How I Got Started Painting Birds

This is the very first bird I ever painted in watercolour. Watercolour painting of a cardinal on a snowy day

When I was painting in acrylic I focused mainly on portraits and big cats. (EVERYONE loves the big cats) but I wanted to try some other animals and I’ve always loved birds.

Acrylic was good for the solidness of large animals and for skin tones but I had painted one bird (a Snowy Egret) in acrylic and struggled with the feathers and with making the bird ‘solid’ but light. Acrylic is a dense medium and although I’m sure with time and practice I could achieve the effect I wanted in acrylic, I didn’t enjoy the process as much as doing the cats, and didn’t paint another bird for many years.

Birds are a fascinating subject and rarely stop moving for very long. Studying them is a real challenge and their anatomy and expressions are hard to capture. Maybe I’m a masochist (lol) but I’ve always had the desire to paint what I observe even when it’s beyond my skill, and birds push me to my limits. There are many failed tries in my garbage can.

 I started this little guy not really knowing what watercolour could do, only what I had in my head. I’m not going to say it was easy… and I went back and forth trying to get the feel, in my head, of the cheeky cardinals in my backyard, to the paper.  For a first, I am happy with him. 

Have you done something that pushed your limits? Do you think it was a valuable experience?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.