Artistic endeavors: bringing a bluebird to life

While I usually don’t like to spend an entire day indoors, sometimes a combination of weather and a need to get things done can force it to happen. It’s been very windy and threatening to storm all day. Plus, my apartment was quite a mess after a long week. So, this morning was spent cleaning, catching up on dishes, and arranging some of the things I brought back from Indiana.

After those things were done, I decided it had been far too long since I painted anything. Lately, my project has been to paint birds. Here are some birds I painted for Wyatt’s office before I left Indiana:

Since I’m studying Eastern Bluebirds, I thought it was high time I added a painting of one to my collection. The first step in any painting is to choose an image you want to base it on. This can be in your mind, an actual photo, or a combination of the two. I chose a photo I took of one of the birds in my study (it may look familiar, as it was also my featured image for Why birds?).

W07 513 male
Eastern Bluebird male that I will attempt to paint
My Eastern Bluebird sketch

The next step is to make a drawing. In my opinion, this is the most important part. If your original drawing isn’t good, the best painting job in the world can’t make the finished product look like you want it to. I do my drawings in pencil, and make the lines as light as I can. This makes it easy to erase any mistakes without leaving eraser marks. It also prevents the pencil lines from showing through the paint in the finished piece (though some artists leave some pencil marks for a stylistic look, I can never seem to pull it off).

Once the drawing is finished, the real work begins. I like to start by setting up my work area. Brushes, paints, palette, water to rinse the brushes in, paper towel to dry them, a good light source, and your inspiration image. The Game of Thrones episode and Dr. Pepper are optional.


Once I have everything I need within arm’s reach, I mix the colors I’d like to use. I have a hard time getting blues right, so I knew it was going to be a challenge. I didn’t get the colors exactly right, but after a while I decided they were close enough. I then began laying down some color. I started with more extreme darks and lights than the final painting would have. I find it’s easier to tone down from extremes than try to add different shades to one color. Then I began to define the feathers individually and pick where to highlight and darken. Adding the eye and bill made it begin to look like a bird, and adding the orange breast and flank made it look like a bluebird. Finally, the post the bird is standing on brought together the finished product. Here are photos of the process:

Things I would do differently? I would spend more time trying to get that brilliant bright blue color right. I would also make the head less rounded in my original drawing. However, I’m fairly happy with the result, and it will be nice to have a painting to add to my office. If I find that I’m tired to bluebirds, maybe I’ll add this one to Wyatt’s office and paint something else. No matter where the painting ends up, creating it made for an enjoyable afternoon.


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