Throwback Thursday: Bee Eaters!

Little Bee Eaters (10x14 in Transparent Watercolor)

Little Bee Eaters (10×14 in Transparent Watercolor)


Carmine Bee Eaters (10x14 in Transparent Watercolor)

Carmine Bee Eaters (10×14 in Transparent Watercolor)

Here are a pair of paintings from early 1997. I did the Little Bee Eaters as a wedding gift for my friend Mike. The Carmine Bee Eaters were an engagement gift for my (now) wife, Liesl. They were based on photos I took at the awesome Bronx Zoo Bird House.

Looking back at older paintings is odd for me. Some I still love; others are just okay. The few outright failures you won’t see here. I still think these two paintings are fun, but there are a lot of things I’d do differently now. For starters, I’d change the backgrounds. At the time I did a lot of airbrushed work. Honestly, the airbrush was a bit of a crutch, which is true for a lot of artists. I wasn’t good at large, controlled washes of paint, so I’d “squirt in” a nice gradient or solid background. Although smooth, they look a little boring to me now.

Occasionally the airbrush is still the right choice, such as for super-dark colors. While I still like the airbrushed backgrounds in some paintings, in others it bothers me. I have spent a lot of time working on larger, controlled flat and gradient washes and definitely prefer those now. I tend to do more painting into the backgrounds now. Often I’ll have some middle distance objects rather than the blown-out low depth of field and blurry backgrounds of these two paintings.

An artist’s work evolves as he or she progresses. With most paintings that I’ve done, I have areas that I’d like to improve or at least change. I suppose if you don’t say that, you’ve stagnated. Watercolor is by far my favorite medium, allowing me to create tons of detail relatively quickly. It has beautiful, accurate colors, and the white of the paper can almost glow through the transparent pigments. Watercolor is easy to store and the pigments clean up easily.

Along with its multitude of benefits, there are some drawbacks to using watercolor, namely that it isn’t remotely forgiving to edits. The paper is quite delicate, and though you can scrub away a mistake, it almost never comes completely off. Once scrubbed, the paper’s surface is forever changed and doesn’t take color the way it should. Most mistakes or bad choices are there for good. Knowing this makes me really appreciate a well-done watercolor.

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