Today’s prompt was “rainbows” and I had every intention of painting an actual rainbow, but got distracted by a photo I found from my trip to the zoo. On this particular trip, you could enter a large cage and as you walked through, rainbow lorikeets flew above you and walked around your feet. It was a stunning display of color and quite a memorable experience. But, I’m not sure I’ve captured it in this quick little doodlewash, as I didn’t so much finish as run out of time. I’m always fascinating with creatures that look like they’ve been painted with a full palette. Though it seems contradictory, these bright colors are actually a well-adapted form of camouflage from predators. The patterns disrupt the outline of the body, much like a zebra, and this makes them harder to spot. Not only that, much of the coloring we perceive is simply a trick of lighting and reflected colors, like the peacock I sketched earlier. But no matter how it happens, subtle and brilliant color combinations always come together perfectly. When it comes to color theory, there’s really no better teacher than nature.

I’ve always loved color and could generally match up colors in my wardrobe to not look apalling, but it wasn’t until art school that I really started studying it. All of the terms from triads to analagous colors seemed a bit too scientific for me though. In the end, I spent most of my time stealing color combinations from flower pots and National Geographic documentaries. After all, the wheel treated all the colors equally, but it’s obvious that nature prefers the color green and it feels it goes well with just about everything. When I started looking around me for my color education, it all made much more sense than wheels. Though the color wheel is a great way to learn about color, of course. I just preferred to absorb ideas about color from the world around me instead. Even the weirdest combinations are somehow pleasing in nature, and that has always intrigued me.

That said, I tend to paint with highly saturated colors that lay somewhere between fact and fiction.  I’ve thought about trying a more muted palette, but the truth is, I prefer bright colors. They make me happy. So, in the end, I think the best colors for a painting are the ones that we personally love most. When we love the colors we’re using, it really shows in the paintings we make. And if you ever wonder which colors to combine, just pop your head out the window and have a look around. You’ll see that there are color wheels all around, ready to help things along. At least if it’s natural, of course, manmade structures are still a bit dicey depending on your neighborhood. But everything natural is ready to demonstrate just how glorious the world of color can be. If you just take a moment to stop and notice when nature paints with rainbows.

Join us for the February Doodlewash Adventure: Natural Beauty,
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About the Doodlewash

Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Indian Yellow, Red Orange, Sennelier Red, Dioxazine Purple, Phthalocyanine Blue, Cobalt Turquoise, Burnt Sienna, and Ultramarine Deep. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon with black ink in a little red cloth hardbound l’aquarelle journal I found in a Paris shop.
 Day 13 - #WorldWatercolorGroup Rainbow Lorikeet Quick Sketch - #doodlewash
Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

23 replies on “When Nature Paints With Rainbows

  1. Absolutely love this painting of a lorikeet – they are such charming little birds, especially if you have a bit of seed in your palm. The way you caught the reflection of this little beauty in the water is charming. I used to have pet cockatiels and I always had a mirror in their cage. It was fun to catch them chatting with their “neighbors” even when they had a real live friend on the perch next to them. You’re doing a great job with your full image paintings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww thanks, Sharon! 😃💕 This one felt a bit rushed (well, they all are, but his one more so! Lol). So glad you liked it! This full page thing is definitely a fun challenge for sure. And yay to cockatiels… fun! I always wanted a parrot, but my mom always redirected back to hamsters.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a marvelous response to this challenge, Charlie — both in your non-literal interpretation, and in your beautiful painting! You are right in giving nature due credit for “painting with rainbows.”

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  3. You know, I was thinking to myself earlier whether you’d ever done a monochrome doodlewash. I don’t know why that burning question came up, but it did. 😛 I couldn’t remember? Quite the opposite, today, either way! What a beautiful rainbow, and what an experience. The rippling water only sweetens the deal! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have often pondered the color wheel, and I have decided it is WAY too simplistic, For one thing, it is more about light than pigment. Where do the browns fit in? And although black and white are accounted for as being the absence of light, and as all the colors at once, what about grey?

    Even when working with pigments, I can’t make theory completely work for me. For example adding white to lighten a color or black to darken it. Add white to red, you don’t get light red, you get pink, and adding black to yellow gets you – green!!!

    And what about colors that exist that our human eyes can’t see, but many birds do see, as do bees?
    There’s more, but you get the idea.

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    1. I know!! Right? Color is far too complex to fit on a little wheel. I think it’s more fun to just paint what we perceive… it’s different for everyone, so it makes each painting very unique to that person. And when it comes to color combos, nature has it down pat! 😉💕


      1. Perception, experience, mood and deciding what it is I want to express means I not only paint the same subject differently from you, but differently from my own self. I start piece as I see it. As it takes shape, I start pushing colors. Dad commented that he didn’t think all those colors were in a person’s skin, but since it looked right, they must be.

        I’d like to do a series of the same subject in different styles. Like doing a modern celebrity as Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, then as Van Gogh would, with heavy brush strokes, then as Matisse with simplified lines and strong colors, etc. Or maybe with dinosaur bones. Hmmm – thinking about a dinosaurian Mona Lisa makes me snicker. That *would* be a challenge. Btw, I really liked your “bones” from February 7th.

        Nature does a lot of variations on a theme, throwing in surprises, like an albino buffalo. Light bounces around and changes color appearance. So snow on the ground looks bright white at noon on a sunny day, and a lovely peachy pink at sunrise with colored clouds. I too, am part of nature, so having fun throwing in my own color combos, not better, not worse, than nature, is one more variation on a theme.

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