The scarlet macaw : a lesson in the importance of practice in art.

So it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy and a little burnt out as well. But I’ve been painting. I’ve been recently inspired to paint tropical wild life , and I’ve never painted an animal in my life before. So my first choice animal had to be one that was vibrant , beautiful and well known. So I’ve chosen the scarlet macaw.

The scarlet macaw is native to south America. According to the IUCN Red List it is listed as Least concern, but they have however noted a decline in population sizes due to loss and fragmentation of their habitat. They are also an animal revered in the pet trade, another possible contributing factor to wild population decline.

So I’ve set about to do my first ever animal painting. It was important that I at least attempted it in my watercolour journal for practice before attempting a full painting. And boy was I right to do so. Since this was my first attempt :


I cringe every time I look at this. I was amazed that something so, spectacularly wrong could come out of me. I’ve named him wet chicken. But from this unfortunate wet chicken I’ve learnt that my brush stroke was important and in this case wrong and I needed to rethink the colours I’ve chosen. The colours used in this painting are, ultramarine blue, Paynes grey, aliziran crimson and azo orange.

So after those lessons and resisting the urge to give up , my second attempt was significantly better.


My brush work has improved, resulting in a better eye and suggestions of feathers. I want to keep this painting a bit more on the loose side.The colours I’ve chosen this time are: ultramarine blue, Paynes grey, aliziran crimson and hansa yellow light.

After those attempts Ive decided that I needed to try the colours and method for painting the rest of my bird. I’ve observed the bird closely to determine the colours for the body that I wanted to use. The wings of the scarlet macaw are red , yellow , green and blue. I also  determined the orientation I wanted to depict the bird in, settling on the bird from behind which allowed a full appreciation of its beauty. This is my 3rd practice attempt. 20170719_171317-02.jpeg

From this attempt, my husband pointed out that the beak and head anatomy of the bird was wrong. The head and the beak of the macaw are larger and is a very important identifying characteristic of the macaw. I also disliked how “smoothe” the bird looked, there was no real indication of feathers. The placement of the colours also needed to be revised, since in this painting he looks like a cacao rather than a bird.

So with all my gathered lessons from the 3 previous paintings I’ve painted this piece:


I won’t say that I am 100% pleased with this , but I am extremely happy with it. And the improvement and progression from the first attempt is more than 100%.

So practice does pay of , especially with a subject that I am unfamiliar with. It’s important to always remember that even in our  artistic journey we need the experience which comes with practice. We shouldn’t be quick to give up or never attempt something just because we are not very good at it. Put in the hard work and you would see the results.



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