TUTORIAL - Re-painting Bean's Coastal Blacks & Mallards


I was hoping you would approve!

Also, I got one question about why I opted for the Yellow Ochre bill color over Bean's original olive - [font=Verdana,Arial,Helvetica]I meant to discuss it in my narrative.

[/font]ere are my thoughts: [font=Verdana,Arial,Helvetica]In essence, my personal preference is to paint most of my stool as full plumage adults. I think growing up on Long Island - a wintering ground where most of the gunning is done in December and January - has pushed me in this direction. I certainly see young-of-the-year "river rats" with their darker olive bills - but I always look for the grownups when shooting. And, having banded thousands of Black Ducks both pre-season and post - I just love those breeding season birds!

On a mantelpiece bird, the Yellow Ochre fades toward a cooler Yellow (hint of Chrome Yellow) near the margins and behind the nail.

Also, the books I grew up on both depicted "colored up" adults - and also taught me the biology. The Audubon Waterbird Guide - with paintings by Don Eckleberry - was one of the books I learned to read from. (BTW - Note how Eckleberry shows the reddish-purple speculum - a feature I fear is being lost through genetic swamping with Mallards.)


I bought this when I was 10 or 11, I think.


I concede that I did not paint the Hen's "saddles" on any of the Bean's - but I doubt it will turn away any birds.


Here's a bird I shot on Christmas Eve a couple of years ago - right here on the farm.


And here's a reference picture I downloaded from Google Images - lots of nice feather details.


All the best,

Steven Jay Sanford
Pencil Brook Farm
South Cambridge, NY
Beautiful Steve! They never looked better! Thank you very much for sharing and including the paint details.

Before hopping into your truck and heading to Home Depot for the sample size jars of paint, DON'T

According to the HD website, available via internet only

go to the search box and type in Behr Ultra paint samples, followed by the colors in the tutorial

OK.... in case you haven't written them down yet, Mocha Accent, Black Suede, Fedora, Ashwood

AND the best part, $1.94 per jar until 10/19. Are you kidding me? Including shipping. Are you kidding me? Delivered to your door.
Great post Steve. Beans are some of my favorite decoys. At one point I had about 75 or so. I thinned them down to about 2 dozen now.
It seems like my decoy rigs go through overhauls every couple of years.

Steve, for the novice carver/painter matching brush type and size to the paintwork would likely be quite instructive and appreciated.

I don't think George Soule would approve, I think he would be quite jealous of what you have achieved on one of his patterns...!
Have my paint samples on order. I wonder if the person who mixes/ships the samples will catch on to the large amount of paint samples of the same four colors shipping around the country....

Steve, have you used the Behr paint over Jansens or Golden paint, or GAC700 or Jansens Cork Sealer?

I use it over oils, other acrylics, and gessoes (white and black). From my experience, acrylic almost always works well as a topcoat - but will never be as tough as oils.

All the best,

STEVE, what a great reference . I wanted to try my hand at painting 2 of my Al McCormick Humpbacks as hen mallards. I have them primed and ready for 2 years now. I wanted to put more then bayman style detail into them and paint individual feathers. Problem is I have no experience with that level of detail so I've been a little gunshy about starting. These decoys would still be used for gunning and I know they would see some rough duty and I also know that from any distance at all most detail is lost. Steve your repaints have wonderfully captured a nice compromise and I'm amazed not only how beautiful they are up close but how well they represent the live birds. Outstanding work and you've inspired me to take on the task with your methods and I hope the results for me are half as good. Pete
RT, RL et al~

I am glad you are finding this post helpful. The brushes are one more thing I had meant to include....

Here are the brushes I used on these birds:


There is nothing fancy here. The "flats" below - square-tipped brushes with fairly stiff bristles do the bulk of the work. They allow me to both pull and push paint around (unlike the finer-bristled brushes I use on mantel-piece birds that I finish in tube oils). Also, one "rule" is to use the largest brush whenever you can.


I use the "throw-away/chip" brush for sealing (spar varnish), priming (flat oils) and large areas of color. They are also good for stippling (which I only did a little bit on this rig - like the rump on the Hen Mallard). Especially for certain effects, these brushes can get more useful as they get worn and frayed.


The pointed "rounds" were used for the flecking/streaking on the heads of the Blacks and Hen Mallards. Here using the largest brush that will hold a point allows me to complete a head with just a couple of brush loads of paint. The smaller one was used only for the lower eyelids.


This filbert - with its finer bristles - was used only for the bills. These were topcoated with tube acrylics and have a low lustre. (I use many different filberts on my fancier birds.)


This older round has stiff and beat-up bristles - handy for stippling. I used it to add the highlights to the speculum on the Hen Mallards.


Gotta go! Our season opens in an hour-and-a-half.

All the best,

Hi Steve - great post and very helpful, especially to those of us with little knowledge or experience refinishing decoys. I am looking forward to rehabbing some coastal magnums.

I just took a moment to view your website and now have it bookmarked. Love the story of the gunning box and I may try to get one at some point because it would provide a great hide when I can't gun the top of the tide for any reason.
Your website does a great job of showing the many ways you have been involved in many aspects of waterfowling and a great source of information and inspiration.

Well doe !
Mr. Sanford I was wondering what size the pointed round brushes are? Very helpful post. Thanks for taking the time to share your skill and knowledge. Jeff

Sorry - I neglected to use the photo that showed the sizes - #4 and #6. Even larger rounds are handy - as long as they hold a nice point, they can hold more paint.

All the best,


Short answer: Laziness. I MAY add the saddles on the bills to make half of them Hens - but most of my time is on building pilothouse right now. Both the decoys and the 'house should be delivered in less than 2 weeks. And, our Duck Season just opened on Saturday (with an exceptional hunt yesterday morning!).

All the best,

Steve, LOVE this thread. Doesn't look you have to fix any tails. Good thing, I have replaced many and it gets old...Love the paint job on the hens. A quick question on painting over the dried varnish, do you rough the varnish up with sandpaper first?