What’s in a Name?

Now comes the fun part: Adding the color to your drake Steller's eider.

By: Brad Snodgrass
What is in a Name

Where to start with painting? Part of the answer to that question remains consistent: Reference! Sometimes, though, that leads to further questions. The plumage of individual birds of the same species can vary as the result of seasonal changes, diet, water staining, and other factors. I am often amazed by the color variations I see in photographs. Are they true variations, or do they derive from changes in light or the photographers’ lenses? This is why it’s important to have a specimen available if possible, but even then, feathers tend to fade over time. In the end, as an artist I must pick my hues. I base my choices on what I feel best represents the real bird and also what will be the most aesthetically pleasing. Once I have made those decisions, I then decide how to mix my colors to accurately represent my choices. This is where color theory comes into play, reinforced by years of experience. This is also where “painting paralysis” can set in, especially for novice and intermediate carvers, and that often results with the bird back on the shelf with painting pushed back to some future date.


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