Let’s Paint an Eastern Bluebird!

The Eastern Bluebird is a beautiful bird that spends its summers breeding and living in my area before migrating south for the winter. They are not hard to find if you look in meadows and open fields especially if bluebird boxes have been set up there. The Little Red Schoolhouse has a few bluebird boxes in its tiny meadow right before the Black Oak Trail and Spears Woods also has one near the yellow trail. Right now however, the bluebirds have left the area and moved south.
😦 I am missing them already.

So let’s keep a piece of the Eastern Bluebird so that we can cherish it all winter long…

Step 1: Here is my reference photo. It is from the site, Paint My Photo, where artists upload photos and allow you to paint from them, copyright free. This photo was taken by Kathy Detweiler. What a beautiful shot!
This is going to be a pastel painting with a watercolor under painting. I am using a white 5×7 Ampersand Pastelbord. I made a rough sketch with vine charcoal.

Step 2: Holy Hot Tamales! Yes, that’s a bright red, but don’t worry, it will be covered up when we are done. I am using the compliment color red/orange, for a watercolor under wash. When finished I want my sky to be a green/blue color. Why bother doing this when most of it will be covered with pastels? I like this technique because it creates a deeper color, less flat when finished.

Step 3: Paint the branches in watercolor, I used purple. Now for the bird. Paint the bluebird’s back cobalt blue, the mid section burnt sienna, and under his belly a gray color. Let every thing completely dry.

Step 4: We are done using watercolors, when the board is dry, take a dark turquoise green pastel and fill in the sky. I am using Rembrandt pastels.

Step 5: With a lighter turquoise green paint the sky behind the bluebird. For the bluebird’s white belly, take the lightest blue pastel (looks almost white) and paint the belly, also paint under his eye. Where the shadow is on his belly, paint that light purple and blue. These colors should almost look light gray. For the main branch, paint that dark green and for the smaller branches paint those medium purple. Don’t cover the whole board, let a tiny bit of red show through here and there.

Step 6: Using pastels, paint the rust color a dark orange/brown. Layer with lighter orange colors and highlight with a yellow. Paint his back and head with a deep indigo blue pastel.

Step 7: Using the same light blue/gray you used on his belly (shadow), paint the top of his head.  When ever I want to get a really bright highlight or a really dark, dark color, I stop using Rembrant pastels and I switch to Unison pastels. Unisons are not as hard and feel buttery. The softer the pastel the easier it will be to grab onto the board. I took a very light yellow (almost looks pure white) Unison pastel and painted the left side of his belly and on the tail feathers.

If You Leave, I Will Follow - pastel

Step 8 Final: For the sky, take a light blue and paint behind the bird. Next, take a purple pastel and paint the main branch and a light purple and paint the smaller branches. For the bird, it might be easier to use pastel pencils for detail in the face. As long as the face is in detail, nothing else needs to be in focus, because it’s not really important. Take time when painting the eye and don’t forget that white reflection! Paint his leg a dark brown and highlight the top with a lighter red/brown.

“If You Leave, I Will Follow Bluebird”

This painting will be on display at the LaGrange Art Gallery in November. I didn’t know what to title this painting so I asked myself, “What would you be thinking if this bluebird landed in the tree above you?” And I answered myself, “If you leave this tree, little bluebird, and fly to the next one, I will follow you so that I can burnish in my memory your beauty and recall it for years to come.”

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step painting demonstration on how to paint an Eastern Bluebird!


  1. Christine!! What a delightful little bluebird painting! Your very interesting step-by-step free pastel demonstration, and your blog, a treasure, indeed! Thinking I might claim the pleasure of viewing it . . . as a ‘one day late’ extra birthday treat! It sure brings music to my heart! Thank you!

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