Line and Wash Shoebill

This week I painted a picture of a really odd-looking bird. It’s called a Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), because, unsurprisingly, it’s bill looks a bit like a shoe. I think it looks more like a clog. I wonder if Clogbeak will catch on? 😊

I used the Line and Wash method of painting for this picture. Basically it is a mixture of an inked line drawing painted over with watercolours. (Although I have seen people paint watercolour pictures and then add the ink lines later which is interesting.)

Here is a beautiful photograph of one of these birds. I absolutely love the feather definition the photographer has picked up on the back of the bird. The photo is by Hans Hillewaert.

© Hans Hillewaert Licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0

Here are some process photos of the drawing process…

Inks Part 1
Inks Part 2

Here is my ink drawing…

Once my ink drawing was complete I then set about painting. I began with a pale yellow wash over the background area. While the wash was still wet I dropped into it some Cadmium yellow deep (which is a gorgeous colour). I also played around with removing some of the colour in places with a paper towel so I could have a nice textured background.

Next I painted all of the bird apart from his eyes and bill with a very light Paynes Grey with a little French Ultramarine to make it a little more blue. I gradually built up my depth of colour and depth of tone in the darker areas.

Once that was done I painted his eyes and then his amazing clog-like bill. I finished off using some titanium white with a really small rigger brush to put in some highlighted feathers and some eye-shine.

Here is my final painting…

I think they’re really funny birds. As well as having a significant bite, they also clatter their beak when greeting a friend and bow and shake their head to show affection!

Here’s a YouTube video which shows a female Shoebill clattering her beak and greeting her favourite keeper with bows and head shakes. It’s a lovely video! (The clattering starts at about 1 minute 20 seconds and the bowing and head shaking happens shortly afterwards.)

Disgustingly, they also defecate on their own legs to cool down when they’re too hot. I don’t know if I would ever be hot enough to do that! They are also, very sadly, classed as a vulnerable as a species with only 5000 to 8000 left in the wild. This is partly due to the black market for their bodies (despite them being a protected species on CITES) and partly due to habitat destruction in their central African home due to farming and burning of the land.

20 thoughts on “Line and Wash Shoebill

  1. I though he was adorable too. The way he interacts with his keeper males it so obvious to me that we are all family, humans, mammals, birds, everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had never heard of a Shoebill – or Clogbeak 🙂 – before now but now I’m kind of in love with them! I’m with you the whole leg-cooling technique could use some work :8. But that included they are still crazy adorable and this video is making my day. Thank you for the information about their endangered status, too! I think too often we (or at least I, I can’t speak for everyone) overlook those sorts of things. It’s easy to get separated from those realities in our daily lives. So I appreciate your not just introducing this beautiful bird into my life but teaching me about the realities of its situation, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much! I love drawing biological subjects – especially the odd looking ones!
    With warm wishes for East Anglia, England!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This strange bird with the name Shoebill Vogel is really something very special. I’ve never seen him before.
    Jofox, the drawing you made of this bird is perfect. I admire the expression you gave his eyes, it’s so amazing.
    You have an excellent talent! I will look at each of your drawings and look forward to seeing more of them.
    Greetings from the beautiful Rhine-Highlands / Germany…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! I think it’s the way the eyes are set with the brow coming down at what would be an angry angle if the bird were human. It must be scary to be a fish and look up into the air to see that scary predator face staring down at you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I never knew about this bird before. Interesting how it looks almost dorky from the side, with that unruly little topknot. Yet from the front it appears quite ferocious, with the effect enhanced by the same topknot.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love everything about this drawing. The way you treated light and shadow, the structure of the beak, the look of the feathers… ok, and now do a marabou stork, lol…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Gorgeous, and I enjoyed the process you went through.

    This isn’t the clip of a shoebill I remember from the BBC’s A Walk on the Wild Side but it might raise a smile!

    Liked by 1 person

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