by Bob Bahr
We photographed Suzie Seerey-Lester’s Quick Draw painting yesterday at several stages in her process in order to show her painting approach. But first, let’s take a look at her materials.
Seerey-Lester prefers to paint on a smooth surface, usually Masonite. For large pieces 24″-x-36″ and above, she switches to linen canvas because of the weight. She prefers flat brushes for most work, and likes brushes that are thin at the tip, allowing fine lines. Rounds are for certain details such as eyes of animals.
• Payne’s gray
• ultramarine blue
• burnt umber
• transparent raw umber
• opaque raw umber
• burnt sienna/transparent red oxide
• raw sienna
• yellow ochre
• Naples yellow
• cadmium yellow medium
• cadmium orange (not normally on palette, but useful for this particular painting)
• four neutral grays along the value scale
• two piles of gesso–one for mixing, one for pure white
She was working from a reference photo she took a block from her home in Florida. It showed one wood stork—Seerey-Lester explains that an odd number of animals usually makes for a more interesting composition. The artist says she was not interested in closely adhering to the reference photo. She was mostly using it to remind her of the wood stork’s proportions. “I like the wood storks because they are so ugly, and so beautiful,” says Seerey-Lester. She quickly sketched the bird a couple of times the night before to familiarize herself with the bird’s proportions.
When Seerey-Lester put in the shadow area of the bird, she used a warm color (a mixture of transparent raw umber and white), instead of the typical blue or purple. “Warm shadows make a really rich beautiful shadow area. And since the bird is the closest object and the focal point, I want those warm shadows so it comes forward.” She pays attention to the reflected light and various colors in the white feathers from the very beginning, but at this point, Seerey-Lester’s main objective is to get the composition blocked in. It may seem counterintuitive to paint the features on the bird around its outline, considering that she would then have to cut in around them when painting the background, but as stated previously, the artist will restate the entire bird later. “Acrylic creates hard lines, so I paint the bird transparently first, then get the background in,” she says. “I will paint over the entire bird so there’s no halo effect around the bird. When you pull the background into the foreground it makes the edges soft and round.”