Stage one

The canvas was primed with a mix of phthalo green with white. I then loosely sketched the shape of the bird with a 1in brush using pure phthalo green.

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Stage two

Using a 2in brush, I mixed a light tint of phthalo green, yellow ochre and white and filled the upper area around the bird using directional brushstrokes; for the lower half of the painting I used a mix of process cyan and white. The brushstrokes were allowed to break into the shape of the bird.

Stage three

Once areas of paint had dried I used a 1in brush and a lighter mix of cerulean blue, yellow ochre and plenty of white to make directional marks within the bird area.

Orange tones were introduced, made from burnt sienna, yellow ochre and white to create warmth within the bird.

Returning to my 2in brush I used phthalo green with more white to create a lighter tint of the original colours used in the upper area around the bird and, in the lower area, a lighter tint of cerulean blue and white to give a sense of depth and also fill areas of space while still allowing darker tones to come through.

Stage four

Using a 1in brush and various mixes of deep violet, burnt sienna and white I placed tints in the body and wings of the bird, still using directional marks, next to and on top of earlier marks.

A pure mix of cadmium red and burnt sienna was loosely blocked in to indicate the legs, beak and head.

Finished painting

Flying Tern, acrylic, (45.5 x 61cm)

With pure mixes of burnt sienna and deep violet I intensified the dark areas of the head then strengthened the shape with a loose flicking motion using a 1in brush.

Where strong sunlight falls on the bird’s back, I used process yellow with plenty of white with gentle flicks of the brush.

Pure mixes of process yellow and burnt sienna were applied around the upper part of the bird to create an area of warmth, still using a 1in brush and, in the lower area, I mixed a lighter version of the earlier mix of cerulean blue, yellow ochre and white.

Directional marks were continued to maintain the overall energy of the painting.

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Marie Antoniou teaches drawing and painting, privately and in adult education classes. She exhibits widely, and has been selected for The Society of Wildlife Artists’ annual exhibition, the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year, the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year competition and won many awards. Maria contributed to the acrylics section of Artist’s Painting Techniques, published by Dorling Kindersley, price £20, ISBN 9780241229453. For more information about Marie’s workshops, and to see more of her work, visit