All three birds were carved from select grade tupelo and sealed with only one coat of Deft lacquer sanding sealer, satin finish. They were then primed with multiple applications of Ronan Japan paint using Black, Flake White and Raw Umber with the exception of the White-tailed Tropicbird where Flake White and Lampblack were used. Each application of Japan paint primer was thinned (slightly on the first application), and more on the subsequent applications....allowing each coat to dry thoroughly between coats. Thinned Japan paint was also used on the Grisaille steps using the same three colors as the primer coats.
The oil painting techniques were "wet on wet" for the majority of the painting including all the feather layout, blending, feather delineation, feather characteristics (including, splits, ripples, shadows, etc.), head painting, and the majority of the pre-detailed areas. These applications were painted "fat".....right out of the tube with only a slight thinning with diluent (2% -5%). Additional minimal thinning can be used only if the paint was too "cold" or "stiff" in the tube. The best painting and blending techniques will come when all the paint used is an even consistency. The finishing detail painting was accomplished "wet on tacky". No Cobalt Drier was used, and matting mediums were used sparingly saving their use for the finishing detailed painting. A final application of a matted Damar varnish was applied to each bird only when the paint was dry allowing at least two weeks before the finish application.
The diluent or thinning agent I use is straight Grumtine turpentine. It is essentially a combination of citrus thinner and top grade artists turpentine. Grumtine allows for velvety smooth paint applications and blends, and produced a soft matted finish. If you are sensitive to the odor of this diluent (which has a pleasant orange odor) you can use odorless thinner....but only a high grade artist quality; not the cheepy hardware store "$4.00 a gallon brand".
Note- My style of smooth oil painting on decoys showcases the classic oil paint "sheen" and lustre produced from tube oil and an light application of slightly matted Damar Varnish. You may prefer to experiment with other oil paint combinations and finishes.
All three decoys were carved and primed smooth with no added texture or stippling.
Harlequin drake carved "Smoothie" - This Harlequin drake was carved in an involved preening position. The wings on both sides were dropped out of their pockets, slightly opened and exposed and the tail dropped and fanned to accomodate the open wings.-
The bird was pre-painted (Grisaille) in varying shades of soft grey, while the white markings of the scapulars, shoulder coverts, neck, wing coverts, flank spots and facial markings were located using several coats of white. The edges of the white markings were softened when applied to discourage a hard edged line which can leave a built up paint edge visible through the finished paint.
I started painting the caudal area of the decoy which included the tail, primaries, greater primary coverts, upper tail coverts. lower tail coverts, tertials and secondaries. Because of the similar colors and extensive blending I wanted to paint the entire area (with the exception of the tertials and secondaries)-
For the tail rectrices, primaries, and greater primary coverts I used a base color of raw umber/burnt umber mixed 50/50 and applied this to the tail and primaries. The inner vane of these feathers was a mixture of raw umber, diox mauve and permalba white. Note- in this application I wanted to allow myself enough blending time as I needed since many colors/blends would be taking place. I didn't want the paint to stiffen up or dry too quickly. My choice of the permalba white allowed a wider paint blending time and very smooth blend.
I applied the soft grayish brown mixture to the inner vanes of each feather and then softly blended this color to the brown base color. When these blends were accomplished I lightened the grayish brown color with more white and applied this to the base area of each inner vane and blended it to the inner vane color and the blended areas of the brownish gray. The next highlight color is applied by adding a small amount of white and a touch of Ultramarine Blue and Diox Mauve to make a light violet-blue/gray and applied this color to less than half of the light blended areas of the inner vanes. The final highlight color is made adding a touch more white, blue and violet and only added this color to the "corners" of the inner vanes which was then blended.
When this step was completed, I darkened the original brown mixture with a little Ultramarine Blue and applied this to the edges of all the feathers......and then blended this color making a darker edge. For the tail, primaries and greater coverts, a slight amount of black was added and applied to the base area of the edges and blended.-
A small amount of Ultra Blue and White was added to the mixture of the base brown to create a soft blue/ brown. This color was added as a highlight to the tips of the primaries.-
The tertials were painted with varying values of white/soft white (tinted with umbers/sienna)/reflected white (a small amount of blue/violet added) adding grayish ripples which are blended smoothly while the paint is wet. The secondaries were painted with varying values of blue using Ultramarine Blue, Caribbean Blue and Diox Mauve....using small amounts of white and burnt umber to lighten the inside vane colors which are blended and repeated with lighter values. -Splits and ripples were now added.-
The wing coverts are painted using the same brown and blue colors used on the tail and primaries....highlighting with many values of blue in both the dark edging and light inner vane colors.-
The scapulars are now painted which includes the white lateral scapulars. The white scaps were painted first using the three white area values first. The blue/gray used for the scapulars and mantle was a mixture of Ultra Blue, Caribbean Blue, Diox Mauve, Burnt Umber and White. This color mixture was lightened with white, and darkened with diox mauve, b umber and black where needed to create a range of shades and values of the basic blue gray color. Each individual scap feather was located with the darker color and then soft blended with a large flat red sable to soften. The area where the white and base blue adjoin was softened with a red sable flat and then "edged" with a red sable fan. The loose barbs of this edge were defined with a Kolinsky #3 which is only damp and pointed with grumtine....the brush was not dipped in paint for this step.-
The upper and lower chest was painted with the same values as the scapulars. The white (with dark-edged) bars were also painted using the three white area values.-
The basic head colors and side pockets were now applied and the edges and joining areas were soft blended.-
While the paint was still wet.....all the details were applied using a #3 Kolinsky. These details were applied wet on wet to allow for soft blending to increase the softness of the feathers with those random details-
The bird was set aside overnight to "tack-up". When the bird was near dry but still tacky, additional details were added using a #3 Kolinsky with the paint that was thinned with Grum 1 medium.-
The decoy was set aside to dry.-
The finished Harlequin drake decoy-
Gadwall drake "extreme Smoothie"- This drake Gadwall smoothie showcases highly detailed painting on a carved surface. The decoy is completely smooth, with the exception of highly raised wings, carved feathers and delineated feather groups. The painting of this decoy evolved applying multiple (as many as twenty) layers starting initially with a wet on wet technique foundation to establish feather groups, color plotting and basic details. Subsequent layered applications were used to define feathers, groups markings, lighting dynamics, feather layering effects, and multiple vermiculation applications. These applications were painted using thinner colors and blends (layering) where the paint is thinned with Grum 1 medium. The white paint used for this Gadwall painting was a mixture of 50/50 OH Titanium White and Permalba Soft White. This Gadwall was painted in just about a month's time.-
The carved and "hollowed" decoy. The foot was carved out of Holly.-
The inserted bottom plate and carved keel is figured Mango wood.-
The initial blending steps to establish feathers, feather groups, colors and preliminary details-
The tail, tertials, primaries and scaps are painted including many highlights such as spits, ripples, color values, etc. These will be used to guide the finishing details. The first few layers of vermiculations have also been applied. To insure the soft gray look to the outcome of the painting, the vermiculations were painted light over dark-
The basic head colors and detail blending format has been established-
With all the preliminary blending accomplished and completed, the layering applications begin starting with several applications of vermiculations. These layered multiple vermiculation applications are placed offset from the previous underlying application and with many values of the gray color of the painted vermiculation as well.-
Many layers of paint application both lightening and highlighting the light color values and shadowing and darkening the darker values in between the feathers and vermiculations are added over time. These multiple applications begin to sharpen the color details all the while intensifying the color values.-
The multiple soft layering continues-
With the body feathering approaching near completion, the chest area is now painted which is carefully blended into the finished areas-
With the decoy near completion, the entire caudal area (upper and lower tail coverts and flanks) is completed.-
The small detailed head and face spots are finished both the spots and in between color values, the bill is painted and the leg is also painted. After the bird was entirely painted, I spent a few hours going over the entire decoy adding detail highlights, additional blended transition, re-defining areas....basically pulling it all together with final details and transitional eye appeal. The competed decoy-.
The White-tailed Tropicbird.....the National Bird and Symbol of Bermuda- Since this species is predominantly White I wanted it to look like a contemporary sculpture with a touch of "classic". My white mixture consisted of Permalba soft White 70% mixed with an even mixture of the Gamblin fastmatte and Graham alkyd white (30% total). This combination of mixed white would give me adequate blending time that when dry with project a classic enamal look.-
The decoy was cut from tupelo. First cut was the side view.-
The top view and head-
As usual, my rough shaping is always done free handed on the bad saw.-
The rough shaped decoy. I wanted to use wood for the long tail streamers of the Tropicbird. This decoy was not going to be a functional decoy, but instead a mantle sculpture, so I chose Holly. It was pieced together with three segmented sections. The pieces were glued together with epoxy, and a small dia Stainless Steel rod was inserted into a carved groove on the bottom side up the entire length and epoxied in place. The grove was filled with epoxy putty and sanded smooth when cured.-
The decoy was then sanded on the drum sander.-
The basically carved decoy with added tail and wing carving, side pocket delineation and basic bill carving-
The completely carved decoy. The streamers have been glued in place and the decoy completely sanded.-
The decoy was "hollowed" from the bottom and a wooden insert plate was added. For this decorative feature I used spalted Tamarind, a tree species that grows in Bermuda and the Caribbean where the Tropicbird is found.-
The sealed decoy-
The abstract base feature was also carved from tropical Caribbean wood: Cordia and Caribbean Walnut-
Primed with Flake White Japan paint.........5 applications-
The Tropicbird decoy painted in Black and White Grisaille-
The painting begins with the tail, streamers and primaries. I mixed a bit of Umber and Diox Mauve in the black.....the Blue Violet added to the black will both take the harshness out of the Black, but will most importanly compliment the Yellow/Orange bill.-
The painting continues into the tertials, secondaries and wing coverts. The inner vanes are lightened with White, B Umber and Diox Mauve-
The remaining contour feathers of the scapulars. side pockets and chest are painted with the White mixture with a soft grey used to define a few feathers and feather groups. This grey is soft blended into the white (from back to front) using a large flat red sable and finished with a red sable fan-
The head is completed with the blended eye slash, and the yellow/orange bill.-
Spits and "feathered" edges are applied using a small damp and pointed Kolinsky with no paint-
The finished White-tailed Tropicbird mantle sculpture-