*A guest post by Jenny Moed-Korpela.
I am always on the lookout for the perfect background for my birds, and mixing different mediums is a great way to experiment and find that special “thing” or atmosphere that speaks to me. Choosing the different papers to use as a collage in the background is half the fun. I always collect paper and books on my travels to different countries, so my collages are a memory of where I have been and what I have seen and read. I choose to paint my backgrounds in acrylic because of their fast drying time. I can paint many layers of colors in one go, and I love the fast results that it gives me. Then when I paint my bird (this can be any subject: a flower, another animal, a portrait, etc.) I usually change to oil after the first layer of acrylic. When it comes to painting details I prefer the slower drying time of oil and the way I can then paint wet in wet if I want to.
– Collage material like book pages, decorative paper, song sheets, etc.
– Baby wipes
– Palette knife
– Acrylic gel medium
– Glazing medium
– Acrylic colors
– Oil colors
– Turpentine and linseed oil
Step 1: Choose a canvas (the canvas that I used here is 20x20cm.) and gather some collage material. Any paper will do, but I prefer old books and music and handwritten poems so that I know that the material is lightfast and waterproof.
Step 2: Cover your canvas in one layer of book pages using acrylic gel to adhere the paper to the canvas. Use the gel both under and over the paper so that you seal it properly. Let it dry over night. Then choose your favorite colors in acrylic to give the paper a glaze. I used Paynes Grey and Burnt Umbra. First I painted the whole canvas with a layer of Paynes Grey, let it dry for a minute, and then I used a baby wipe to wipe it of again. I repeated the procedure with Burnt Umber. If you like the glaze to be thicker, just let the paint dry longer before wiping it of again. You can repeat this step as many times that you desire until you are happy with the look.
Step 3: Use a palette knife (I prefer plastic in this case as it is a little bit more flexible) to paint on a layer of warm white acrylic on the canvas, and make sure to leave the edges without paint in places so that you leave some of the paper underneath visible. I mixed my white acrylic with some Naples Yellow to get a warm tint to it.
Step 4: Next I chose some more paper to add, a page from a songbook and a sheet of rice paper that I have written a poem on (make sure you use waterproof ink) and Korean paper. I glued it on with acrylic gel and let dry thoroughly.
Step 5: Paint a layer of white acrylic over the paper, quite thin so that the text and the notes remain visible. Again I used a palette knife, because I really like the uneven effect of the paint this gives you. Let dry.
Step 6: To tone down the white a bit I blended Paynes grey and Ultramarine blue acrylic colors to give it a thin glaze. I diluted the mixture with a little glazing medium (you can also use a little water instead of the glazing medium) and painted this with a brush over the whole canvas. After a minute I wiped most of it away with a baby wipe. I added my last piece of paper with acrylic gel to the canvas, and after it was dry I dry brushed some more of my Paynes grey and Ultramarine mixture around the edges. Background finished.
Step 7: Next step is to decide what to paint on your finished background. I had a photo of a flying Azure-winged magpie I got a couple of years ago, and I made the background with him in mind. I drew the magpie in charcoal on the canvas, trying to get the drawing as accurate as possible.
Step 8: I painted the bird in a layer of acrylic colors, concentrating on lights and darks. I only used white, Paynes grey and burnt umber. As I am going to proceed in oil after this, it is especially important to get all the light areas covered with acrylic white or gesso, as many oil paints are a little transparent.
Step 10: After the first layer of oil was dry I added a little mixture of turpentine and linseed oil to my paints and finished the bird. I tried not to add too many details, and I used a very limited color palette: Titanium White, Paynes Grey, Sepia, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue and Naples Yellow.
Advice to readers:
Take time to experiment and play a lot with your materials, I have learned more through my mistakes than through my successes.
Jenny Moed-Korpela is an artist from Finland currently living in Shanghai. For the last 6-7 years she has painted mostly birds because she finds them absolutely fascinating! She still hasn’t perfected how she wants her bird-art to look, so she’s constantly experimenting and trying to catch the vision that she has for them on paper and canvas.