Monthly Archives: June 2018

Tiny tanagers

Extract from my painting journal

I have been fascinated by birds from an early age. Indeed, according to my mother, as a young toddler I would sit in our garden in Libya and watch the many birds that visited. But that’s another story. Among my favourite bird groups are the colourful Tanagers. There are 89 species of these little birds in Brazil though this number includes the Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) whose taxonomical classification is temporarily parked in the tanager group.

Of these, I have seen and photographed 22 species including the Bananaquit, about 25%, which is not a bad score considering many species are in difficult areas to visit. Obviously, I would love to see more species but, in the meantime, I have started a project to paint the birds that I know.

The extract from my painting journal, above, shows thumbnail sketches of each of the 22 birds that I have seen. The thumbnails help me to work out some sort of order in which to paint each bird. I need to indicate which of the birds has differences between male and female – in some species, the sexes are alike – as well as showing where I may have reference photos of the juveniles of the species. The main focus of the first phase of my painting plan is on the single birds with a final phase doing a more detailed painting of a family of birds in their environment.

The following image shows a sketch of a Bananaquit that I had painted a few months ago.

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)

My thumbnail sketches were very quick to complete – a rough outline of generic bodies in pencil followed by touches of appropriate watercolours, some needing to dry before the next colour was added. Done in seconds for each bird.

The Bananaquit sketch took a bit longer but was also quite quick – just a few minutes to paint after doing a reasonably accurate pencil outline. The colours are by no means accurate but serve to illustrate the bird in a recognisable manner.

Green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon)

Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum) and Silver-beaked Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo)

The Green-headed Tanager is a quite a bit more detailed in terms of brush-work, but isn’t  a particularly good illustration, while the painting of the Palm and Silver-beaked Tanagers is a bit looser. The last image, below, of a Silver-beaked Tanager and a Masked Crimson Tanager is a lot looser.

Silver-beaked Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo) and Masked Crimson Tanager (Ramphocelus nigrogularis)


More on Tanagers after I complete the project.