Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ruffy: A Portrait

I recently finished this 8 x 10 inch mixed media portrait of Ruffy, a female rufus hummingbird that stayed with us from October thru the morning of December 31 1 2011. She was supposed to have flown to Mexico in the fall but showed up at our feeder on a bluff and blustery October day. She stayed with us through out the fall and early winter, up to December 31 very early in the morning. Which it turns out was just long enough to be counted in the Christmas Bird count that Frank was involved in that winter. She definitely earned her daily hummingbird sugar water!
Frank had taken loads of wonderful photos of Ruffy, and I just had to use one for a “mostly” colored pencil piece.

I started off doing a sketch of Ruffy which I combined with a sketch of my photo of some fall leaves backlit with morning sun. I sketched on bristol board with a light colored watercolor's I could erase the lines later with just a bit of water.

After that I decided I wanted the background to be pretty dark, to highlight the sunlight coming thru the leaves. I made a couple of paper “masks” of the shape of the leaves and of Ruffy, and sponge painted over the rest of the uncovered background with a bit of acrylic paints mixed with a lot of glazing medium. This covered the background quickly, with a surface I could still draw on with Prisma color (wax based) pencils.

The drawings of Ruffy and the backlit leaves are left pure white Bristol board to keep them the brightest part of the drawing. The outlines I “erased” with dabs of water as I got to them.

I started filling in the lovely colours of the backlit leaves and the form of Ruffy, with Prisma color pencils in multiple layers.

After the leaves and Ruffy were finally finished I went on to add “splashes” of colored pencils in the background. I especially wanted to darken (and make bluer) the areas around the golden leaves and orange tinged Ruffy, to provide color contrasts. I also added a lot more color bursts of muted colors in the background to subtly “activate” the background, but keep it “in the background.”

As a final grace note, on advice from Frank, I added a touch....literally.....of gold leaf to the Rufus hummingbird's gorget. The gold leaf is no bigger than the width of a colored pencil lead, but it catches the light just a little very much like the reflective feathers on the hummingbird's throat. We were graced with watching (and watching out for) Ruffy for nearly 3 months.....and we learned so much, and enjoyed her stay greatly.


  1. Beautiful work, Alison. The leaves look as if they are dangling in midair.

    1. Thanks SO much for stopping by, Nancy. I got a LOT of photos of leaves this there might be more dangling leaves in my artistic future!**grin**