Nuthatch – An Oil Painting

Having finally delivered Nuthatch to it’s new owner, I thought I’d pull together some of the photos I have taken to explain my approach.  When they’re all in one place it’s easier to see the progress.  Even if it was a bit slow!


As always, the first thing I do is do some scribbles in a sketchbook and then work that into a full scale drawing of the painting, or print.  From this I am able to transfer the drawing onto the canvas without having to make too many adjustments.  I decided to paint the edges of my canvas, they were 1.5 inches deep, so this lent itself nicely to being part of the painting.  I wouldn’t always paint the edges, it all depends on the painting.  For Nuthatch, I used a Winsor & Newton Artists’ Canvas.  The canvas size is 20cm x 20cm which I think is a great size for bird paintings.  I prefer not to make my birds super sized!  I bought this canvas from Artifolk in a box quantity, much more value for money!Jean_Stevens_Nuthatch2

I’m not keen painting straight onto a white canvas as I find it a bit stark, so I painted the background in a pale colour.  I wasn’t too precious about what colour to choose, that would have taken far too much thought!  I drew the outline of the Nuthatch onto the canvas, really just to make sure I kept it in the right place.  Precision isn’t necessary as I adjusted the bird outline as I painted to make sure it was right.



Next came the background.  I started off mixing some different shades of the same colour mix.  I use Windsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colours.  Is there a particular reason for this? (I hear you ask).  The short answer is no.  I just like them.  So, back to the background.  I used a mix of Veridian Green, Cadmium Lemon, a tiny amount of Alizaron Crimson and then varying amounts of white to make it lighter.  The Alizaron Crimson was used to make the background darker.  I prefer to use complimentary colours instead of black.  It’s stops the colour getting dull.  I used a fan brush to help with all the blending, softening edges, creating textures and finishing – a must have brush!



On to the tree trunk.  I initially used various colours with a red base to start making the bark, but as you will see in the next photo I decided to go more brown.  This was due to the Nuthatch colouring not sitting well with this colour.  (sorry, I forgot to take a photo!).  I used the browns; Raw Umber and Burnt Sienna together with Yellow Ochre to give a darker brown feel to the bark.  I also decided to lighten up the background to bring a brightness to the whole painting.  Still using the same base colours but not so dark – less Alizarin Crimson.


Next was the Nuthatch herself.  The crown, mantle, back and rump were painted using Black, French Ultramarine & White in varying shades.  The breast and belly were painted using Burnt Sienna & Raw Sienna mixed and Raw Sienna & Cadmium Yellow Pale.  I used a ‘dirty brush’ quite often to help with the blends and the white flash on the throat and Auricular has a tiny amount of the blue/grey shade made with Black, French Ultramarine & White; just enough to take off the brightness of the white.



I decided to lighten up the Lower Breast are with some ‘dirty’ white and blended this in.  Finally, I smartened up the Eyering, Eyeline, Upper Mandible & Lower Mandible, and finally the broad black stripe.

So, Nuthatch has gone to it’s new home and I have cleaned off the palette ready for the next painting.

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