How to Paint a Finch in Oils: Stages 4, 5 & 6

Today, I’ll share the next steps in creating a finch painting in oils.

adding lights and darks to the background

adding darks and lights to the background

I now start adding more darks and lights to the background, defining the branches and the snow behind the bird. This will get reworked. I mix the snow hues with ultramarine blue, cobalt blue and titanium white, with a hint of burnt sienna; in the sunny areas, I add a touch of cadmium yellow light and more white. The branches are getting thicker and more defined now. Now for the next step: working on the body of the bird more.

stage 5 adding detail to the bird

Stage 5: working on the body of the bird

In this stage, I add burnt sienna mixed with ultramarine blue to the body and head; and create cream colors with the above plus yellow ochre and white; I start at the front of the bird, and work my way down the body. At this point, the painting looks “gaudy” because I have yet to tone down the bright colors with shadows and highlights; these will come later. My main goal is to show the roundness of the body, and the feather patterns.

in stage 6, the body of the finch is defined more

Stage 6: underpainting the body of the finch

Okay, it’s starting to look like a bird amid snow-covered branches. At this point, it’s got lots of nice color; that’s part of the fine, trying out different colors and combinations. I could stop at this stage, but I like a lot of depth and realism and fine detail, so I’ll keep going. In a few days, I’ll share the finished painting.

Let me know how your painting progresses!

How to Paint a Finch with Oil Paints: Steps 1, 2 and 3

I decided to break down how I approach painting birds, to help others who enjoy painting wildlife.

Grays, blues and whites on the background of this bird oil painting

Stage 1: Creating the background canvas color

Above is my very favorite part of painting: taking a blank white canvas, and priming it with the background colors. For this painting, which is set in a snowy woods, I used mixes of ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, titanium white and a hint of burnt sienna to create the blues and grays. I added a tint in places of pthalo green as well, just for variety. Now, it looks like a soft abstract of blues and grays, just waiting for the painting. This is the exciting part – the possible painting.

Next, I lightly sketch in my main features – the bird and branches for the painting.

in stage 2, a light sketch of the main elements of the painting

Stage 2: sketching in elements

It doesn’t look like much yet, but this step is important. I tend to sketch in freehand; I do know some artists who create computer carbons for their birds or portraits, but I prefer sketching it myself; I often play with where things will sit until I am happy with the result. You can always “rub out” the sketch easily with a bit of turpentine and a rag at this stage.

Next, I start strengthening the background. I always work on my background first, for a reason: if I finish my bird first, I tend to “lose interest” or rush the background. If I work on my background first, then I will spend more time on it.

In stage 3 the background branches in the oil painting are defined better

Stage 3: defining the background & bird more

I also start blocking in some of the finch colors lightly: burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, titanium white, yellow ochre, cad. yellow light for this stage. This lets me know if my sketch is accurate; I constantly redefine as I work.

I’ll share more in my next post.