Finally. My Jigsaw Puzzle "Way Up High - Birds of the World" is ready!
After weeks of research, hours of planning and months of painting, my rainbow of birds jigsaw puzzle is now available to buy. You can find it on the website and when my gallery does reopen it'll be available there too.
The title, "Way Up High - Birds of the World" references the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" whilst simultaneously conjuring thoughts of flight. A neat little title? Anyway, the painting came about from a suggestion by my 7 year old daughter. The rainbow, a symbol of hope and birds from all over the world, seem relevant to issues we are experiencing globally right now. Also, I'm a sucker for anything bird related, so thank you Bowdee!
The originator with her concept half finished
I received my shipment of puzzles on Saturday and felt I'd better give it a test run before I launch. I started the puzzle on Sunday and finished last night (Monday). Super addictive. I hadn't done a 1000 piece jigsaw in years and was surprised at how obsessed I became. I definitely think that knowing the painting inside out was a real advantage. I wonder if anyone can beat my completion time of nine and a half hours. As a jigsaw puzzle novice that might be rubbish? I have no comparison. I challenge YOU!!
Below are images of the how the painting progressed from conception to sourcing reference and beyond.
The scribble I smashed out seconds after the suggestion "Why don't you do a rainbow of birds Daddy?"
Initial stages of assembling sourced reference or a digital sketch as I like to call it.
All reference sourced and assembled, complete with branches and shadows. This process takes a huge amount of time but in terms of getting things just right it is essential. Birds were selected mainly for there colour, but I also wanted to get examples from all over the world. I didn't manage all 7 continents, but 6 isn't bad. 5 different Kingfishers (there are 92 different Kingfisher species worldwide), 20 British birds, 2 Humming birds, 3 Starlings, 3 Barbets, 1 Woodpecker and 4 puff birds to name a few. The intention for the original watercolour was to do all birds life size. I could not use any large birds as it just wouldn't have worked. I am familiar with most of these birds, but did need to research and do a bit of guessing to get them at least close to being to scale. Birds needed to be predominantly one colour for the painting to not get confused but I didn't want the arcs to be too perfect. Surprisingly there were plenty of blue birds and not so many orange and as you might suspect there was an abundance of little brown buggers.
Pencil drawing. I use a mechanical pencil with a 0.3mm HB lead. Pretty much all of the pencil marks are invisible by the end of painting, covered by Indian ink and watercolour, so mark making is neglected a little at this stage. The drawing is done just to get everything in the right place.
As I do with many of my paintings, black Indian inks goes on first. I use a permanent Indian ink so once it is down it stays there and I can put colour washes on top without the ink moving. (have you heard this before? - BORING!)
I water down the ink sometimes to get grey in various tones. (YEP)
Colours sit nicely on top of the ink. (YES)
I tend to work all over the painting at once. Some people finish a section at a time. I find that as I proceed I become more competent in depicting my subject, so that parts completed at the beginning might be weaker than those completed toward the end. Working on all of the painting at once makes for a more consistent piece, especially one of this size.
More layers of watercolour are applied
until, pretty much, every thing is covered.
I then work my way around the painting putting detail on each bird. With this painting I started from bottom right working clockwise. Covering the parts that I wasn't working on with card to avoid drips and spillages. Every few days I would uncover to reveal the whole painting and photograph it for purposes such as this blog.
I found anything iridescent so difficult to depict and feet so fiddly. I did manage to hide a few bird feet behind bird bodies, but not enough!
Of course not! On to the wood grain. This was actually an after thought but seemed to tie the whole thing together.
This is the completed work. Due the original paintings size, scanning on an A4 scanner and stitching together (as I usually do with finished works) was going to be difficult so I had this piece professionally photographed by a chap called Colin White who was the head of photography at the National Gallery. He certainly didn't disappoint. It was photographed in 4 parts, then assembled and colour balanced, so looks beautifully sharp and spot on colourwise.
If you do fancy a jigsaw puzzle, each one comes with a key identifying each bird - this is also available as a card. This image is also available as a print in various sizes and can be found on my website and at my studio/gallery.
The original painting is currently at the framers. I am very much looking forward to hanging it in my gallery soon and hopefully, Covid19 permitting, you can come and have a look.
Thank you for reading and very best wishes to you.