Incorporating Multiple Images, Techniques and Styles

“Incorporating Multiple Images, Techniques and Styles” is a demonstration by David N. Kitler, who is featured in the April 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

Harpy Eagle (Chick) Montage (above; graphite and acrylic, 30×41) is a good example of a painting in which I combined a number of techniques and approaches: a marbling effect on the background, line work and color to create a border, graphic design elements, both abstract and realistic components, as well as both graphite and acrylic media. Here is a summary of this piece’s main stages.


1. I started by masking a gessoed board to protect and expose selected areas, using cellophane and rubber cement (learn how at www.artistsnetwork.com/article/masking-demo-david-n-kitler).

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2. I proceeded to create the different background areas using acrylic paint. To work the paint, I used a number of different tools—airbrush, fingers and feathers—to create a variety of effects. Because of the masks, I could work without fear of affecting the protected area.

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3. With the cellophane mask removed, I used 220- and 400-grit wet sandpaper to even out the transition between the smooth base (gesso) layer and the thicker top coats of paint. I planned to place the main subject in the area in the center.

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4. While I rendered the four supporting head poses on separate (good) sheets of paper, I only drew the facial “mask” of the center chick. I then traced each of the head drawings (using tracing paper) and transferred them to the board by placing a homemade graphite transfer sheet between the two surfaces and then following my lines with a sharp 3H pencil.

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5. This photo shows what one of the transferred drawings looked like. Note that I applied very few details at this stage. For the central image, most of my “drawing” from this point on would be done with the brush. I continued to develop the four smaller images using pencil.

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6. When I do my drawings early in the process of a work, it’s important to protect them, so I mask the areas surrounding the drawings and then spray the drawn images with gloss medium. Using a brush would smudge them.

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7. At some point I thought about adding a “hieroglyphic” graphic design element to this painting—a series of poses I’d witnessed in the jungle as the chick practiced flapping its wings. As I wasn’t certain right away where I’d place them, I cut a template of my drawings in clear plastic, through which I could spray paint, using an airbrush, as often as needed later in the process.

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8. Often I draw directly onto the board—a practice that encourages spontaneity and reveals the artist’s hand. A white chalk pastel pencil is my usual tool, but any color would work. I like using chalk because it gives immediate visual feedback; it can be wiped off easily for adjustments or corrections, and it can be painted over (acrylic absorbs it).

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10. I continued to develop the main image. Over the texture that I created using opaque paint, I applied transparent washes (see my Web article “How Eyes See Transparent and Opaque Colors.”) Before I’d completed the focal point, however, I started to remove the masks and develop the other elements.

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11. On the lower panels, I worked in acrylic, using transparent washes over opaque colors to achieve gradations. Because my signature would be included as part of one of the graphic elements—the line around the entire image—I signed the piece at this stage while I was working with that color. I finished the painting by working on the other miniature images and putting the final touches on the central image and drawings.

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The central figure in Harpy Eagle (Chick) Montage (graphite and acrylic, 30×41) is flanked by two other views of the nest at different magnifications. The head poses in graphite are my attempt at animating the chick, as are the hieroglyphs at the top.


David N. Kitler’s paintings are now part of corporate and private collections in North and South America and in Europe. He’s a member of the Artists for Conservation Foundation, the Society of Animal Artists and the Group of Twelve. Besides painting in his studio in Calgary, Alberta, Kitler takes research trips with his wife and shares his passion for nature and art with his many students. He also continues to support fund-raising activities for numerous organizations. For more information, visit his website at www.davidkitler.com. Kitler has three instructional DVDs, produced by Creative Catalyst.

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