Let’s Paint the Chickadee!

Oh BOY! Do you remember the other day when I had a tiny little chickadee visitor at my feeder? I love him so much that I want to try to capture his uplifting acrobatic personality right on watercolor paper! Here we go, let’s make a watercolor painting of the black-capped chickadee on cold press watercolor paper…

Step 1: I am going to make a chickadee montage painting. A montage is when you take several photos and put them together in one scene. I think displaying the chickadee’s playful poses will help convey his high spirited personality. When doing a montage, make sure you practice your layout on a separate piece of scratch paper. For a good compositional flow, I only chose the poses that would work well. Remember, your composition goal is to keep the viewer’s eye in the painting.

Step 2: I’m just going to concentrate on the big guy. I wet his belly with clean water. Then I loaded my brush with burnt sienna and touched the paper in several spots. I didn’t rub it in. I just lightly touched the paper and let the watercolor paint do its own thing. It’s fun to watch it run.

Step 3: Next, I made a gray mixture by mixing burnt sienna, indigo blue and a touch of sap green. Dilute the paint with water to get a lighter gray. Paint his back and tail, and a little bit under his “chin”. Don’t go crazy, let some paper show through, we don’t want to suffocate the poor thing.

Step 4: With a much less water diluted mixture of burnt sienna, indigo blue, and sap green, paint his black cap and black bib. Do not pre-wet the paper. Lay it down wet on dry (your paint is wet/your paper is dry). We want a strong concentration of paint and this time we do not want it to run all over the place.

Step 5: Taking that same dark mixture of paint, go around his wing and tail.

Step 6: The chickadee has a blue-gray color. First make sure everything is dry, then make a mixture of cobalt blue and a touch of burnt sienna and paint his back, tail, under his chin, and belly.

Step 7 Final: After everything is dry, make another dark “black” mixture and paint his head, beak, rim of wing, part of the tail and his claws. Can you see that I did not paint his whole head but left some of the original “black” showing? I also made a half circle suggesting his eye.

“Chickadee at My Feeder Montage”
I got you, you quick tiny happy thing! This chickadee grabs a seed, flies away, takes some suet, flies away, grabs another seed, flies away…over and over and over again!

image: 6.5×4.5
off white mat outside dimensions: 10×8
no frame

Click here to purchase, it will take you to the available watercolor page.

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step watercolor demonstration on how to paint the black-capped chickadee.


  1. I found this very helpful and interesting. I use water colors but I use them more like acrylics. I’d like to try traditional watercolor but not sure how. So I think having seen how you’ve done this, I will have to try.

  2. thelocalguide: Thanks for visiting! It is never too late to start painting again. I doesn’t matter if you graduated 20 years ago or 5 years ago…you can start painting tomorrow!

    Lana: You know, that’s a very good idea! Thanks!

    Chrisj: Awesome! There is a certain uncontrolable wonder with watercolors. You have to give up some expectations with watercolors and let them do their own thing. It’s so much fun!

  3. Yes, I did enjoy your demo–teaching, when to use wet-in-wet; when to use wet-on-dry…simple instructions. It helped me in my own attempt at painting my first bird. I was never interested in doing a bird until I saw this demonstration. Also, now I know what a montage is! Thank you for sharing! Kahna

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