I love shorebirds. Great Blue Heron and egrets are among my favorites. In this recent painting of a salt marsh at low tide I tried to capture a Great Blue Heron in the low light of the setting sun.

While kayaking along the salt marshes I often bring a sketchbook or art journal to sketch the birds. Sometimes I bring a camera in a waterproof bag. This can be a little risky due to the possibility of rolling over into the water. But sometimes you have only seconds to capture a bird before it flies off. Back at my studio I use the photos and the sketches to capture the unique setting.

Below is the first layer of paint on a Arches watercolor block. No pencil sketch was needed as I wanted to get the rich darks onto the paper.

painting underway of great blue heron in a salt marsh

First layer of paint as I am getting started with this painting of a shorebird in a salt marsh.

From this point I added more detail of the marsh grass and mud flats. Building up layers of gouache paint to get more detail. Next I painted the great blue heron using my sketch as a guide for the shorebird. Using a 1 inch flat for most of this 7” x 10” painting and then using a ½ inch flat and #7 round as I added finer details.

Great Blue Heron in Gouache Paint

Gouache paint is basically an opaque watercolor. Sometimes I paint a small scene in gouache paint before I do a larger painting in oil paint. Working out the composition and values in a study is a great precursor for a larger oil painting.

In conclusion, the finished painting of the Great Blue Heron is shown above. The bird is standing in shallow water in a salt march at low tide. The marsh grasses are quite tall when viewing from water level, something I’ve learned as I navigate the coastal waters in a kayak.