Boubou-eautiful birdie commission

Boubou-eautiful birdie commission

I love drawing with pen... I've loved it since I was a child. It comes more naturally than the photo-realistic watercolour stuff I often take on, since I've been doing it much, MUCH longer. I often think that I use watercolour more like a drawing medium than paint - suuuuuuper dry; super detailed. My theory is that it's influenced by my childhood pen art.⁠

I also discovered the great fun of combining the two mediums in the process of created my Downloadable Wall Art range. The pen and watercolour artwork features a collection of vibrant South African flowers, insects and birds, and it is the latter that caught the eye of a new client. Fay was on the lookout for a special gift for her hubby, Peet - an avid birdwatcher - on his birthday.

The perfect gift for birdwatchers

After some deliberation, Fay decided on their favourite feathered friend: a Southern Boubou. Best. Bird name. EVER! I’m probably totally juvenile, but I think it’s funny (don’t get me started on Tits and Boobies!). I enjoy elongating the two syllables: “Booooou-booooou”. Makes me feel fancy…!

Okay okay, enough funny business — back to the Boubou at hand!

First, I sourced multiple pics from the interweb to ‘build’ the perfect Boubou. When creating a photo-realistic wildlife artwork, I usually only work from one very special reference photo (although there are exceptions, like with the duelling Cape Sugarbirds that are currently on my easel).

I’m grateful to have worked with various talented photographers - both amateur and professional - that have allowed me to use their work to create mine. However, when working in a more stylised style, I find that using bits and pieces of the subject, sourced from various photos, to create a unique reference photo (because plagiarism is theft!) works best. The reference pic for this Boubou was built up from four different birds! Even the branch that its perching on was sourced from various pics, highly edited and some bits were pretty much just made up as needed (thanks, Imagination!).

Once I’m happy with the very rough and often bizarre, Frankenstein-esque reference pic, I share this with my client. This is the last chance for making changes. After pen touches paper, there is veeeery little I can do to alter things…

Thankfully, the Boubou, Fay and I were all on the same page. Time for the magic to happen: First, a light pencil outline so that I know where I’m going:

southern boubou artwork wip 001

Then, a detailed - yet… somehow rustic - sketch in pen:

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I love this style! It’s a fabulous marriage between artfully intricate and playfully messy! Next, I’ll add a vibrant, loose watercolour wash. Of course, this step is always terrifying, since I’m kind of worried I’ll look back afterwards and wish that I didn’t add the watercolour! This was the main inspiration behind why I decided to release my Downloadable Wall Art range in full colour and stylish monochrome.

After the slow, delicate process of the pen drawing, the watercolour wash feels really easy and fun! And yet, it’s much looser than I usual work, and definitely against my grain... But it's nice to challenge ourselves and work outside our comfort zone.

southern boubou artwork wip 004
If I were cool like Picasso, this would be my Blue Period... This is the first phase of adding colour -- I've blocked out the darkest shadows in blue. Remember - watercolour is transparent, so this will affect the layers added later. I find using blue is much better than black. Black watercolour can often feel really lifeless, whereas building a dark shadow using various colours, layered on top of each other, makes for a pretty shadow with dimension!⁠

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Of course, once it’s done, I roll my eyes at my previous trepidations… The combo of pen and watercolour is just gorgeous! I love the contrast between the Boubou’s russet breast and the cooler tones of the leaves. Because watercolour is a transparent medium, the pen drawing can still be seen. Cool, right?!

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 Thankfully, my clients loved it too! Peet got to open this thoughtful and personalised gift in the bush while camping. And I got to play a little part in a wonderful show of love and affection between this amazing couple! It was such fun creating this Boubou-eautiful arwork!

Here's what Fay had to say:

"Just wanted to thank you once again not only for the beautiful piece of art, but also for the beautiful way it was packaged and the very special card and message. It had us all in tears. It was a pleasure ‘working’ with you."

art commission cape town


PS. If you fancy commissioning me to create something special for you or a loved-one, contact me sooner rather than later. I only accept a very limited amount of commissions every year. And I'm respectfully picky. Haha. Because there is only so much time in a day, and I'm only one little person. ;)

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