Dodo – catch me while you can

Hello, I’ve been quiet as in January I decided to do the Sktchy 30 faces in 30 days challenge. Delighted to say I managed to do it, but it took up a shed load of time. Then I have been writing my second book for Crowood Press and, also delighted to say, I delivered it today – 25000 words and 150 images. Phew! Painting animals in watercolour. It should be published in November, but I will keep you updated.


One chapter explores taking watercolour further through mixed media. I did a section on collage and this is one that didn’t make the book due to take of space.

I had spent a lovely day sketching at the National History Museum in Tring and had drawn a dodo. It got me thinking about how we take animals for granted and only realise too late what we are doing. We are going through the sixth mass extinction right under our noses. I thought that a dodo painting might make the point better than any lecture.

First I prepared a wooden panel with three coats of watercolour ground and once dry (at least 24 hours). I sketched out my bird.


I wanted a really rich, but aged background, so chose an embossed wallpaper. You can get samples from most big DIY stores. My local B&Q said ‘please take a sample’, so I did. Lots and lots of samples – pretty big ones too. I cut out the dodo shape and stuck down the paper with pva glue and weighted it down. I then used texture or modelling paste to build up the leg areas, put in some feather shapes on the wing and also to make the edge between the cut outline and the image less severe.


Next step was to paint the dodo with Indian ink, using some pen for the feet area too.


Once dry, I used watercolour to tint the bird.


Finally, I used gold size, which I had tinted turquoise to coat the background and applied imitation gold leaf. Because of the heavy embossing the turquoise glinted through. Now it was a matter of sealing it to stop any tarnish and popping  it into a vintage frame.


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