Bird Painting Art Lesson on House Finches, by Catinka Knoth

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This painting lesson on house finches was for Valentine's Day. It was a long time ago in New York City's Greenwhich Village that I discovered the sweet little red house finch. The merry bright song of the male was what first caught my attention. The birds arrive, or make themselves known, on February 12th, in pairs. The song is such a glad heralding of spring soon to have its way.

Get some reference photos of house finches to study and try some of these art exercises. Keep your eyes and ears open to your world. See what you can discover and, have fun.

Links to Photos of House Finches
bird papercuts
Bird papercuts - negative background
bird papercuts
Bird papercuts - positive figures
  • Cut a sheet of paper in quarters. Using a quarter sheet, cut out a bird shape freehand (no drawing). Do this in one continuous line. You should end up with a whole bird and a bird hole, ie. only two pieces - a negative and a positive.
  • Evaluate the background piece and consider what you want to try differently in your next quarter. Does the figure need to be placed higher in the frame? Should the figure be bigger? Can it be a more interesting shape? What about facing it the other way?
  • Cut the second quarter piece. Follow the same evalutation procedure. Repeat for each quarter.
bird drawing with heart shapes
Simplified drawing of birds
Use heart shapes to draw birds. Since this was a lesson connected in a small way to Valentine's Day, hearts come into the picture.
birds in crayon and wash drawing
Birds - crayon and wash drawing
Sumie bird paintings
Sumie brush paintings of birds
Sumi-e style painting - use a round brush to paint this small type of bird in as few strokes as possible. Here I referred to Yolanda Mayhall's book on Sumi-e Painting as a basic model.
Sumie bird paintings
Sumi-e bird paintings on cards
sumie bird painting demonstration animation
This will give you a little feel of how to hold the brush and where strokes begin and end. Let me know if you'd rather see this as individual stills instead of an animation.
Birds coloring page
A pencil drawing of finches to color or paint.
Student Art - The kids' bird paintings and drawings amaze me. The kids follow step-by-step with my demonstration. Then they try it on their own, or, we do another follow-along.
kid's bird drawing
Bird drawing with hearts by J.B., age 8.
kid's sumi-e bird painting
Sumi-e bird painting by J.B., age 8.
kid's sumie-e bird painting
Sumi-e bird painting by E.A.O., age 8.
kid's bird drawing
Bird drawing with hearts by E.A.O., age 8.

Catinka Knoth - 2007,, All Rights Reserved

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