Rooster Watercolor

Rooster watercolor by Michele Clamp

A rooster watercolor is a great subject for a beginner. Lots of color and fabulous shapes can make a wonderful bird painting.

Vermont farm watercolor

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However, this watercolor rooster is deceptively tricky. A lot of color but not a lot of value changes so I had to introduce more to get the form of the body. Fun though – the colors came out well and the final result has a lot of life and character. This artist is quite happy with this watercolor painting. I’ve done a number of watercolor roosters and this one is my favorite. Would be quite happy with this rooster art on the wall.

Watercolor Rooster Tutorial

I describe the painting process below. In summary I first make some carefully matched color swatches to the reference. I then draw out the outline of the bird and put in some light washes of color. The next layer puts in darker areas and then I finally put in some detail and slight changes to pull the whole thing together.

Mixing some color swatches help with the final painting

Rooster color swatches
Rooster color swatches

I first mixed up some swatches after matching to Munsell chips. Everything is pretty low in value – highest is a 4 which was surprising. The colors looked good together though which is a good sign. I find that if the main color swatches have harmony the final painting will as well. Watercolor rooster paintings don’t often have this many colors in them so it’s good to get the mixes and values planned out ahead of time.

Draw out the rooster watercolor with a mechanical pencil.

Rooster drawing Michele Clamp
Rooster drawing Michele Clamp

Next the drawing. Careful comparisons across the body both horizontally and vertically to make sure everything lined up. Where possible I use negative shapes to get the right angles. I always use a mechanical pencil for drawing. My favorite is this Faber-Castell one although any other one works just as well. I tend to use a 0.7mm HB lead. Any softer and the graphite smudges which we don’t want with transparent watercolor. Any harder and the lead will leave grooves in the paper. The paint will tend to flow into the grooves and show up darker than the surrounds.

First washes on the rooster watercolor – light and loose around the edges

First washes
Rooster watercolor first washes

The first washes. I toyed with the idea of just painting the whole thing in one layer but finally plumped for putting in a light under wash of the main colors and intentionally went outside the lines into the background. When finished this layer is barely visible but gives some visual interest and some depth to the final picture.

Second layer – putting in the mid-tones and darks

Second layer watercolor darks
Second layer watercolor darks

Half way through the second layer here. I’ve kept the eye and beak areas clear as they go in at the end. The tail feathers have to go in pretty much in one go – if it goes wrong you have to live with it. Worked out this time thankfully. In general I find with bird watercolors that you don’t need to put too much detail into the feet. In fact too much detail and contrast in this area can draw the eye and detract from the rest of the bird. In rooster watercolor paintings this isn’t so much of a problem. There’s so much going on in the rest of the picture that it’s not as important. But I stuck to keeping them simple and I think it worked out. The shadow on the ground was put in with a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. This also helped to define the legs and place the bird in space.

Final shot on the easel

 Easel shot
Rooster watercolor easel shot

The final thing. Pretty handsome I think. I hope this has showed you a little of how to paint a rooster in watercolor and, if you try it yourself, I hope you have as much fun as I did.

And Finally….

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