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Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee
Watercolor Sketching Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch
YouTube Watercolor Painting Tutorial
There's nothing more rewarding than sketching birds at your backyard bird feeder. In this YouTube painting tutorial of a chickadee, I show you how to easily paint these cute little birds.
Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee Watercolor Painting tutorial

Sketching Tutorial Level


Skill Building


Art Supplies

5" x 8"
Pentalic Aqua Journal
Isabey Pointed Round Sable, no.14
Isabey Pointed Round Sable, no.8


(M. Graham transparent watercolors)

Nickel Azo Yellow
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Quinacridone Rust
Van Dyke Brown (Daniel Smith)
White Gouache

Painting Demonstration 1

Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

First, I paint the chickadee's underbelly with cobalt blue and quinacridone rust, mixed. Remember to always paint in the direction of the body shape and the feather direction.

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Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee Reference Photo
Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee Reference Photo

Painting Demonstration 2

Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

I rapidly sketch in the bird feeder and sunflower seeds. I don't want much detail here.

I splatter paint all over the page, making sure I splatter over the bird's head to dull the contrast there.

Hold off on this step if you don't have time for the sketch to dry.

Painting Demonstration 3

Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee Painting Tutorial 3

After the sketch has dried completely, I can start on the dark details.

I paint the details on the bird's head in several layers, beginning with a cobalt blue. I then build it up with ultramarine blue and quinacridone rust.

Artist's Tips

Always keep your brush strokes in the same direction as the feathers.

Painting Demonstration 4

Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee Painting Tutorial 4

I use nickel azo yellow on the bird's body to give a warm glow. Be careful, it's very easy for this to turn green!

Painting Demonstration 5

Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee Painting Tutorial 5

I round the chickadee's head with several layers of feathers. I want ruffled edges against the cold.

Backyard Bird Sketch, Chickadee Watercolor Painting tutorial

Final Watercolor Sketch!

My final step is to add a touch of white gouache to the chickadee's eye. This is more eye shine and contrast than is actually there. However, black feathers against a black eye really doesn't show up and it is that bright little eye that's the central focus of the sketch.

I love painting my backyard birds. I am thrilled at how many other people want to paint their backyard birds as well, so this is going to be a recurring theme for the next few months, at least. (Seriously, I could paint them forever!)

Next week, I'm mixing it up with a gorgeous path in the woods. The week after that will be the 2nd tufted titmouse bird sketch you all requested.

There is so much to paint! It's wonderful when you start in your own backyard!

Happy Painting! Jennifer Branch

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