Friday, 15 February 2013

Capturing the Iridescence


Iridescence is a very fascinating feature of feathers in many species of birds from all over the world. Certainly the brightest and most varied examples come from the birds of paradise, yet this kind of feathers are also found in birds that live in a much closer contact with humans, like ducks and chickens.


The former owner of this pair of iridescent feathers was a Pacific Black Duck, Anas superciliosa, one of the most common species of ducks, it is found along every creek and in every park around Brisbane. These two feathers are part of the secondary remiges group, one from each wing and in ducks this group of feathers is called speculum. Each species of duck has a slightly different colour, according to the angle from which we look, we can see a large number of colours, from dull green, grey and brown to a bright emerald green, purple, cyan blue, dark blue, magenta and a warm yellow-green.



Feather iridescence is the right subject to use Phthalo Blue and Phthalo Green with little or no mixing.
Representing feathers' iridescence with watercolours is challanging, one has to rely on the transparecy of the pigments, applying a number of layers of colours making sure to blend them in the right way, at the right moment. For this, I noticed that outside weather conditions also have their part in the painting process. I found particularly difficult to work on this painting during hot and dry weather, while, on the contrary, it was much easier on rainy days, when outside humidity conditions slowed down the drying time. You can probably see the difference yourself, the upper feather was painted on a wet day, the lower one on a very dry, hot day.


A newly opened website about Birds of Paradise gives, among other things, a very clear understanding of how feather iridescence works. The website is also packed with videos and photographs that are truly beautiful and worth a visit.


 And this is a series of eight bookmarks that I just released. They are printed on a beautiful 300gsm recycled paper, you can see more details following this link.

Thanks for reading,

Best,
Matteo

6 comments:

  1. A fascinating note about the weather affecting your success in painting iridescence (Although I have to admit I couldn't tell the difference. They both looked beautiful to me.)

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  2. You captured it beautifully and your feathers look wonderful. I like seeing your colour mixing sheet too.

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