I love watching chickadees; in fact, they will land on my pan when I carry seeds out in the early dawn. They will congregate in a nearby pine, waiting for me to put their food out. So, they are a natural subject for a painting. In this blog, I will show how to paint these beautiful birds.
First, after sketching out my layout, I start. I paint in the background using a combination of orange, cerulean blue, titanium white, burnt umber, cadmium yellow and yellow ochre. I rough in a sketch of the tree branches with ultramarine and burnt umber, with a bit of burnt sienna.
I then sketch in the chickadees in the above colors. I always sketch by hand instead of using enlargements. For this painting, I combined five photos I had taken of chickadees in various poses.
Next, I start adding leaves to the pine tree branches, using various combinations of sap green, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue and burnt umber. This is pretty painstaking and takes awhile, but I want them to sit in a natural setting for Michigan. Cadmium yellow, white, and sap green are mixed for the leaf highlights.
I also add tree branch highlights in a combination of yellow ochre, burnt sienna, titanium white and burnt umber.
For the birds, their chests are done in combinations of ultramarine blue (shaded areas), titanium white, burnt sienna and yellow ochre. The gray for their backs are combinations of burnt umber, burnt sienna, ultramarine and titanium white, with yellow ochre on highlighted areas. The darkest areas are ultramarine blue and burnt umber, in layers.
Next, I start finishing birds and pine leaves. To help with the pine branches, I brought in a small branch to view (it is zero degrees outside this time of year, so plein aire isn’t really an option!)
I continue this process, adding layers, leaves, and details, darkening shaded areas and highlighting lighter areas, until the painting is at the point that I want. The painting is done – and the chickadees are so cute!