Grey Crowned Crane, Naivasha
Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum)
The Naivasha wetland represents an area where wetland climatic conditions converge to create an ideal habitat for wading birds such as ibises and grey crowned cranes. The grey crowned crane's conservation status has recently been upgraded to endangered, and there are only only 25,000 to 30,000 remaining and are on the decline in Kenya.
The inspiration for this painting came from encountering the pair of resident, quite tame crowned cranes who live on the grounds of the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust. I couldn’t get a perfect photo however so I used a fabulous photo taken by Shawn Olesen as my primary reference.
I started this project on my laptop, by compositing the crane against a "golden ratio" flat panel of blue, with a separated lower strip to represent a horizon line, then sketched in a detailed outline using my pressure sensitive Intuos graphics tablet. Once I had outlines that I liked I printed them out and taped them down to my large format lightbox. I use the lightbox rather than graphite transfer paper or pencil drawings to leave the watercolor paper free of any outlines.
I then taped over a 30” x 22” piece of Canson XL cold press paper, which, once I started trying to lay in soft color bleeds, proved disastrous, as it stained as if I were painting on blotter paper with felt tip pens! I started over with Arches Rough 100% cotton watercolor paper (which I had to buy while visiting my daughter in Atlanta, as there is no Arches in Kenya!).
I used Van Gogh and Winsor & Newton paints, applying broad background washes first, which I eventually over-painted with acrylics to get a solid flatter and deeper background panel. I then laid in the base body and head textures using a combination of wet on wet, dry brush and wet on dry washes. I used small amounts of sea salt to form the texture patterns of the cap and wattles, and deliberate "bloom" backwash effects in the background. Then I went back with a series of glazes to build up contrast and shadows, finally using a zero size synthetic sable brush to render the details of the horns, hair, eyes and muzzle, leaving the body very loose.
You can see the stage-by-stage progress in the creative process section of my website: http://lockyerart.com/?p=1433
I am donating 50% of the proceeds from an upcoming fundraising auction towards the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, who run raptor programs on a minimal budget in Naivasha. Many thanks to Shiv Kapila and Simon Thompsett for their hospitality and support.