This week I worked on an acrylic painting of a Barn Swallow. Here is the photo I took last summer that I used as a reference:
It's a lovely photo, and probably would make a lovely painting if I could depict foliage with anything approaching competence. Somehow, no matter how I mixed up the paints, every green came out too dark, and I utterly failed to achieve the dark-light contrasts that make the bird and foreground foliage stand out. And so I wound up spending two days creating a complete mess:
Too dark, no distinction between background and foreground, unrealistic foliage, sloppy -- well, I could go on, but you get the idea. The one thing I did like was the bird!
I decided the painting was worth salvaging for the bird. But how? I popped the photo of the painting into Photoshop and played around with the foliage, and just made it worse. Then I had a lightbulb moment -- you don't often see swallows like this, against dense grass. They are more commonly seen perched on tree branches in open areas, or on telephone wires. What if I just painted out the background entirely and replaced it with nothing but sky?
That is exactly what I did, and while it may be a whole lot plainer, at least it's not quite so messy!
As the post title says, I am very glad I didn't paint this with watercolor. Whew.