Playing around with Indigo

Playing around with Indigo

We are in that strange time between Christmas and New Year . A time when no-one knows what day it is and when you sneak a mince pie for breakfast, why ? Because you  can. 

I have turned the rest of my turkey into a curry, we have ham and Christmas pudding for lunch ( not on the same plate) and outside here in Devon it is very blustery and wet. Christmas cuppa's are essential 

I found this quote on Facebook and thought this is wonderful, it gives me a new perspective on this time of year


“I love this time – the in-between time, the time after all the gatherings and lights, the time before we swing back into the regular routines of the new year. It is the crack between the worlds, the place where dreaming can unfold and then spiral into being quickly and quietly. It is a place where, if we want them to, solitude and silence can surround us and the soul-hungers we have abandoned can find us once again. It is a time to listen deeply, to stay with stillness open to the impulse to move from the deepest part of what we are.”
Words by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
So winter walks are in order 
And we cherish colour and beauty wherever we find it




All that said, I thought I would show you how I painted my owl today, a lot of people ask how I do my backgrounds, and this may give you some insight. I am not professing that this is the only way to do them , but this is what I do when I play around with indigo, one of my favourite colours 


I love painting contrasts, and I think this lovely white owl against the night sky is just wonderful.

First I sketch out the owl.

Then I carefully paint his claws. I don't think I am all that good at birds feet and sometimes I just let them disappear , but this time I concentrated hard and painted them as well as I could.

Then I began painting the shadows on the plumage. Wet in wet , all blues and purples, and hints at some yellows in the edges of the feathers. This wet in wet really does begin to look like feathers.

Then I moved onto his face, the eye is almost all black, but has oranges around it, then I hinted at the shadows in the face. It is amazing how little you need to describe what you see.

Now I have added the markings at the top , behind his face. I used yellow ochre and some orangy brown colours . I have also added some tiny dots on the feathers. 

Now I am getting bolder and I describe those magnificent wings with hits. I use cerulean blue and a shadow colour made with cobalt blue and cadmium red. All wet in wet. Trust yourself and try not to overwork things.


Finally I add the night sky, lots of dark indigo and bold marks to hint at movement . I have also added some clingfilm for extra texture. I will remove this later. The lighter section around the talons , provides a contrast and means I won't erase the work I did in the beginning. 


Once removed I think I need to darken the right.

So lets see how that looks....


That's me finished...I hope it was helpful, have a go and be brave!

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1 comment

Thank you for sharing your process for this stunning piece. The contrasting light and dark is so effective! Did you know from the outset that you were going to use the plastic wrap?

Melanie Kayrell

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