Keeping a Lookout was painted over two consecutive weekends at camp. I started out by lightly sketching the herons (mother and babies) and several of the sticks which make up the nest, then covering them with masking fluid. My plan was to use the poured method for applying background color and since this method can yield rather random results as colors blend I didn't want the birds and nest to be influenced by whatever color ended up underneath.
After pouring my some green, yellow, blue and red over various parts of the painting and letting the colors mix, I decided that what I really needed was more texture. I wanted to give a sense of the wilderness surrounding the nest without actually painting it. And I didn't want to detract from my focal point. So I placed a crumpled plastic bag over the wet colors and let the paint pool around the folds and wrinkles of the bag. After the paint dried I removed the bag to find a series of wonderful but subtle lines networking across the background.
I left the painting in progress and all art supplies for the following weekend. Throughout the week I gave some thought to how I was going to handle the colors for the birds and nest. Both would call for lots of grays and browns, colors I usually make from mixing complementary colors.
When I returned to camp the next weekend my first order of business was to check on my painting. I had peeled off the masking fluid and was ready to paint!
Taking my cue from the very yellowy undertones in the green background, I selected yellow and its complement, purple to mix to create the various browns and grays. I used yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, purple and rose in various combinations to achieve what appears to be neutrals, but are actually full of color. A bit of Payne's Gray was mixed with purple to create some of the dark shaded areas in between the branches of the nest. I used a small pointed brush to paint the added sticks jutting out of the nest.
The herons and nest were all painted in the wet on dry method. The background was painted in the wet on wet method; very runny color over very wet paper. I like the contrast in styles in this piece. I also like the branches arching out of the nest and into the wilderness, perhaps pointing the way for the baby herons when they eventually leave the nest.