When in doubt, make a model. I had my doubts about the bills of the magpies, and of how the light was striking them. To some extent I could imagine how it should look but to really get it, I needed a physical example. Not having a pet magpie is a handicap at times like this. It was time to construct a model.
First I found a great shot of a yellow-billed magpie skull here. It was printed out and glued it to a scrap of thin aluminum sheet I had left over from the Elasmosaur project, when I built a head model. Using tin-snips I cut out the top view and side view, slit them partway through and slid them together.
The spaces were filled in with modeling clay and, voila, one very crude skull model, which could be turned to whatever angle needed and get the light to hit it properly.
Like I said, crude, but a good usable solution purely to serve a purpose. The magpie painting is nearly done and looks much better for the additional, three-dimensional reference.
Here’s a preview of the next painting. It’s another, yes, another Harpy eagle. This appears to be my nemesis bird. I will continue painting the Harpy eagle until I get it right. Notice the cat’s expression echoes the eagle’s…