Tag Archives: how to paint a bird

Let’s Paint a Female Sparrow!

Oh boy! Spring is finally here, the birds are chirping like crazy, and I can’t get enough of the very common house sparrow!


Here is the beautiful Ms. Sparrow. Not the best most clearest picture…I admit, but watch how we turn a lemon into lemon aid! Come on….it’s not as hard as you think…you can do this.

So let’s have some nature fun by learning how to paint the female sparrow using watercolors….


Step 1: I am using 140lb cold press watercolor paper (6×4). Make a quick graphite sketch, but instead of drawing the feeder make some branches.


Step 2: Wet the paper just around the sparrow. Do not wet the sparrow. Think of everything we do in layers. The first layer is cerulean blue. While it is wet paint a darker blue (cobalt) around the sparrow and around the branches. Load a small brush with alizarin crimson and flick it at the paper. Because the paper is still wet, our alizarin splatter grows into large circles. Clean your brush and take some cobalt and make more splatter, try not to get any on the sparrow. When the paper is almost dry but still wet, take a rigger brush and some sepia brown and paint in thin branches. Let everything dry.


Step 3: Now let’s work on the bird. Remember, watercolors work best in layers…lightest colors go first, darker/stronger colors last. The head and back is a diluted burnt sienna. The tail feather is burnt sienna, sepia, and cobalt blue…makes a nice gray color. For the beak, I used pure yellow, but this will be covered up later and won’t look so stark. I also touched some of that yellow on the side of the right wing. Let dry.


Step 4: When everything is dry, take sepia brown and paint the back and wing allowing some of the previous lighter layer to show through. Skip around a little.


Step 5: Take some burnt sienna and paint the head going around they eye and white eye stripe. Using our gray mixture, paint on top of the beak, under the chin, and the breast.


Step 6: Just another dark layer. Using sepia brown and payne’s gray, paint the individual feathers leaving white space on the edge of each feather. Don’t forget tail feathers too. Using a tiny rigger brush and that same dark color, paint the eye leaving the center white for reflection. She’s coming alive!!!


Spring Bliss Sparrow watercolor

Step 7 Final: For the branches, use our gray mixture, paint lighter on the top of the branches and darker on the bottom of the branches. You know I love that micron pen, so when everything was dry I outlined the sparrow and the branches. Made more sepia splatter around the bird and finally, I used white gouache to outline the feathers on the sparrow and to highlight the top of the branches. Is that cheating? Not if you make the rules 😉

What is our female house sparrow doing? She is enjoying the warm air, she is listening to her mate call for her, she is thinking about future eggs.

To purchase an original click here to see if available.
To purchase a print or greeting card from Fine Art America click here.

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step watercolor lesson on how to paint a female house sparrow.


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!

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!

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.