Let’s Paint a Chickadee!

Chickadees are one of my most favorite birds. I don’t see them too much in the spring or summer, but rather they like to visit my feeder in autumn and especially in winter. Just recently two chickadees have visited my feeder everyday, several times a day. It is such a treat to watch these tiny balls of energy and hear their cheery tune!

So let’s learn how to paint the chickadee…


Step 1: I am using a 7×5 Ampersand Pastelbord. I made a quick sketch using a charcoal pencil.


Step 2: Today I am going to try something different. I am going to use complimentary colors for the underpainting. I’ve seen this before but never tried it. Using watercolors, I painted the sky orange. When the painting is finished the sky will be blue, therefore I used its complimentary color, orange. Using watercolors I also painted the twigs blue.


Step 3: Next I painted the chickadee with watercolors; burnt sienna for the belly, purple for the dark colors. Let this dry completely.


Step 4: After everything is dry, we are going to start painting the sky with pastels. I used the lightest blue for the edges and a medium blue for the center. I am using Rembrandt pastels. I don’t want to cover all of the orange, I want it to show through here and there.


Step 5: Still working on the sky, I painted the bottom a deeper blue/green. I took the medium blue and overlapped the edges and blended with my finger. I like the painterly affect, it seems to have a lot of movement.


Step 6: Now we are going to work on the chickadee. Rembrandt pastels never get really, really dark, so for the chickadee’s head I had to use a Unison dark blue. Looks great. Next I painted the belly a deep red/orange using Rembrandt pastels. The side of the chickadee is a medium red/orange.


Step 7: Using Rembrandt olive green pastel, I painted the top of his wing, the middle sides of his wing, and under his wing. A touch of olive for his body and a cream for highlights. I painted his butt a purple gray and the very bottom of his body. A light blue was painted under his eye and under his collar. Using that dark Unison blue I painted the middle of his wing and under his wing. A touch of dark purple was painted on the side of his head and chin for interest.


Step 8: In this step I painted his belly a light yellow and the very edge the lightest gray I had. I took that same light gray and painted his wing. For the twigs, I used a deep brown, the darkest brown Rembrandt pastel.


Step 9: I painted the twigs a whole bunch of colors: Olive green, purple, and medium gray. I also made blue twigs in the background. This represents distant twigs. I didn’t want any of my twigs in fine detail, even the close ones because they are not the main subject, the chickadee is the main focus and I do not want anything distracting the subject.

Winter Chickadee pastel

Step 10 Final: Unison pastels are very soft and buttery. They are great for highlights, not for your whole painting. They have the ability to make an instant pop with color. I used a Unison light yellow for the highlights on the chickadee: his head, bill, legs and tip of his tail feather. I also added some red in the twigs for extra pop! Notice I didn’t cover all of the orange under painting? I think it added warmth and life to our painting. Looks good!

“Winter Chickadee”

The original will be on sale at the LaGrange Art Gallery from November 12th thru December 31st. Prints can be purchased from Fine Art America:
Sell Art Online

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step demonstration on how to paint a chickadee bird!


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