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Trumpeter Swans with Charles Leung - September 8th, 2007

In Charles Leung's travels this year, trumpeter swans seemed to be on his trail. Or perhaps they are so majestic that no matter where you find the swans, they invite a painting. In his on these birds, Charles brought his paintings of these graceful birds for participants to study.

Trumpeter swan paintings by Charles Leung

For well-known artist and instructor, Charles Leung, a discussion on the subject of the workshop precedes any painting. In his introductory comments, Charles reminded the sumi-e artists at the workshop that the overall flow and dynamics of the painting was the important goal they were after.

Charles Leung discusses his observations about trumpeter swans

When it comes to starting a painting of swans, Charles recommended two strokes to compose the head.

The head of the swan is the start

After the head, the neck follows in one continuous S-shaped stroke.

The neck follows the head in one S-curved stroke

The body is a mix of stokes and a variety of tones to create the effect of different types of feathers.

The base of the neck is where the body begins

Charles reminded the workshop participants that the wings are very large. This large wingspan is evident when looking at flying swans. When the wings are folded and the swan is on the water, the painting must convey the size and bulk of these wings.

Charles Leung begins more ruffled feathers of body

Charles Leung suggested that feet could be added though with care as they are below the water line.

Wings are added in several strong strokes

Tail feathers, slightly darker in color and stiffer in texture, complete the body.

Tail feathers are last

At this point, Charles filled in some of the body with various grey tones and a variety of brush strokes to give the effect of ruffled feathers.

Charles Leung returns to fill in body with grey ink

After this start, Charles stopped to ponder how to develop an effective composition from this point.

Completed swan

A second swan was added to balance the painting in a complementary way.

Second swan adds to composition

Charles captured the dynamics of the scene by changing the line of the neck in the second swan. The effect created a pair of swans, each with its own personality.

Orange paint is used for beak

Though Charles developed the painting of the swans with sumi-e ink, he used orange for the beaks of the swans. Creating an effective painting with the right balance of elements, dynamics and colours was discussed by Charles Leung as he worked.

Two swans with orange beaks

To offset the swans in the painting, Charles added leaves and branches to create a more complete composition.

Branches add balance to composition

Charles brought many pictures and paintings of swans with him including flying swans, which he shared with us. There were lots of images to inspire us as it became our turn to paint.

Charles Leung shows other flying swans

The final work had a liveliness of expression that is typical of Charles Leung's work.

Completed painting

Workshop participants were fortunate to also get some one-on-one coaching. Charles showed how making a few slight changes could result in a more effective trumpeter swan painting.

Charles Leung helps workshop participant with pointers on trumpeter swans

Painting these classic trumpeter swans fascinated the class. We headed back to our own studios with a wonderful appreciation of these majestic birds and some practical knowledge of how to capture them in a painting.