African Paradise-Flycatcher


Started work on my latest piece and have decided to try something a little different. Hopefully, people will like it and I can do more. I love to paint full-on ‘proper’ paintings and I love coloured sketches, so I thought I’d try and combine both. The idea is to produce a refined sketchbook page with a colour study and some graphite sketches to balance it. Will it work? Let’s see!

I chose the paradise-flycatcher as it is simply a stunning bird.....and having seen African and Asian I decided on the former (even though the Asian has a much funkier crest!) as the male African has more variation to its’ rufous-morph plumage. Both species have an all- white-morph too, but I felt this would have been too contrasting. I found some suitable reference photos for the tree (actually from my trip to Northern India!) but it fitted in with a scene I’d witnessed in Uganda (where I was obviously too busy birding to take proper tree photos!!)

So here’s the first wash of colour on the bit that will obviously require the most work. I’ve offset the main part to the top right of the board purposely so the remainder of the space can be filled with the various sketches. At this stage, the bird has been roughly coloured just to make sure the tonal values are ok.

An image of my Afrian Paradise-Flycatcher

Now comes the work of making the foliage look real.....always a challenge!! Taking reference photos when I travel is an occupational hazard I’m afraid. I often come home with 3000+ pics of which maybe half are of rocks, trees, leaves, etc...! I like pictures where shadows play a part too in making a mundane object more visually stimulating, so the photo I chose had interesting shadows that brought the tree itself to life.

An image of my Afrian Paradise-Flycatcher

The leaves are coming together nicely....but looking through my reference video from Uganda showed that the colour-morph I actually saw had reduced white in the wing so, with me being-attention-to-detail- me, I adjusted it accordingly. Upon doing so, I thought it really didn’t work and pushed the bird back too far, so I changed it back with a much more pleasing effect.

An image of my Afrian Paradise-Flycatcher

The bird is worked-up a bit more now to give it more substance (and painting green’s getting boring!). I decide to put some more leaves around the base of the picture but to leave them in a more ‘sketchy’ condition. The tree itself needs some more work now to get the bark looking better.

An image of my Afrian Paradise-Flycatcher

This part is basically 95% finished now. Another decaying leaf has been added to the top to tie-in the rufous tones and the bird now has a focus – a Ugandan butterfly species that just happened to mirror the colours in the bird perfectly! So now to begin putting on the finalized sketches and to switch from acrylics to graphite....

An image of my Afrian Paradise-Flycatcher

After playing around with the layout of the sketches, several were binned as it was looking overcrowded and whittled down to what hopefully is a nice sinuous movement down the page with the lower 3 showing the less-dowdy female (but she’s still a gorgeous vision of rufous in the flesh!). I decided to add the electric blue orbital ring, bill and legs the birds have to tie the sketches together and then, after much deliberation and putting off for fear of ruining the whole thing, I added a slight colour wash to three of them as some colour was needed to balance the overall piece, making these the actual colour morph I saw as having more rufous worked better on the plain background. Lastly, a little patch of leaves was added to fill the blank space that appeared in the centre. Also, (by more luck than judgement I must admit) the two top left birds are actually looking at the butterfly too...result!

An image of my Afrian Paradise-Flycatcher

The main bird is now finished completely, its tail elongated slightly and the feather detailing sharpened up. Finishing touches are put to the tree and vine, a few of the leaves are delineated more and that’s it...time to put it in a frame and leave it alone!!

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