top of page
Animals by Barry

Barry Levin

Wildlife and Animal Art


Evolution of My Artwork:
Step by Step

Indigo Peacock.jpg

Indigo Peacock
Acrylic with metallics on canvas 24”x 24” 


I am beginning my Indigo Peacock painting.

This will be 24”x24” acrylic with metallics on canvas. This is a lot smaller than my other peacocks and it will be quite a challenge to fit the enormous amount of detail I plan to paint onto so small a canvas.

I prep my canvas with two layers of gesso and then two layers of brown color. This helps to smooth out some of the canvas texture to accommodate the very fine detail I will be painting.

The brown is a solid color but the uneven lighting and poor quality cell phone camera make it look like a vignette.


The tail supports the train of this Indigo Peacock.

This and the small amount of texture I have applied will be almost completely covered, but will be a hidden detail to reward the patient viewer who takes the time to look for these things.

I have used a lighter brown as my second background color and then a thin wash of the original background brown as a “ contaminant color” the first layer of long feathers will utilize this same brown color but without the contaminant color.


I have transferred my Indigo Peacock layout to my canvas using India Ink.

As you can see the lighter color background areas now correspond to the appropriate locations on the layout. These paintings are meticulously planed out ahead of time.


These spines mark the location of the first group of long feathers of my Indigo Peacock. These spines are an off-white color so the white spines I add later will stand out a little.

I will next add the plumules to these feathers before beginning the next group.

As always the train will take a lot of time and be the majority of the work of this painting.


I have painted the plumules on the first side each of the first group of long feathers. I have used the same second brown background color but without the contaminant color. I will be using these original two colors for several different elements of this Indigo Peacock.

This peacock is a lot smaller than my other peacocks (24”x24”) and will require many thousands of these very long fine brush strokes so they must be perfect. This requires paints made to the perfect consistency, the finest most perfect brushes and perfect brush technique… not to mention a lot of time, patience and stamina.


I have applied this lighter brown color to the second half of the first group of long feather plumules on my Indigo Peacock painting.

You will notice that the brown tail that I applied to the background is already very difficult to see, and will later become even more difficult to see.

I intend to use the two background colors for several different parts of this painting. I did not plan to begin the Saddle until much later in the painting, but the color I wanted was out and I had a little extra time so what the heck 😊

I did plan to apply this color to the wing at the bottom of the painting because this area will be overlapped by the plumules of the “Spear Feathers" that will form the lowest edges of the train.

At this point all my colors are conventional acrylics. The next feather layer will introduce the first of several different metallic colors.

If you are not familiar with the parts of a Peacock, don’t worry, just enjoy watching the painting progress 😁


I have applied the white spines for the next layer of long feathers of my Indigo Peacock painting.

These will stand out a bit from the previous layer of off-white spines. The plumules of this layer will be the first of the metallic colors

A typical Peacock can have as many as 250 feathers on the train alone and each of them has hundreds of plumules. I extend my paintings around the 4 sides (gallery wrap) rather than frame my paintings so the actual image I paint is an additional 3” on the height and width from what shows in the photographs.

Just for fun I placed the first base under color to the body that will not be painted until much later. The body will not be a dark color, this metallic black just represents the darkest shadow color.

I have applied plumules on the first side of each of the second group of long feathers of my Indigo Peacock painting.

This new color is metallic so depending on the angle of the light can appear either lighter or darker than the first layer of feathers.

Plumules on the next layers will be lighter metallic colors.

This finishes the long feathers of my Indigo Peacock painting, I will begin working on the eye feathers next.

The blue tape helps me keep track of which feather I am working on as the painting gets more complex. It will be removed later.

This is a test of the undercolors I will use for the eyes of the eye feathers of my Indigo Peacock.

I will paint just these base colors and then the shaft portions of the eye feathers next. I will then go back to the eyes and finish them.

You may notice that these are all colors I have used earlier in this painting. This consistency of color will help tie the elements of this painting together, and they are consistent with the real bird.

I have applied 2 of the base colors to the “eyes “ of the eye feathers of my Indigo Peacock painting. You will notice that these eyes vary in size and shape depending on their location.

In this step I have put an additional background color in the eyes (feathers) of my Indigo Peacock painting. I then retouched the existing background colors and added white shafts to the first group I plan to work on. To keep track of this I have placed a small piece of blue tape on these eyes.

You may notice that many of these shafts do not (in this picture) appear to be connected to an eye? That is because there are additional eyes located in the gallery wrap that do not show in the photo. There is an additional 1.5” of image on all 4 sides that is being painted in the same level of detail as the rest of the painting.

I have completed the plumules of the first group of eye feathers of my Indigo Peacock painting.

This layer introduces another new custom metallic color. After I complete this step on all the eye feathers I will paint the end section (including the eyes) of these feathers.

The different metallic colors I am using are a bit difficult to tell apart in these photos but there are indeed multiple different metallics.

I have applied white spines for the remaining eye feathers of my Indigo Peacock painting and marked them with blue tape. The last 2 will be done later due to overlap issues.

I do not plan to paint the body until later, but needed to partly paint it where the feathers I am working on will overlap it.

The final body color will be a more subdued violet/blue rather than the intense blue of the more common Indian Blue Peacock (this is an Indigo Peacock and the colors are different).

I have painted the plumules on the second group of eye feather shafts of my Indigo Peacock painting.

I will be working on the eye portions of these feathers next.

I am beginning to paint the final metallic colors of the eye feathers of my Indigo Peacock.

First I am painting one feather as a test for both the new custom metallic colors and the specific brush techniques I will use to paint them.

Although I have painted other Peacocks, the Indigo Peacock is colored very differently from the traditional Indian Blue Peacock and each custom color is new for this rare Peacock variety.

I have begun to paint all the eye feathers as per the test I did earlier.

This step in my Indigo Peacock painting is very time consuming. Most of the “eyes I have painted so far are located in the gallery wrap, so I have done a lot more work than is visible in this photo.


Still working a second day on the first of 3 metallic colors on the eyes (feathers) of my Indigo Peacock and it will still take a third day to finish this single step.

Just a few of the eyes require going back to earlier steps due to overlapping images.

About half a dozen eye/spear feathers on the lower edges of my Indigo Peacock painting are so dense that I must go through all the steps of painting the feathers multiple times in order to properly overlap the correct feathers.

Also I have decided to add one new additional eye feather to fill in an unsightly sparse area (it is common for birds to lose feathers, and I am replacing a feather that is probably missing)

Other than these feathers I have completed the first metallic eye color that I have spent 3 days applying.

As I paint the next 2 metallic eye colors I will also apply previous colors on these oddball feathers as needed to catch up.

I have completed the second of the 3 metallics in the feather eyes and retouched any areas that needed it.

After the next small dark metallic color, the train (which is the majority of the work in this Indigo Peacock painting) will be complete.

The train of my Indigo Peacock is now complete, and the rest of the painting should go more quickly now.

This is the first of several metallic colors in the saddle of my Indigo Peacock painting. Although at this stage it looks flat, there will be several additional colors and it will take on a more natural 3 dimensional appearance.

I have applied multiple new metallic colors and retouched the saddle of my Indigo Peacock painting. Then I applied more metallic colors to the body.

I have  drawn the head onto the Indigo Peacock body.

This is for size location and general shape but will look very different when details are added.

Later the body, train and head will all be touched up to coordinate with each other.

As I paint the face of my Indigo Peacock painting I give first priority to the eye and beak.

These 2 areas will have a 3 dimensional (low relief) varnish effect that will require multiple layers and extended drying time. By working these areas first I can allow the necessary drying time while painting other areas.

I will later go back to the body and saddle to make sure the colors of these areas all fit together perfectly.

The 3 dimensional varnish effects are complex and difficult and they will ruin your painting if not perfectly controlled. Please do not attempt them unless you have had a lot of practice.

I continue to add many new colors to the head, body and saddle of my Indigo Peacock painting.

I will sandwich colors on the beak and eye between clear varnish layers that I will apply at the end of each painting session and allow to dry before my next session.

I have added the crest to my Indigo Peacock painting.

The eye and beak at this point look harsh and unnatural. That is deliberate. These 2 areas will have multiple layers of transparent varnish and more refined color will be sandwiched between the clear layers.

I will refine minor details if I find spots that will benefit from this, but except for these few details, signature and varnish (beak and eye to have additional details) this painting is essentially done.

The last thing I am doing to my Indigo Peacock painting is the 3D varnish effect to the beak and eye (as well as a few minor touch ups such as the crest). There will still be additional layers to achieve the effect.

Again I caution anyone reading this not to try this yourself unless you practice a lot first. This is complicated and difficult to control, especially on a complicated area like this beak. Any lack of control will probably damage or ruin your painting. I have been doing this for many years and am in complete control of what the varnish will do. This process is a lot more difficult to control than these pictures make it look.

To produce my 3D varnish effects requires many layers of varnish and paint plus lots of drying time. This beak of my Indigo Peacock is really beginning to stand out (literally). Each of these photos represents multiple layers of work. Doing too much in a single step usually has bad consequences.

This is the final layer of my 3D varnish effect for my acrylic Indigo Peacock painting. The face details that I have done this with literally stand out from the rest of the painting in a very realistic 3 dimensional (low relief) manner with a very natural translucency specific to the desired part of the animal.

The crest has around 10 layers of paint and varnish.

The eye has about 20 layers of paint and varnish.

The beak has over 40 layers of paint, glaze and varnish. (And is only about 1” in length (1.5” if you count the area that extends onto the forehead)).

The effect is achieve by allowing the competing forces of surface tension and gravity to form the fluid medium into the exact shape desired and putting very small amounts of paint or glaze at various levels of depth (by sandwiching them between the appropriate layers of varnish.

For each layer the canvas must be placed at the exact angle where gravity assists the process (typically that means laying the canvas flat and level, but that is not always the best angle)

Do only a very little at a time!!! Allow plenty of drying time between layers (insufficient drying time May result in cloudiness, running, color bleed or other undesirable consequences). Do not get greedy and attempt to do too much at once or skimp on drying time.

No matter how careful you are (and especially if you apply it too thick) the varnish (or color) is likely to bleed into places you don’t want it. Carefully observe your work until it is at least partly dry and if the varnish colors bleed be ready to instantly clean it up before it damages your painting. (If you allowed sufficient drying time for the previous layer it should be fairy easy to clean up unwanted bleed.)

Complex shapes can be achieved by working on only a small area at a time. Avoid working on adjacent areas at the same time because the surface tension will literally cause the varnish to “jump” across too small a gap and result in a single puddle of varnish rather than the distinct shapes you want.

After the area you are working on is dry you can work on adjacent areas without the risk of the varnish “jumping “

Please, if you want to try this effect, practice it first on something you can afford to ruin.

This concludes my step by step making of “Indigo Peacock”
I hope you enjoyed watching the enormous amount of work and detail that go into my Peacock paintings.

bottom of page