Browsing through my resource folders, I came across this beautiful picture of a white swan. Although the subject seemed daunting, I could not resist having a go and putting all I had learned about the versatility of white Acrylic Gouache into practice!
I started on Hahnemuhle Matt paper...450g...as there was going to be lots of wet paint on the paper and I did not want it to buckle and have the paint run into the depressions and dry darker than the rest of the image. I did a fairly careful drawing of the head as this is the most important part. and gave myself just a brief outline of the whole body shape.
I was aware at this point that the beak and eye would be right in the centre of the painting, but was not sure how to get over this,so I at least made sure that it was in the top third of the painting.
I painted the head, neck and beak in a quite figurative way and let it dry completely. I then added the background colours by wetting the paper and dropping in various pigments,including Indigo, Cobalt Blue and Quinachridone Magenta, allowing them to bleed freely into each other. I kept the top corners darker than the rest of the background, and kept it lighter around the feathers so that the white gouache did not have too much work to do covering dark areas.
I then simply built up passages of mostly yellow ochre for the underpainting and white acrylic gouache for the feather highlights. There was some Paynes Grey, Magenta and Indigo. The initial white areas had plenty of water as well as paint as this enables the gouache to be blended into the background, but it was obviously used neat to do the top feathers and the water droplets.
Before adding the final splashes, I darkened the areas around some parts of the bird to make the white areas stand out.
A very satisfying final splatter of white gouache and the painting was finished. It is not quite as vibrant as the original photo, but I think it does reflect my personal style of painting and I am very pleased with the result. I must do a few more animal paintings in the future!!
'Swan' 26cm x 36cm watercolour inc. gouache