Penguin Watercolor Sketches

rockhopper watercolor penguin sketch
Rockhopper watercolor penguin sketch. Michele Clamp

Penguin watercolor sketches were the topic for today. The reason for this is that I’ve had a commission on the todo list for a while now. Specifically it is for a panoramic penguin painting featuring multiple species of penguins. James has requested it and the final painting will hang in our main living room. It’s going to be a challenge. First things first – start off with some sketches to see how the different penguins look.

There are many different species of penguin

There are apparently 18 species of penguin. Some are more visually attractive than others so sorry, but the little Australian penguin probably won’t make the cut. Of them all the rockhopper sketch came out very well as did the gentoo sketch. I also found out that I’ve been painting king penguins and calling them emperor penguins all this time.

My approach was to pick a penguin and quickly get down the main shapes. I tried not to dwell too much on the drawing accuracy (within reason of course). Keeping the lines and shapes interesting was more important than accuracy. I took a couple of liberties with the feet. Not all penguins have orange feet but I like that pop of color so orange they were. One of the sketches that wasn’t quite as successful as the rest was the ‘unknown penguin’. I really liked the pose with the outstretched wing but the penguin plumage itself wasn’t particularly interesting. I may transplant the pose onto another species and see how that works.

You have to paint quickly on sketchbook paper

I was painting these fairly small (around 4 or 5 inches) in a Strathmore watercolor sketchbook. This isn’t the worst paper to paint on in the world but it’s no Arches or Fabriano Artistico. The paper is fairly substantial but not very absorbent. The paint dries quickly and blending is hard. This means that you have to work fast and not noodle over things too much. It lends itself to a very loose and energetic style which I like.

Next Steps

These penguin watercolor sketches made for an enjoyable afternoon’s painting. The next step will be to compose them so they look interesting and not just pasted in a line. Wish me luck…

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