This is the current state of my painting of cormorants, taking the work of John Bellany as a starting point.
I knew that I should paint the birds in layers, starting with a neutral of burnt sienna and ultramarine, tinted with rose, and then build in light and dark tones on this.
So what I actually did was this. I mixed a mud of rose, viridan and whatever else was still wet on the palette and whacked it on thick with a knife while sort of dancing to the music of Dire Straits. Cathartic but artistically challenged.
I had looked again at my first sketch and then tried to redraw the anatomy of the birds in chalk. I corrected the sloping horizon. I knew that I wanted to fade those background trees into the sky and bring a mass of smaller birds into the foreground at the cormorants’ feet.
Someone kindly admired those bendy necks in a previous post. This is indeed meant to be a strong point of the whole composition. In a series of sketches, I set out to work out how the vertebrae articulate and skull and crop are positioned as the birds preen and watch their surroundings. I looked for lines of action and the relativity of shapes before drawing back in the plumage. Here I must mention the excellent birdguide site which I used as source material. Many people upload their photographs daily and they retain the copyright to their images.