Black Swan Study


A commission: a pair of Black swans. I may have mentioned it. It involved me being chased by an angry fowl and taking refuge on an arched bridge over its personal waterspace. It preened and boated itself triumphantly back and forth beneath me for half an hour, glaring at me with that dreadful red eye while I took pictures. A glamorous creature with a dangerous edge; a Hollywood diva of yesteryear in the style of Bette Davis or Gloria Swanson, no pun intended, but I bet she wasn’t born with that moniker.


I’m starting with a study for the final painting, which will be 27″ x 15″, acrylic on board, and will have two swans. For this study, which measures 17 3/4″ x 12 1/2, I left off one swan to keep it simple.


I started off with a black silhouette of the bird. I’ll add detail later. I just wanted the shape here.

Next, I mixed up a big glop of titanium white and raw sienna, and one of cadmium lemon with titanium white, mixed with heavy acrylic gel medium, which reminds me of library paste. This got slapped on as a background, and swirled with a fat bristle brush to raise up waves and ridges around the silhouette.


Then I added the shape of the head and neck, and suggestions of feather edging and the shape of the back and folded wings. Funny bird, this swan. It’s black, except for the primaries (flight feathers), and the biggest wing coverts curl up at the ends.


Sorry for the short post; it’s late, I’m tired, time for bed. Sleep well, y’all!

7 thoughts on “Black Swan Study

  1. julie Zickefoose says:

    I think they are mean because God got their colors on backerds. They know they are supposed to be white with black wingtips, like ibises, snow geese, whooping cranes, and pelicans.
    I really like that big black negative shape of the swan!

  2. zeladoniac says:

    I think their colors are backerds ’cause they’re from Australia and everything there is upside down and backwards.
    The under the bridge photo is really cool and I keep coming back to it, too. Probable future painting or drawing, I would say.

  3. bonnieluria says:

    Debby, as always, your paintings are incredible. What’s also very generous on your blog is your sharing of the mysterious individual process of how one starts a painting. One of the hardest things for me to do. Thanks so much for expending even more time away from your art to give some insights to the rest of us.
    Your work astounds me!

  4. Marty Unfried says:

    Today, 3/28/08, I saw a black swan at the Lavallette, NJ Yacht Club. It is situated on Barnegat Bay in Ocean County, NJ.

    Question – Feeding same. What precautions should be taken with respect to INGESTION of the swan. We also have 2 resident [years] mute swans, which are of course white. The male is noticeably larger and eats out of your hand at the dock. The female will not.


    Marty Unfried

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