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All Creatures Great and Small, but especially penguins!


This summer I saw a cute little video filmed at the Calgary Zoo where they were blowing bubbles for their king penguins. The penguins LOVED it! I immediately got the urge to paint a scene inspired by this delightful video. Luckily, I had some fun behind the scenes photos I took at Woodland Park Zoo a few years ago (yay for zookeeper connections!) so I pulled those up and got to work!

I based the penguins off of this photo I took of braying Humboldt penguins on exhibit. FUN FACT: penguins stink.

I began with a large sketch of the penguins, and then I used masking fluid to cover them completely. That allowed me to apply a wash of Daniel Smith Amethyst Genuine watercolor. I just love the granulation that the genuine watercolor line brings. So lush and organic! I was also pleasantly surprised by this particular color choice, because when I first used it, I allowed it to set first. Reactivating the Amethyst Genuine just doesn't work well for me, so it was never interesting. Recently I bought several others in the genuine line and did a test page of all of them. Amethyst Genuine stood out and was gorgeous (they all are, actually!) Seeing how lovely this paint is fresh out of the tube inspired me and I threw it on my background.

After allowing the background to dry, I peeled the masking fluid off. I next began adding in the darkest areas of my penguins. I wasn't concerned about specific details yet, so I painted in large shapes with Daniel Smith Payne's Grey watercolor. I went back in and added more here and there, adding in shadows, and more details until I got it where I wanted it. I used some Daniel Smith Yellow Ochre and Opera Pink for the other colors you see on their beaks.

Next came the trickiest part: the bubbles. Luckily I've taken several workshops with the amazing artist Eileen Sorg. Her specialty is mixed media; using watercolors and colored pencils in tandem. So I had some experience in this area, and knew I wanted to go this route, but bubbles are HARD! I found some tutorials online and followed along with them, but they just didn't quite do it for me. I had an image in my head of exactly what I wanted it to look like, so I found a comparable photo online and just winged it. I went straight to my painting and bravely traced circle stencils with a rainbow of colored pencils in random order. This brought the multi-colored effect I was going for. I really wanted these bubbles to shine, so I shaded areas of them with the same colored pencils, and then added shiny reflections with a white gel pen (the Sakura Gelly Roll is my favorite).