See how the squirrel painting is done from start-to-finish with Dan Waltz.

How to paint a Woodpecker Demo by Artist Dan Waltz

Have you ever wondered how a painting is done? Are you a budding artist looking for tips? Look no further.


(Reference photo below created by Dan Waltz)






















A special guest showed for Thanksgiving dinner this year. I always wanted to paint one. First time seeing one this close (Female Pileated Woodpecker). A great start to my next painting. I first selected the best pose from several photos that I took, most of which were very blury. It was dark, shooting through glass and hand holding a 460mm lens. It had failure written all over it, but to my surprise a few acually turned out. I wanted the bird in a more natural scene than a suet feeder, so I created one in photoshop and clipped the bird out and placed her/him in the scene. I also changed her to a him by quickly adding more red to the head. The reference photo is now complete. I can now start preping for the painting. I have a little bit of sketching to do. I will be back ASAP. Check back often for the latest updates......

Dan Sketching

Well, here I am sketching the painting out at the drawing table. As you can see in the photos of the pileated woodpecker above it's very difficult to see all the feathers on the back of the bird. I printed some smaller pictures out that I found on the web to help determine where and how the feathers laid.

This sketch shows the feather layout on the back and sides. I will probably do something a little different with the tail feathers as well as the toe arrangements.....Okay, tail and toe arrangements are complete (right). I am now ready to tranfer lines to the watercolor board and cut some friskets (masks) that will be needed very soon. More to come.....

I then transferred the outline of the bird to a piece of heavy weight cardboard using graphite paper and with a single edge razor blade I carefully cut the bird out. This cardboard silhouette will be used as a mask to block the paint from getting on the watercolor board surface while I paint the background and the tree.

Well the watercolor board has been cut to size (16" x 20") and lined out for a slightly larger than 11" x 14" image size. All the detail lines are transferred on to the board using graphite paper. The preliminary work
is now complete and I'm now ready to start painting. "Let the fun begin!"

Check back in a day or so to see how the painting is coming along. Thanks for following along.

Well the painting has begun. Using the mask that I cut out earlier I blocked off the bird and the holes on the tree. Then I started painting the background using my airbrush.

I want to keep the background simple and blurry so that the foreground really sticks out. Left photo shows the mask in place. Right shows you without the mask. The mask will be placed back on for the next step, the tree bark.

I then taped two pieces of cardboard on both sides of the tree trunk, blocking off the background. Now it was time to throw some paint (literally). Now that I wasn't too concern about getting paint on the background I could relax and rough in the bark as loose as possible. I loaded up a toothbrush with a couple of different colors and tapped it on my other hand over my watercolorboard, letting the paint fall and drip where it may.

This step may seem a bit crazy and risky and it is, but it's fun and helps loosen you up. It's just paint on a board, push it around alittle.


Now that's a great start to roughed in tree bark if you ask me (left). Now it's time to go into it with a brush and a more and more detail (right), until it looks like bark. At this point I will probably keeping working on the tree for a while, at least until I'm happy with it enough to move on to the bird. It has a ways to go yet, but I'm starting to like the texture.......


To keep following along with my progress continue on to the next page.


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