Art Adventures

Posts tagged ‘chickadee watercolor paintings’

Mama duck gestured to the partially submerged log with her bill and nodded slightly to her many ducklings. “Hop up, youngsters, dry off, and practice your yoga stances.”

I was on my kayak at Hosmer and had been trailing her at a distance for a time, clicking off photos with my Canon SX50 Ultrazoom. I hoped there might be a hidden treasure in the photos when I viewed them at home. So I just kept snapping pics. The little ducklings stopped at a bank and fluffed their fluffy down feathers, organizing and preening themselves duckily.

It was by sheer luck, and much to my amazement, when the mother called to them and organized her little balls of fluff on the log, just for my photos. I was very close in the kayak, making slow, measured movements and holding my breath. After she gestured, they all hopped up. I sat, mesmerized, clicking off pics, and marveled  at how perfectly cute they all were.

I had taken about 20 photos before moving off and giving them their peace. When I got home, I combined the pics by selecting poses from each and aligning them just so for the painting. A little guy who had stretched out his leg became my focal point.

Photo reference, one of many, for Ducks in a Row

Photo reference, one of many, for Ducks in a Row

I painted the first wash quickly, deciding to use purple and quinocridone burnt orange as my two main colors, creating a somewhat neutral color palate with a strong horizontal line of dark value behind the ducklings. Since I wanted the small duck with his foot outstretched to be the focal point, I removed a chick to the immediate left to give him a little space. I had used liquid mask on all the areas of their highlighted downy feathers, to keep it sparkling white in the end.


After the first wash of purple and quinocridone burnt orange

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the background yet, other than keeping it loose and letting it fade away. I stepped away from it and allowed it to dry, knowing I would relish adding detail to the little ducklings. While it sat, I ran across an article in a magazine illustrating little dots in the background. I knew it would work for this painting.

In order to finish it for my First Friday showing at Desperado, I quickly began working on it the morning of the show.

After I had painted the background and the general shadows on the ducklings, I removed the mask

After I had painted the background and the general shadows on the ducklings, I removed the mask

Once I had removed the liquid mask, I worked on each little duckling. I paid close attention to detail and softened the edges so that their down appeared fluffy.

duck detail 2

Duckling detail. I kept all the whites as pure background and painted the shadow area only

duck detail 3

I concentrated on keeping the downy feathers very soft.

I saved the last little duckling to the end, using intense color and fine detail in his form. I made sure to keep the background as dark as I could behind him and accent his little stretched out foot with a vivid orange hue.

Focal point

Focal point

The painting has rhythm, which I enhanced by keeping all their legs and feet very bright with an orange and red mixture, their colors about the same, and the top of the log completely white to connect them all together. The mother duck looks over at them, bringing our view right back to the small guy with the outstretched foot.

Detail of dot squares and texture in background

Detail of dot squares and texture in background

After the ducklings and their mother were finished, I addressed the background with the squares of dots I mentioned earlier. You can see in the photo below how textural this painting is, with the collaged squares of paper and the scribbles of gesso. I love the dot effect, which further illustrates the organization of the little ducklings.

Ducks in a Row, $450  original watercolor and collage on Plexiglas

Ducks in a Row,  16×20 $450 original watercolor and collage on Plexiglas

Early in the afternoon, I felt I had work still to do on the painting, but took it to the show anyway. It received much praise and commentary. There was plenty of discussion on the conversation of the ducklings and their mother. So funny! After looking at it all evening, I decided to leave well enough alone and announce it finished.

This is one of my favorite paintings. I love these little ducklings and feel it is a strong conversational piece. I’m happy with the suggestion of a background and the neutral color of the overall painting. Hope it puts a smile on your face as it did to the many people who saw it at the First Friday show.

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All images and paintings on this site copyrighted by Sarah B Hansen unless otherwise noted.





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Hi, everyone! It’s Thirty-Dollar Thursday today! Want a cool, affordable, original watercolor painting? Here’s today’s painting:

Crazy Chickadee 8x8 watercolor on gessoed watercolor paper

Crazy Chickadee 8×8 watercolor on gessoed watercolor paper

Recognize it? He’s from my experimental Chickadee post this weekend. Everyone seemed to like him, so he’s up for grabs today. He’s on 8×8 gessoed watercolor paper, matted into a 12×12 with foam-core backing. And in real person? The painting’s color is SO COOL! The photo does not do him justice. Message me otherwise let me know if you want this cute, happy little painting in your home. First come, first serve. Shipping charges may apply.

Follow me on Facebook for more offers and events and check out my online store. Hope everyone has a fantastic Thursday!


No, no…no worries.  I’m not doing crazy science experiments on my poor little yard chickadees!  What were you thinking??

This small chickadee painting went together so smoothly and that I found it hadn’t quite quenched my yelling beast within. It was so fun and quick I had to do another. Okay, okay, I didn’t really need to, but there was an uncontrollable desire (you must do another, Sarah)!

First, here’s a quick time-lapse of chickadee painting #1. I call it Chickadee Spring:

I enjoy pushing colors in my paintings. The bird does not necessarily have all the colors on his little feathers as I have depicted. But if I wanted him to be perfectly rendered, I could always just post the photo. And you all know what a disappointment THAT would be. 😉 The colors are pushed to more extreme; the blues are more intense, the black is actually purple, but he looks pretty normal, right?

Chickadee Spring. 8×8 watercolor on gessoed watercolor paper

I think I’d like to do another one with weird colors (queue uncontrollable desire to paint another).

Oooo…great idea. Is a chickadee recognizable as a chickadee if the colors are not realistic?  After that thought, I postponed this post and had to do an experiment:

Crazy Chickadee 8x8 watercolor on gessoed watercolor paper

Crazy Chickadee 8×8 watercolor on gessoed watercolor paper

What fun this is! Isn’t he cute? What made him even more interesting was that I had just purchased a new paint, Daniel Smith’s Quinacridone Coral.  Gorgeous color! You will be seeing more it from me in the future. It’s a warm red, so it mixes very well with a warm yellow such as New Gamboge Yellow. I LOVE it!!!

So? What do you think? Which version do you prefer? Comment and let me know. Hope you all are feeding your creative beast this week!

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Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers!  My mom is an amazing woman. Long story super-short:  She got married at 20, had 7 kids(!), lost her parents when she was in her early 20’s, was a farm wife/mother, held various jobs outside the home, then, when I left for college, she got her college degree in her 50’s, wrote a book and sold it in her 70’s and is now writing another book in her 80’s. She even learned to play a violin in her 80’s! Talk about the Beast Within…she has him and passed him to me!  Mom, you are amazing.  You are, and always have been, an inspiration to me.  So Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  This painting’s for you. 🙂

When I was a kid, growing up on a farm in Colorado, my mom would wake me up in the morning, saying, “Wake up, my little Chickadee!”  Somehow, it made the morning seem a little less morning-y.  So for Mother’s day, how about a chickadee painting?


Chickadee drawing on plexiglass. Yep, those are feathers

My brother takes amazing photos of pretty much anything.  He understands the terms F-stop and shutter speed, and somehow uses all those little adjustments and funny protruding knobs to produce photos that say what I would like photos to say but never do.  My photos look like a kid with a 110 camera…remember those?  So when I asked for a chickadee photo, he came through in spades…or birds, I guess. The above drawing is referenced from his photo.  Thanks, Brosky.

Then, while I planned out my painting, I thought, why not put feathers in the canvas?  Why not, indeed? Yep.  Feathers, three of ’em, adhered with gesso to the plexiglass.

Adding feathers to painting

Adding feathers to painting

Because I’m working full-time this week, I decided to work small. This is a 16×20, about half the size of my usual paintings.

Next, I had a coupon for Michaels, you know the 40% off any one item? I purchased the coolest die-cut thingy~!  I love it!  I went punch-crazy with 2″ circles and added them to my painting.

2-inch Die-Cut Punch Thingy

2-inch circles cut out of regular paper and tracing paper using Die-Cut Punch Thingy

I glued them on using the gesso:


Circles, adhered to the gessoed plexiglass painting

Here is a feather, already adhered to the painting.  You can see a smidge of a die-cut circle in the upper LH side of this photo, and in the above photo:



Feather, gessoed onto plexiglass, in preparation for my chickadee painting

Now, the fun begins.  A little Moonglow and Quin. Burnt Orange for the head…


Painting Mrs. Chickadee’s head

Moving on to the body with mixtures of Moonglow, Quin. Burnt Orange, and Cerulean.  Leaving all the whites alone.  No liquid mask was used in this painting:


Mrs. Chickadee body detail

I finished the bird, then started on the background.  The background needed to stay very neutral and cool, in order to recede away from the bird.  I debated on whether or not to add a building/vertical or horizontal structure behind the bird, but in the end, decided simple was best.

Detail shots showing texture:


Up-close shot of feather


Detail of one of the many circles of paper in the painting

In the end, super-cute chickadee:

Chickadee Mom, 16x20, watercolor on Plexiglass. $500 unframed.

Chickadee Mom, 16×20, watercolor on Plexiglass. $500 unframed.

Here’s to you, Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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