If you don’t know yet, I am a birder. Apart from painting fantasy I have always loved watching birds and have, since I was little, practiced bird song and field recognition. The bird photography is pretty new. Its something I started during the covid lockdown as something to do while out in nature. But it quickly took speed and now I am out photographing many times a week.

I read a quote the other day: “You don’t take a photo, you create a photo”. A lot of the mindset between making a good bird photo and painting a fantasy monster portrait is the same. I have talked endlessly over the years about Focal point in paintings and how to Direct the ye via details. It leads me to a couple of thoughts: When I take a shot of a bird I try to be mindful of the composition and especially the angle. I wanna get down low in eyelevel with the bird. That way you tell the story from the same perspective. What also happens at this angle is that the camera creates a fantastic blurry haze effect of all the elements in the background and the foreground, even further enhancing the focal point effect. When painting fantasy I have been trying to do this effect to a certain degree. I have tried to paint the background with a big brush to prevent myself from going into fine details. I have been deliberately forcing myself to work rougher and with simpler strokes than I would in the main figure.

I have been wanting to paint some bird paintings for a while, and this December I had a bit of days in between deadlines and decided to give it a go. I found some of my photos that had a minimal background and set out to paint them as acrylic paintings. The first one was the purple Sandpiper flying over the waves. I tried to simplify the details in the waves a bit and especially in the top part, I removed most details to get a calmness around the bird. I was painting in the evening with lots of artificial light and when looking at it in daylight i noticed how much more blue and green the painting was. What I noticed I liked most about the final result was the simplicity in the water. When squinting my eyes its almost a completely flat surface. Had it been a fantasy painting I would have felt tempted to elaborate more and create a great deal more effect and contrasts. But having the photo as a gospel-ref I had this more calming body of water at the end of my brush.

Thrilled with the experience I started a new one. The Grey Plover. The photo I got of this lonely bird was one taken laying flat on my stomach with a large portion of sand ref in front of me. The camera only focus on the area just around the bird an leave everything else extremely blurry. I set out to copying exactly that in the painting. After sketching out the bird I worked on the sand and the sky. After the initial rough stages of blending the color I began the sand details and the small sea weed dots and smaller stones. And this was when I noticed the difference. Those details where a lot more blurry than I thought. When looking at the photo my mind register the details and the softness of the background but my mind say “Stone, Seaweed and pebbles” But actually looking at it and trying to copy it makes me see it way different: The stones in the foreground are just diffused blobs of darkness. Almost none of the stones have a hard edge. And the sand pebbles disappear completely just inches in front of the bird. I took it all in and said to myself: “You gotta remember this”. Going through this process trying to copy my own photo it took me by surprise that the effect I already was using in my fantasy art, could be pushed at least 200% or even more. In both paintings the figure is in centrum like no painting i have ever done in the fantasy genre. Yes; ofcause the comparison is a but unfair, but the knowledge I take away from it is not. From now on I will keep this in mind: In order for me to create a cameralike focus in my fantasy images I can blur out and minimalize the background so much more than I thought.