The Black-billed Magpie Part Two: Painting

With some shadows, highlights, and a bit of artistic license, we can elevate this bird beyond simple black and white.

By: Jean Minaudier

Before adding any color, I like to prime the bird with a couple of coats of white gesso. I thin the gesso slightly with water so I can easily brush it on with a soft filbert-type brush. It is important to take your time with this first step. Make sure to brush the gesso into all of the details, and check to see if you’ve left any blobs of paint in the undercuts or along the underside of feather edges.

I try my best to keep gesso away from the glass eyes, as it can build up inside the eye rings, and it can become nearly impossible to properly clean off if it dries there. If I do get gesso (or any other paint) on the eye, I take a few seconds and quickly wash it off with clean water before it dries.

Once the primed bird is dry, I fully inspect it for any debris, such as crumbs of dried gesso, wood fibers, or paintbrush hairs stuck in the detailing. I can easily pick these out with a knife point before starting the painting.


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