Small Bird Sheltering From Storm

I have not painted figures so much, and rather few birds, so I thought I’d give this little one a go. Some people told me this is a female goldfinch. I have no idea.

Source Image


Sketch with masking fluid


I traced the bird from the source photo onto the paper, and cleaned up the sketch. There was quite a bit of pure white in the image I wanted to preserve, on the bird in particular, but also stark white edges of the dark branch it is sitting on.



Painted the body, first using some Aureolin, Raw Sienna, then a little bit of Quin Gold. While the paint was still a little wet, put in some Cobalt Blue Violet to darken it a little.

When it was dry, I added the black using a chromatic black mix of French Ultramarine and Quin Burnt Orange.

Background and Branch


The background was primarily dark, almost completely black in the source photo, but I wanted to give it a bit more life. I started on the left edge using the chromatic black mixture from above, dropping in some French Ultramarine here and there, working my way to the right. I stopped and then wet the paper from the right edge, and let the leading edge soften into it.

The branch was a bit more of the chromatic black, thicker than the background.

While the paint was still slightly wet, I scraped out the snow / rain drops, and some texture on the branch.

Mask Removed


Taking off the masking fluid after everything dried down, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I only had to make a few minor adjustments and touch-ups, including softening the light coming around the top of the branch to emphasize it’s curvature.

Final, signed

and untaped:

Cropped, straightened


and a tigher crop:


Materials Used


  • Arches Aquarelle, 140lb cold press, 9×12, sheet from a pad (taped on gatorboard)


  • Winsor and Newton Aureolin (Cobalt Yellow)
  • Winsor and Newton Raw Sienna
  • Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue Violet
  • Daniel Smith Quinacridone Burnt Orange
  • Chromatic black mixture of Winsor and Newton French Ultramarine with Daniel Smith Quinacridone Burnt Orange
  • Winsor and Newton French Ultramarine


  • Dreamcatcher round #14
  • Dreamcatcher round #10
  • Dreamcatcher round #6
  • Alvaro Castagnet needle point brush #8
  • various Cheap Joe’s Ugly brushes for applying masking fluid


  • Peabo Drawing Gum (masking fluid)