Freshwater Wildlife Collection Part #1

The wait is over! I finally dove into painting a waterscape collection. Similar to my Bird Tree and Owl Tree, I’m once again composing a collection that fits together like a puzzle. This one will consist of sixteen separately painted pieces that can be mixed and matched. 

For some insane reason I feel the need to keep upping the anti when challenging myself with these collection! (Seriously what is wrong with me?) Sixteen paintings that all fit together is by far the largest group of paintings I have ever tried to tackle at one time.

My plan is to design another tree. This tree will reside in a freshwater inlet where the water is as smooth as glass, and the day is so still it’s hard to distinguish where the water ends and the sky begins. Living all together in harmony, you will discover eleven different bird species, turtles, frogs, fish, and a even a dragonfly!

To make my vision come to life I hand cut 16 pieces of 8″x10″ watercolor paper to size, and assemble them to make one scene. I like to use 300 lb Hot Press Arches watercolor paper. I notice the paint “behaves” better due to the heavier weight, and I prefer the hot press for the smooth surface to create my many layers of detail. To hold all the pieces together, I taped the backs sparingly with Painter’s tape. Now the process of mapping out this giant puzzle can begin! 

EXTRA INFO: If you want to know more about the material and tools I use check out my post on Watercolor Tools of the Trade

I work on the entire collection side by side at the same time for a very important reason. To be sure the lines match up in order to give the collection a sense of unity among each painting. This is especially important when it comes time to paint the background!

A lot of research and preliminary sketches went into each piece beforehand. If not, I would be making way too many eraser marks on the paper. This can cause the fibers in the paper to wear down, and dull the final colors of the painting. Ironically, by the end of the day, I still used up most of my pencil while drawing! 

Unlike my other collections which only feature birds, this collection will be debuting new animals such as this frogs above, and these turtles below.

The funny little birds below are called Marsh Wrens, and they are high up in the tree. One of the primary differences with this design is the number of leaves it has. 

I wanted to make the tree feel as full as possible, and drawing a ton of leaves should definitely do the trick! My intentions are to have a more three-dimentional quality about it.

 Drawing each leaf turned into a complicated network of branches! After awhile these leaves became tiring, and confusing to draw. 

In the end it will all be worth it! (At least this is what I tell myself when I get perplex and frustrated.)

Here are a few close-up scanned images of the final drawing stage:

Drawing a Bald Eagle is one of my most popular request. He sits high in the tree surveying everything below him.

I always grew up calling this guy the black diving duck, but its not his real name. I has some fun drawing the Double Crested Cormorant drying his wings which is also providing shelter for the Prothonotary Warbler.

What would a freshwater painting be without a Loon! They are very common in the lakes and ponds near my house. I love them! 

For the first time I will be painting fish! This painting will featured two Rainbow Trout and one Salmon. Because the freshwater Salmon is not a very colorful fish I decided to hide him among the more vibrant Rainbow Trout. Also, in this collection the paintings will feature Brook Trout, Brown Tout, and Large Mouth Bass which are my favorite freshwater game fish.

Here are all sixteen drawings done and ready for the color to be added! Painting all sixteen drawings at once will be my greatest watercolor challenge I have ever attempted! Yikes!  Overall, I’m extremely pleased with how these pieces are coming together. I’m equally excited and terrified to begin the next phase…adding paint! 

 EXTRA INFO: Want to know more on how I paint an entire collection at once? Check out how I created The Owl Tree: How I Painted all 9 Watercolors at the Same Time!