The bullfinch is supposed to be a shy bird, that is rarely seen, yet they are often visitors to my garden. It might be because we are rural and are next to luscious fields and wooded areas. We are so fortunate that our neighbours are such a variety of different birds and wildlife. These bullfinches are usually spotted on my fruit trees within the garden particularly in the winter months.
Firstly, I’ll hear the distinctive piping whistle call and then spot its gorgeous, vibrant, peachy, red breast. I’m sure the female bullfinch is nearby, but it’s the male bullfinch that I always see, probably because of their colourful red breast making them much easier to spot!
I’ve managed to capture a wonderful photograph of the male bullfinch which I use as my own reference photo to base my watercolour painting upon.
Mixing Watercolour Paints
To begin with, I have created a very loose pencil outline. From there I mixed and created four palette mixes of pale orange/ peach, pale grey, blue and a black mix. All of the colours are created from just three colours, blue, yellow, red – my pure watercolour technique.
To paint, I used Winsor and Newton series 7 kolinsky small brushes and Bockingford Not 425gsm watercolour paper. The heavyweight watercolour paper is ideal for timesaving as it doesn’t need to be stretched before use. When using lighter weight watercolour papers, the surface needs to be stretched by soaking it for a long period of time. This prevents any cockling of the surface when you apply your watercolour paint.
To start my painting, I applied layers of blue watercolour, this builds up and develops the underlying colour for the black and grey areas. On top of this, I then applied small brushstrokes of the orange mix to create the bullfinch breast. The small, delicate brushstrokes represent the tiny feathers of the bullfinch.
After the initial blue washes and delicate orange tones of the feathered breast, I applied the initial layers of black to the bullfinch beak, eye and head. In order to achieve the darkest black wash, I continually apply layers to this area as the first layers dry.
Creating the White Areas
Each of the white feathers of the bullfinch and the highlighted white areas on the eye, beak and tail are the natural tone of the Bockingford watercolour paper. No white paint is used at all, and nor do I use masking fluid in my work. The delicate white tones and highlights are created by a very steady hand painting around these areas!
A top tip of mine would be to have a scrap piece of paper next to your work. I use mine to test out my colour mixes as I paint. It also allows me to remove any excess water from my paint brushes. Sadly, too much paint or water on a paint brush has the ability to very easily ruin a delicate painting like this.
Slowly but steadily I keep applying layers of gentle watercolour brushstrokes to the bullfinch, until I feel like I have a good depth of colour. I then swap my watercolour brush to a smaller one which allows me to carefully add in the finer detail to the beak, eye and bullfinch tail.
To finish the little bullfinch off, I mix up a green/brown palette to paint in the branch he is sitting on. If you like what you see, you can purchase my finished bullfinch painting here.