Monthly Archives: April 2009

Let’s Paint a White Throated Sparrow!

Well, I fell in love with these little suckers ever since I saw them the other day. So let’s paint them in watercolors before they’re gone…

Step 1: Start with a simple sketch in graphite. Don’t worry if every shape and line is not perfect. You aren’t obligated to stay in the lines….ever! This isn’t work, this is play.

Step 2:Here I started with a pale blue-gray wash for the belly. I added a darker blue for shadow (under his white throat patch, mid-belly, under-belly, and under his wing. Remember to keep a few highlighted spots bare, allowing the white of the paper to show through. If you do, your painting will not feel “flat” but will have a breath of life and a light feeling to it.

Step 3: While the belly was drying, I started to work on his wing. A light olive green- brown color is the foundation and a more red-brown is added on top. But remember…always keeps some white spots open! Next, I added a few stripes on his head. The color I used is a mixture of blue, green, and red. It only looks black. If you use black straight from a tube of paint, it will always look dull and flat. If you mix the colors together however, you will be surprised at how deep it looks!

Step 4:POW! Let’s add some dimension! It’s as easy as a brush stroke! In this step I added the famous yellow spot on his head. Also, a dark brown to his wing. If your edges seem too hard, while wet, take a clean brush and soften those edges with clean water.

Step 5:For the background, I wanted to represent the pine needles without going crazy on every single needle! I painted blotches of green and while wet, I took the edge of my paint brush and scraped needles into the paper. What happens next is that the green watercolor pigment seeps into the grooves making darker lines…so easy!

Step 6:I forgot one thing when painting his eye! If you do not leave a little white to represent glistening in the eye, your subject will appear dead. What can I do now that his eye is totally black already? No worries, just take an xacto blade and scrape out a little section of light! Nothing to it!

Step 7 Final:Here is the final painting. Gracing me with a visit, my white-throated friend is now forever honored in his very own watercolor painting.

I hope you enjoyed this step by step watercolor demonstration of the white throated sparrow!



I have a house sparrow couple residing in my backyard birdhouse right now as we speak. They have already constructed the nest. The female stays in the house a lot. I cannot see any eggs, but that doesn’t mean that they are not there, they may be deeper than the hole of the house allows me to see.

What holds my attention is the male house sparrow.
He guards his family day and night. He constantly keeps watch, whether sitting on the fence or sitting on top of the birdhouse. All day and all night, rain or shine.

I acknowledge his efforts. They do not go unnoticed.

Here you can see he keeps guard. If you cross his territory and his family is in danger…you will be chased. It is this spot he defends with all his little might.
Not only does he take the role of guard, but he also brings food to the female in the house…what a man!

It made me think…

I wanted to thank him. I wrote him a note and stapled it to the fence…”You’re a good dad, Mr. Sparrow”, just in case his wife doesn’t tell him enough.

I just wanted him to be appreciated for all of his hard work. I felt happy letting him know, but after I stapled the note to the fence and returned inside my house, I started to panic….what if he doesn’t return to his birdhouse because he sees this big ugly white rectangle next to his home and gets scared?!? Why didn’t I think of this before?
I sat in my house with binoculars biting my nails. The female and male sparrow sat on the fence not entering the birdhouse, but diligently studying the note and the house for a long period of time, my heart pounded stronger…

I stopped to think to myself…”Oh this is soooo typical of my actions, I do something quick and impulsive which I think is of good intentions and it turns out negative.”

After a long time, the female entered the house and the male sat on top, right next to my note. I sighed and smiled with a big cheek-to-cheek grin!
Thank goodness!

A good father is one that sticks by his family in all kinds of weather, when it is nice and sunny and even when it is dull and gloomy. He never leaves. He doesn’t leave prematurely when he thinks the chicks are old enough…he finishes the job. That’s so important for good development.

Likewise, the mother tends to her young constantly and never bails out (thank you Mom 🙂 ).

Important events are taking place in my backyard and backyards all around the world!

You may recognize this birdhouse from a watercolor painting called, “Welcome Spring”.  It was my inspiration last year when I watched the female prepare the nest.

Birds Galore

Hot Dog! It seems that the new summer residences have bombarded my house! Keep ’em coming friends, keep ’em coming!

I have to note, this is not because I am such a great birdie hostess but it is the result of my neighbor’s diligence and hard work. He fills his feeders 2x a day. Once at an ungodly hour, like 5AM and then again around noon. He loves the birdies too. So do I!

All these lovely fellows visited within a 12 hour period.

First we have the Brown Thrasher. FOY (First of the Year). I have never seen him here before! He is big! He’s looking right at us 😀

Next we have the Monk Parakeet (FOY). There were two that visited my neighbor’s feeder. I love their loud calls! The first time I heard them, I though someones house bird got loose!

Here is another view. I love the blue contrasting against the green.

Next we have my friend Mr. Eastern Towhee. You might remember the sketch I did of him a few weeks ago. Thank you Mr. Towhee for visiting me again, I do appreciate it!

Here is another view. Each time I spotted him, he was underneath my pine tree. I do have some spruce cones on the ground, perhaps he is looking for seeds? Or bugs?

Last but not least, the white throated sparrow. Hello you handsome fellow!

Whatcha lookin’ for? This little guy jumped forward and then scraped the ground while jumping backwards. I hope you find something!

Oh how I love these visitors of ours! I hope you enjoyed them as well!

Mr. Rose-Breasted Grosbeak at my House!

What a handsome man! Look who just came to my house!

Isn’t he something! This is a male rose-breasted grosbeak. He is a summer resident in Chicago and I am very happy to be his hostess! This is my fist sighting of the year and last year I didn’t even see him.

Oh how I love him!

Let’s Paint a Siberian Iris!

This beautiful Siberian Iris (of which type I do not know) unexpectedly grew in my neighbor’s yard. Sandy my neighbor, claimed that she did not plant it. I said, “Maybe the bulb fairies did it?”, but she didn’t buy it!

Anyway, what a treat to have something this beautiful mysteriously appear in your yard. So let’s paint it in watercolors before it mysteriously disappears….

Step 1:Set up your area by having your reference photo next to your watercolor paper and draw a sketch in graphite.

Step 2: Notice in the reference photo how light (almost white) and tender the spring stem is of the iris. We want to protect this area and leave it light. We will protect it by covering it with masking fluid (looks orange). Wait until this completelydries before you proceed or you may ruin your brushes! You know when it’s dry when it looks no longer shiny and when you touch it, it is not sticky.

Step 3: I like to paint my background first sometimes. And sometimes I like to paint my subject first. There are no rules. In this step I wet my background with clean water and dropped in some yellow for the top (because later the purple petals will contrast this) and a blue-brown mixture for the bottom (remember, our stem is really light and we need something darker to contrast this). On my blue-brown mixture while wet, I also dropped in some burnt umber and burnt sienna. Don’t worry if it looks too dark, watercolors always dries lighter. Also, don’t worry if this looks messy. Dirt is messy. We like messy.

I have to apologize, some of the next photos are blurry. I must have consumed too much wine. 🙂 lol.

Step 4:Before my background was dry I sprinkled a little sea salt on the “dirt”. Don’t touch or wipe off until the paper is completely dry (this might take some time, be patient). While the masking fluid is still on and your background is dry, splatter some dark brown paint on the bottom. I love how this looks. It really gives the painting texture and gives a natural feeling of dirt. When everything is dry, remove the masking fluid from the stems only and paint the stems using a light yellow/green and darker yellow/green watercolor paint.

Step 5:This is a close-up of the bottom stem. We are going to do some negative painting. Negative painting means you paint the space around your subject. In this picture I used a dark green-brown mixture and painted in between the shoots of the stem and on the bottom of the stem. To soften hard edges, before your paint dries take a clean brush with clean water and move the edge around. This step made the stem pop out!

Step 6: The fun part! Petals! I make my own purple using various mixtures: cobalt+rose=purple, indigo+crimson=purple, any blue+any red=purple, have fun making your own concoctions! I painted the petals wet on wet. This means I first start with a purple and while wet, dropped in some crimson in certain spots. When I say “dropped” I don’t mean painted with a stroke. This will make mud. Barely touch the purple with the tip of your brush loaded with crimson and watch them blend together. 

Step 7: Make various purple petals and wait for it to dry. When dry make a dark purple mixture and paint next to the masking fluid. Wait for it to dry.

Step 8 Final: Remove the masking fluid on the flower and paint some yellow spots first. When completely dry, paint some dark purple spots over the yellow. I did not use a micron pen on this painting, I really don’t know why. Maybe this delicate flower reminded me of how delicate spring is and I didn’t feel  the painting wanted hard edges. Let the painting speak to you and loosen up your control…that’s a hard thing to master. 

Sprung Together
image: 4.5×6.5
cream mat outside dimensions: 8×10
mahogany frame

This is for sale at the LaGrange Art Gallery (708-352-3101) M-Sat 10am-5pm. It will be on display until May 30,2009. If you call the gallery and purchase with a credit card, I will pay for shipping in the US.

Here is what it looks like framed:

I hope you enjoyed this watercolor step by step demonstration of how to paint an iris!