dry and I can continue the process. Very excited to get this piece finished, I’m going to try buckle down and get it done in the next few weeks. I really look forward to sharing it with you just as soon as it’s complete!!


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