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European Robin in Pastel

Today, I bring you the end of the Birds in Pastel series, with a painting of a European robin. I chose to paint a European robin because of their colorful plumage. Our typical robins in the U.S. are not as pretty as the European variety, in my opinion. The European robin has beautiful feathers of bright orange on the breast surrounded by lovely tones of blue. Their back feathers are that of olive green and brown, and they have a white underbelly. What a wonderful complimentary color scheme and perfect to depict in pastel.

The European robin was painted on a 6″x8″ black UArt pastel board with a limited palette of soft pastels. Since robins love water, I painted this little guy next to a puddle. Perhaps he’s about to take a bath?

European robin

Robins have a funny shaped body, don’t they? They are so fat as birds go; probably because they eat too many worms and bugs! What I love about robins is how they take a bath after they’ve eaten and before they go to bed each night. I think that’s so cute. What I don’t love about them, is they start singing at 3:30 in the morning in the spring and summer. Our local robins migrate and come back in the spring, so that gives me winter as a break from being awaken early in the morning by a robin.

There is one more bird I may paint in this series, and that’s a Western Flycatcher. For now, Im going to switch over to landscapes. This was a really fun series to do and I liked painting the feathers on the birds most of all. I learned if I stroke a pastel stick upwards it makes a perfect feather. I also learned if I get too much pastel on the paper it becomes hard to manipulate and so now I lay it in and call it good. Once is good enough!

Thank you for your interest in my work and I look forward to bringing you more. Until next time ~ much Love, ~ Rhonda

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Song Sparrow in Pastel

This week I painted a Song Sparrow in pastel as a continuation of the Birds in Pastel series. Song Sparrows are one of many species of Sparrow. We have an abundance of Sparrows visit the bird feeder everyday and they sing such happy songs! They take great delight in knocking seeds out of the feeder so their friends can eat too! Those birds that don’t fit on the feeder eat the seeds that fall to the ground. It’s a great idea for the birds, but not so much for us; the feeder ends up empty way too soon! I think since they are typically a ground forager, the knocking seeds to the ground is something they just do because they’d rather eat on the ground. That’s pretty smart if you ask me.

Song Sparrow in Pastel

Song Sparrow in Pastel was painted on 9″x12″ green Pastel Mat paper with soft pastels. My palette consisted of muted cool greens and purples for the background, juxtaposed with the rich warm tones for the foreground. Since the species isn’t very colorful I used vibrant colors to surround the bird to make him sort of pop.

I used my own photo reference for this piece which I was lucky enough to get very close to the Sparrow before he flew away. He might have been an old bird because I felt like I could almost touch him if I moved slowly. He just sat there on the edge of the deck as if he didn’t see me. Or perhaps they are just not that afraid of people, because my husband was able to get very close to a Sparrow sitting at the feeder a few weeks ago:

Song Sparrow at the Feeder

This Sparrow might be a little female. She was sleeping on the feeder when my husband came upon her. I thought about using this photo as a reference but then decided it wasn’t interesting enough. The bird feeder hangs on the side of the greenhouse and adds a bit of whimsy to the area.

Well that’s all I have to share for now. I completed another bird pastel yesterday and will share soon.I’ll give you a little hint of what it is….Blue and Orange feathers. Can you guess what it is? Thanks for stopping by! As always, much Love ~ Rhonda

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“Standing Guard” Pastel

“Standing Guard” is the next painting in the Birds in Pastel series. This new painting showcases a beautiful Buff Brahma rooster standing guard while a female eats her crumble.

The photo reference I used for “Standing Guard” is by a photographer on the website Pixabay named Klimkin. He takes beautiful photos and the Pixaby site allows free use of photos as long as the photographer is given credit. So be sure and give Klimkin a visit!

I sketched out my design in a sketchbook beforehand to get a sense of my values and palette colors. This practice helps me greatly in working out the composition first and foremost. I decided to omit a few of the foreground items in the original photo to give emphasis to these beautiful birds. I used graphite for the notan sketch then moved to watercolors to get a sense of hues for the piece.

Sketchbook notes for "Standing Guard"

I am happy with the overall outcome, and love the vibrant colors of the buff Brahma chickens, which the pastels were a perfect medium to depict their beauty.

Standing Guard Pastel
“Standing Guard”

(The Tamarack Mountain Studio watermark is not on the original painting.)

I love chickens and used to own three Buff Orpington hens. I raised them from week-old chicks and had so much fun with these sweet docile chickens. Their names were Barbie Q. Chicken, Rose T. Chicken and Fry D. Chicken. Get it? Anyway, in our neighborhood we’re not allowed to have chickens, but we got some anyway and put them discreetly in the backyard. We have wild turkeys running loose already, so what’s the diff?

Well, all was going well and we were getting three eggs a day and then I realized I was now confined to home and couldn’t leave to go on vacation! Someone has to gather eggs daily to keep the hens from becoming broody, or worse, eating their eggs! Since we weren’t technically allowed to have chickens I couldn’t very well ask a neighbor to take care of them should we want to go out of town.

I kept up the care of my sweet girls all summer and stayed home. No big deal. Then one day one of the chickens decided she was a rooster and began to make loud calls every morning. This was not going to go well if one of the neighbors complained, even though the wild turkeys roaming the neighborhood are just as loud. But I felt guilty and so we gave them away to a local farm.

I miss my girls. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted and the fresh eggs were so delicious! But, I was free from the confinement of home and they were well cared for in their new farm home. The new owners gave us free eggs every week which was very cool. Here’s one of the girls:

Barbie Q. Chicken Buff Orpington
Barbie Q. Chicken

My husband wants us to have chickens again, but I don’t think we will. The neighborhood is growing with a lot of new people building homes and I feel we need to stick to the rules of “no farm animals” allowed. But hey, a cat can be considered a farm animal as well as a dog, right? And as I said there are herds of wild turkeys roaming around so what harm can having a couple chickens bring? But then I’d be back to square one of not being able to go out of town, so that’s a big No to the chickens!

I have a few more birds I want to paint in this series; a sparrow and a robin and then I think this series will be finished for awhile. My attention will turn to landscapes and sunsets in pastel for the next two series. I’m enjoying working on a series since I’ve never done so before. I’ve always just painted whatever my attention was on that day, but working in a series is keeping me disciplined and motivated.

Thanks for stopping in and until next time, much Love! ~ Rhonda

  • Red Cardinal
  • Blue Jay in the Forest Pastel
  • Back Capped Chickadee Pastel
  • Black Capped Chickadee in the Snow
  • Hummingbird and Lilacs
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Blue chested Hummingbird
  • Standing Guard Pastel
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Blue chested Hummingbird

There are so many varieties of Hummingbirds that it is just amazing to me! I wish we had more species of hummingbirds in our area, like this Blue chested Hummingbird. We only have a few varieties but I’m happy for the ones we do have. I recently finished this new pastel of a female Blue chested hummingbird gathering nectar from lovely pink flowers:

Blue chested Hummingbird
Female Blue chested Hummingbird

{The QR code and Tamarack Mountain Studio watermark is not on the original painting.}

“Blue chested Hummingbird” was painted on dark grey PastelMat paper and is aprox. 9″x9″, unframed. I used hard and soft pastels to create the piece.

Since the Blue chested Hummingbird does not live in our area, I had to use a photo reference, which came from a site called Pixabay. A Pixabay member named StockSnap took the lovely photo I used for a reference. There are thousands of quality images available for free use on the Pixabay site! All they ask is that whomever uses an image , that they give credit to the photographer. One can also donate money to a photographer for the use of their photo.

Before I began my pastel, I sketched out a design in my sketchbook and changed the format of the original photo. The original photo has been flipped and cropped to a square. I did a Notan sketch first to map out my lights and darks. Then I drew another sketch and used watercolors to plan the palette.

Design in sketchbook for hummingbird painting

After doing a few thumbnails in my sketchbook, I felt I had enough muscle memory to paint the piece. I had a good time working through all the blues and greens of this beautiful Blue chested Hummingbird, since blue is my favorite color! I can only image what these birds look like in real life! Their habitat is in South America so it’s highly unlikely I will ever see one.

Blue and green soft pastels

A majority of my colors were in the cool tones for the bird, offset by warm tones in the flowers and background.

It took me about two days to paint the piece off and on as I like to bring my work to a certain level of detail and finish. The pastels are helping me to loosen up somewhat in my work, but I still have a ways to go on that!

This is the latest painting of the Birds in Pastels series, and next I will be either painting a Robin or some chickens.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

It would be a great help to me if you would hit the like button so I know I reached my audience.

Much Love ~ Rhonda

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Female Rufous Hummingbird

A “Female Rufous Hummingbird” is the next painting in the Birds in Pastel series. She is depicted in flight as she is about to visit a rose and was painted on 9″x12″ white pastel mat paper.

As I shared in my previous post, Rufous are my favorite of the Hummingbirds that visit our area. The varieties of hummingbirds that arrive in the spring are Calliope, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird and the Black-chinned Hummingbird. Last year we seemed to have an abundance of each variety and I was kept busy keeping the feeders filled! But I love these beautiful birds so much, feeding them is a joy.

The “Female Rufous Hummingbird” pastel painting was a bit on the difficult side for me. I decided not to use an underpainting to see exactly why one is not supposed to paint on white pastel paper. Well I understand fully now! There isn’t any vibrance to the painting. I struggled with trying to paint the background because it was so dull and added way more product than was necessary. Then I had a hard time trying to depict the motion of the bird’s wings and scraped off pastel and reworked the piece many times. I finally just gave up and said it is what it is! This painting will go in the never to be seen again file.

Rufous Hummingbird
“Female Rufous Hummingbird”

I think you can agree that the piece is not vibrant. So, lesson learned, don’t paint on white pastel paper without an underpainting! All is not lost because I learned valuable information and had more practice painting birds in pastel. Nothing gained is ever lost and more time at the easel is what I’m working for, so all is good! By the way, the QR code is not on the original painting. I’d be a genius if I could paint that! 🙂 If anyone likes this painting and wants it, let me know in the comments below and I will send it to you! Seriously!

Well that’s all I have to share for now. I’m kicking around the idea of painting some more hummingbird pastels now that I’ve done a couple and have a feel for them on paper. More to come! Thanks for stopping in. Much love ~ Rhonda

  • Red Cardinal
  • Back Capped Chickadee Pastel
  • Black Capped Chickadee in the Snow
  • Blue Jay in the Forest Pastel
  • Hummingbird and Lilacs
  • Rufous Hummingbird