Practice and repetition have been my mantra when it comes to my art and painting. It has helped me improve my art style and understand and appreciate my subjects in a way that allows me to do justice to them as I depict them on paper. One of the things that help me do this is art challenges like the 100 Bird Eyes challenge that I took up a couple of months ago.
This 100 bird eyes challenge is inspired by the artist Jess Karp whose work I absolutely love! Her creativity and the generosity with which she shares her knowledge are something that inspires and drives me. A few years ago, she did a 100 eyes challenge where she drew 100 pairs of human eyes which I adapted a bit to indulge my obsession with birds.
Why I did this and how I benefited from this challenge
Get familiar with the subject: In her video where she talks about the 100 eye challenge, Jess Karp mentions how her professor says that if you want to get good at something, just do it 100 times. This really stuck with me and inspired me to try it. I decided to do this with bird eyes because it’s a subject that I work a lot with.
After this challenge, I know that irrespective of the size or species of the bird I am painting, I am going to get the eyes just right. I painted the eyes of birds across so many different species and that helped me understand the structure, the variations, and the expressions well and therefore depict them really well on paper.
Experiment with different mediums: I worked with almost 7 different mediums for this project including micron pens, acrylic paints, brush pens, and gouache paints. It gave me an insight into how I treated these different mediums and how different my approach was with each medium. For instance, with acrylics, I saw myself using a lot more transparent layers and achieving a more glassy appearance while with gouache I saw myself blending more and creating more matte and flat layers.
Master the structure: Some birds have feathers around their eyes, some have particularly long feathers around the eye area, some birds have skin folds while some have plasticky structures that make their eyes stand out strikingly. By selecting and painting the eyes of birds across many species, I was able to get very familiar and good with this prominent feature from which the subject gets most of its character. I am especially proud of the eyes of the puffin, rooster, and cormorant which were some of the most interesting ones for me from this spread.
Play with colours: If you know me or have been following me, you’ll know that I’m somewhat of a colour geek. This project allowed me to play around and experiment a lot with colours. I was able to see how different colours played out with different mediums. Towards the end, I even created a bird eye colour wheel that was a lot of fun to create. You should definitely watch the video to see how this turned out!
If you are an aspiring artist (especially if you want to specialise in the fine arts) or even if you are a seasoned one, I highly recommend you try this challenge. You can pick any subject or element for this. This takes your skills to the next level and more importantly, helps you get a better understanding of yourself as an artist. A few other art challenges that I plan on trying out over the next few months are Tati Abaurre’s 30-day challenge, where I plan to paint a species of bird a day and Struthless’s Alphabet Superset challenge. If you’d like to follow my journey through this or join me for these challenges, follow me on Instagram!
If you’d like to learn how to paint birds, then my Skillshare course is perfect for you.