Bird island

Photographing my paintings from my West Coast trip the other day reminded me that I had also travelled to the very easternmost point in Canada that same summer. There are still some scenes from Newfoundland that haven’t been painted, so I thought I would work on one of those today. Elliston (previously known as Bird Island because of the puffin colonies) is on the Bonavista Peninsula. I walked out to that far rock to see the puffins (on another rock hidden from view) but at the top of the rock I was on, there was the most unusual sight — dozens of single black bird wings (not puffins), separated from heads and torsos, scattered on the top of the hill. It was strangely horrifying and not something I’m likely to forget any time soon. In this scene, I painted the sky first starting with a  diluted wash of Raw Sienna. I find that if I don’t add that touch of yellow, a sky composed of only greys or blues is a little bit flat. Once that warm wash is on, I used a mix of Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna for the clouds. Painted on 1/8 sheet of Arches cold press paper, 11″ x 7.5″.


19 Comments on “Bird island”

  1. Sheila Roote says:

    Hi Shari, lovely painting and how fortunate to see both coasts in one summer. Wondering if you let the Raw Sienna wash before painting the clouds? If not, then how do you keep it fresh?


    • Hi Sheila,
      I make a very wet mix of Raw Sienna, quite diluted, and then wet the whole sky with that. Then I go in with the grey mix for the clouds while the yellow is still very wet. If the yellow starts to dry you will get back runs so the first wash has to come from a very wet brush.
      And it helps to make the grey in advance so it’s ready to apply.


  2. ChesapkLady says:

    The blackbird wings. . . how scary. How spooky. Did you ever find out what the story might have been? Who or what might have done the dismembering?
    . . . But thanks for the tip on yellow in the gray sky. It’s perfect, and I see what you mean about adding depth.


  3. Louise Boyer says:

    Looks so real, and full of light, can almost feel the gentle perfumed breese!

    Louise Boyer


  4. Monique says:

    I started Hawthorne On friend is so sweet..I recommended it to her..and she sent one to me..I have to loosen are finding and painting the spots of color..always..
    I have just begun the book..but so far ..I am enjoying the words..and the quote you posted..?
    I read and thought of you.


    • What a nice friend you have Monique. I find that it’s a book that you can read, put down for a while, and then come back to. Each page has so many tidbits on it. They each merit some thought.


  5. Irene Miller says:

    Shari this is absolutely fantastic! I love that fact that you used burnt sienna in a sky!!


  6. anne farmer says:

    I wondered what I think you’re first coorespondeny meant – how dry is the first wash of raw sienna before you continue? Gorgeous picture.


    • Hi Anne, I’m not sure of your question exactly. But for the sky, I wet it almost all over with a light wash of raw sienna and go into the wet with my greys. If you don’t disturb the wash too much, the yellow and grey don’t really mix. The expert on this is Ron Ranson. He has a great book on painting skies and he loves that first wash of Raw Sienna.


  7. Linda Murray says:

    Yes, thanks for the tip, Shari. I can see what you mean. Your painting is so simple, but really comes to life. Nice!


  8. Lee Kline says:

    I have been wondering how you copy your art. Do you use a scanner, and if so, what make and size? Or do you photograph with a digital camera and correct the distortion in PhotoShop? Thanks.


    • HI Lee,
      For most of my work I scan it on an Epson Perfection V600Photo scanner. The bed of the scanner is about 9 x 12 so most work fits on that. Sometimes for 1/4 sheet watercolours (11″ x 15″) I scan in two parts, and then use Photoshop to stitch the halves together. Usually the adjustment to a scan in Photoshop is minimal. It’s a matter of brightening the whites and add some contrast, but the colours are excellent.

      For larger works, the process is more complex. I have a piece of black velvet stapled to a cork board. I pin my paintings to that and then photograph them. The distortion is not bad since the surface is vertical, and the camera is on a tripod. The difficulty is the colour correction. I often take many photos, adjusting the white balance (auto, tungsten, etc) to get the right colour. That’s why I save up the large paintings and photograph them together.

      Do you scan your work or photograph it?


      • Lee Kline says:

        I scan my work on an HP ENVY 5530. But I am working a bit larger in pastels now, so I think I will try your method of photographing the larger stuff.


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