Let’s Paint a Hawk Feather!

While hiking I found the greatest feather ever! From tip to tip it is 13 inches…wow that’s HUGE! So let’s make a watercolor painting so we can remember this feather forever…

Here is the reference photo. I had to tape the feather down because it wanted to lay on its side. Isn’t it a beauty?

Step 1: Make a sketch. My picture is bad, but you get the idea. I used hot pressed watercolor paper for its smooth quality. There is no texture with hot press and I wanted my feather to be smooth.

Step 2: The base color of the feather is going to be applied wet-on-wet. Pre-wet the feather only and paint yellow ochre in the middle, raw umber on top, and a touch of diluted french ultramarine on the bottom.

Step 3: When dry, paint a layer of raw umber on the left side of the feather and the stripes. On the right side, at the edge, there are spots or splotches, make sure to be loose with this and don’t over do it.

Step 4: After the last step is dry, using raw umber, a touch of sepia, and a touch of burnt sienna, make another layer on the left side and the top of the right side. We make layers because that’s the nature of watercolors. The lightest colors go first and then you darken in steps.

Step 5: We are now going to make lovely details. This is a close-up of the downy barbs at the base of the feather. With a rigger brush and a diluted concentration of ultramarine blue, make thin lines with little “hairs” on either side. After everything was dry, I used a #1 and #3 black micron pen to outline here and there. Finally with a gray-blue mixture, I painted a shadow under the feather. I was considering a dark background to show off the feather but decided against it because I wanted it to look light as a feather..HA HA get it!?! Light as a feather? OK I’ll stop. Anyway, I thought a darker background would be too heavy.

Here is the final piece. With sepia, paint the stripes. Don’t be too perfect because as you can tell from the photo the lines of the stripes are uneven. The micron pen helped to define the feather’s shape and a shadow is a must!

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step watercolor demonstration on how to paint a hawk feather!

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