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Pastel Painting: Crimson rosellas

We are very lucky in Australia to have a number of brightly coloured parrots, like the very common crimson rosella.

It was the white tree-trunk behind the rosellas that inspired me to paint this picture. I wanted a bit of relief after the nocturnal blackness of my possum painting!

This pair of rosellas was photographed at Junction Pools in Barrington Tops National Park (more photos from this trip here). They were preoccupied with searching for a nest hollow so I was able to approach them quite closely. My source photo had glorious colour and barely needed any cropping, but there were some problems with it.

I felt that the left hand edge and the top of the picture needed cropping to move the birds upwards and make the bird on the left less central. On the other hand, cropping around the edges made the space between the birds more emphatic. There needed to be a connection between them. Another problem was that the birds were both on the same level running the risk of making the painting static. I needed to pull the centre of interest around the female bird (on the right) down a bit, while reducing the interest on the male's side.

This crop (left) trimmed all around the photo, which emphasized the birds but left an awkward gap between them.

In the end I settled on this version (right) which makes the female bird more prominent and emphasizes the strong diagonal line of the twigs leading from the male across to the female bird and down towards the lower right. I felt that a viewer's attention would first be attracted by the male bird and then be led across to the female by the leaves and twigs.

I drew up a grid over the photo.

Since I wanted this painting to be bright, and much of the background was white, I used a white-coloured textured pastel paper.

I sketched in the birds and began putting colour in the tree trunk which I rubbed in a bit in places.

I began adding colour to the birds.

In the this step (below) I have added in detail to the bird on the left and sketched in some of the twigs.

Then I worked on the right-hand bird and began building up her side of the painting.

In the photo below I have refined the detail in the birds, and added in some of the leaves.

Note the little rainbow of colours down the right-hand side. At this point another camping trip intervened and I started on another painting. Since I had to pack away the colours that I was using on this painting I "saved" them by putting a sample of each one down the side of the painting, so that I could colour-match them when I started working on it again.

A little more refining and the painting is finished.

Note that the warm colouring behind the male bird on the left makes him less dominant than he was in the photo, while the high contrast between the bright colour of the female bird and the very pale background draws her out and makes her more prominent.

The female bird and the sawn off branch she is resting on have become the main subjects of the painting!

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