How to paint detailed feathers on a Robin bird – with Anna Mason

How to paint detailed feathers on a Robin bird – with Anna Mason


Hi it’s Anna Mason here and in this watercolour
tip video I wanted so show you the process I went though to paint this sweet little robin
– who’s crying out to be on a Christmas card. So I began with an outline drawing marking
out the main patches of colour on his body but with a jaggedy sort of pencil line to
reflect the feathery texture on him. I start by painting the lightest tones, or
values, in the Robin beginning with some watery pale grey paint which I apply not only to
his chest but into the brown areas too as there are light grey flecks within those parts
as well. I even apply it to areas of the branch where I can see this grey colour.
There are so many different colours to the robin and branch, that this first stage also
needs to begin to make sense of the drawing and start to identify which colours go where.
So next I apply a more yellow brown mix – again very pale and watery – to those parts of the
body and branch that need it, including going into some of the grey areas which were now
dry. As I do so I use the tip of the brush to apply in little lines, leaving some gaps
through to the grey – to begin to give the impression of the texture of the feathers.
Next I paint a pale version to the orange chest to, match to the lightest orange within
it – mostly around it’s edge where it transitions into the browns and greys- but applying it
over the whole chest so I can leave little gaps through to this lighter colour underneath
when I work with the darker orange on top. Again as I apply this I work in lots of little
lines to try and begin to depict the feathery texture. Now I use a paler version of the darker, more red brown I can see in the bird and branch,
and apply it with a smaller brush using lots of little lines. Again because the layer underneath
is dry, I can achieve crisp little lines without them bleeding out as they would if I was working
onto wet paper. Now to complete the lightest tones on the
Robin – and be at a stage where we can really map out what hues go where, I’d like to
get a layer of paint down in what are the dark black-brown areas which you can see here.
Lots of these areas are some of our darkest tones of the composition as a whole but many
do have some tonal variation within them – so I’m going to paint a pale – watery version
of this dark hue onto those areas now. I make sure I don’t forget to apply it to
the beak and the branch. And after adding some pale green to the lichen
on the branch, we have paint everywhere. This has really laid the foundations for the painting
and now I can go on to paint the very darkest tones within the bird and branch – beginning
with a very dark black-brown which I use on the eye and beak too. Next I can paint the darker midtones, starting with the darker red- browns and making sure
I create texture with my brush markings by working in lots of little lines when I paint
the feathers. Now with these darkest tones painted it’s easier to see how dark to paint the darkest tones within the orange of the chest
and I work on that now – again with a fine brush – using short line strokes. By this stage of the painting we’ve got both ends of the picture’s tonal range in
place. It’s looking really disjointed because, without the midtones, the contrast levels
look far too strong. But because the way we perceive tones or values
depends on the tones we see around them, it’s now so much easier to work to bridge the gap
between lightest and darkest tones. I begin work where the bird is looking most disjointed
– and that’s in the orange breast. Now the darkest tones are painted there , I can judge
that my lightest tone orange mix was too light. So I use a mix that’s not as watery as my
first layer, but not as thick as the dark mix there – and I layer it on top of the brushwork
underneath. Because the paper is totally dry I don’t
lose that brushwork. As this layer dries, I apply another couple of layers to darken
up those bits that need it. This way I can be sure not to take it too dark and can build
in texture with my brush markings as I go. With the orange Chest darkened I darken the
brown areas of the bird and branch a little – using layers in the same way, doing the same to the Robin’s side and tail, and now his paler belly. I’m darkening overall
but still leaving a few gaps through to the lighter wash underneath to help create his
rounded form. There’s much less risk now of darkening this too much because we can
compare it to the darker colours. With those lightest tones darkened I add more
detail to the feathers and branch Finally I darken my darkest tones a little more and the Robin is finished. I hope seeing the process I went through inspires you have a go at painting a robin fit for a Christmas card. A full step by step tutorial of this robin is available now in my online School showing you what colours and brush techniques to use in thorough detail. If you’ve enjoyed this tip video, please
Subscribe to my Youtube channel and I’d love it if you’d share this video with your friends. And if you’d like to take one of my tried and tested step-by step tutorials FOR FREE, hop on over to AnnaMasonArt.com where you’ll find even more resources to help you pick up your brush and paint the way you’ve always wanted to. Remember, you won’t improve your painting unless you MAKE the time to paint. So be sure to schedule in some me-time this week and paint something YOU love. Thanks so much for watching and I’ll see you soon with another tip for creating watercolours with “wow”.

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