This new little oil painting of a "Bluebird" is one I just finished up for my upcoming show. It measures 5 7" and was painted on an "Ampersand Panel" - with a smooth finish. I find that I prefer those panels now instead of stretched canvas because I can get twice the detail in half the amount of drying time.
Here are some of my secrets to achieve a nice "blue" color for your bluebird:
My first secret is that I always start by priming my canvas or panel with black gesso. By doing this simple step first, you can achieve much better depth and color brilliance. If you put it to the test by painting on a pure white canvas, and then paint the same thing on a black canvas, you will find that painting over the dark one allows you skip many subsequent layers of color. It takes a lot more painting layers and drying time to achieve a brilliant color over a white canvas as it does over the black one.
Hint: Take a day and prime a whole bunch of them at once with the black gesso, then when you are ready to paint, you will have them all ready to go. I prefer "Liquitex Gesso." I have tried other brands and they do not have the coverage Liquitex provides and also just don't go on as nice. (in my opinion)
For mixing those beautiful "bluebird" blues:
Try using ultramarine blue and phthalo blue. Add white to the highlighted areas of your "bluebird."
It's best to glaze on your colors (thin layers), that way they dry quicker and you can apply more coats and build up to the beautiful blue color in your bird. I don't always like to follow rules in my paintings, so if I have a little "cerulean blue" on my palette, I may ad a tiny bit to lighten my blue mixture.
A blue color can be made paler by adding a small amount of white without losing the quality of the blue color. For the dark areas it's best to mix a little cadmium red to your blue instead of using "black." I often will cheat and use a touch of black around the eye area.
(Giclee prints of this painting are available)
Why is a bluebird blue?
(Taken from Young Naturalists publication)
The male bluebird has more success in attracting a mate, finding a place to nest, and producing a family of healthy young bluebirds.
-Bluebirds aren't really blue. They are gray. A bluebird’s feathers refract, or bend, light,
so they look blue to us. When light enters a bluebird’s feather, it bounces off tiny air
pockets and cells in such a way that only the blue wavelengths return to our eyes.
-Because a bluebird’s color depends on bouncing light, it can look different from a
distance. From far away, a bluebird might look more like a plain grayish-brownish bird.
But as you get closer, you’ll see that it looks brilliant blue.
Credit - I would like to give credit to the man who took the beautiful photograph of this lovely "bluebird" at the Grand Canyon. His name is Ken Morgan, and he was kind enough to allow me to paint it.