I took this photo way back in 2009:
Since then, I've tried painting it more than once -- the first effort was not good at all because I tried to paint all the lily pads with no success whatsoever. I tossed that attempt ages ago, so luckily I don't have to show it here!
So for the next effort, I just left the background blank so I could put the focus on the heron:
I liked the heron fine, but not the background. It was okay, but could be better. This week I decided to try again, and use a bit of artistic license. Herons like to hang out in marshes, so I dispensed with the lily pads and replaced them with marsh grass, kept soft in order to keep the focus on the bird:
I love artistic license! I like this version. I'm especially happy with how the feathers turned out -- here is a close-up of the midsection:
Usually in watercolor, one works from light to dark, but in this piece, for the feathers, I put the shadows in first and added the mid-tones and lighter tones pretty much at the same time, and when it was dry, put in a few highlights with white gouache. Because there were so many feathers and different ways they lay, putting in the darks first helped keep the various sections well defined as I painted in the rest. I think that worked out well!