Firstly, can we all take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous mint humbugness that is a Shelduck duckling:

This photo was taken at Arundel WWT, which as I have mentioned before, has been formative in shaping my love of birds and birdwatching.

Male shelducks are incredibly handsome, and like the eider, are seaducks so mainly seen in coastal areas. The chocolate brown and green – as well as that bright tomato-red bill – is unmistakeable and perfect to paint in gouache. Gouache is opaque watercolour so has a matte finish making for a very flat 2D painting, and it also reproduces really well in digital form for the same reason. Birds which I can carve up in to segments – artistically speaking! – always pique my interest and using a square format obliges me to draw the bird at an angle, which works better for the energy and overall composition.

I love this painting of shelducks by Darren Woodhead, from his book From Dawn till Dusk:

It’s wonderful to see his renditions of birds beyond the usual suspects, much as I love the more common species.

Shelducks live all around the coast here in the UK and the males are larger, and have a protuberance (called a “knob”) where the bill meets the forehead as shown here in the painting.

This painting is for sale in my Etsy shop.

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