Perching Birds

After a successful experiment with perching birds on words, I decided to develop a series of paintings pairing birds with their names. These may make good prints or cards, which I will pursue once I’ve done four to six pieces. Here’s the first two.


Tips and Techniques– If you are going to spend a lot of time creating a finished piece of art, spend time upfront on thumbnail sketches and color choices to work out potential issues before you begin. I mocked up different bird poses and lettering styles before starting these and it was well worth it. Though I had already painted a wren piece in my journal, I switched the posture of the bird on the E several times before settling on the down-facing pose. My first mockup of the swallow with capital letters proved that the word itself was too long. Switching to cursive, tightened the space. I also tinkered with the variations on the letter S and where the bird should perch before figuring out a placement that seemed balanced.

65 thoughts on “Perching Birds

  1. If you are going to turn these into note cards for purchase, your name will need to be smaller (but still readable of course) or it detracts and distracts from the art itself. I love the idea of finding just the right font or print/script style that fits each of your subjects. Your compositions, technique, and use of color is very lovely!

  2. So creative. Thanx for the thumbnail suggestions. I always forget and charge headlong. Then correct til I’m crazy frustrated. These are beautiful.

  3. These are beautiful. -a thought on words tho’:: we tend to read from left to right and front to back so; while Carolina Wren worked well Tree Swallow was initially confusing because of the reversed placement of the words. I wonder if other people stumbled or if it is just me?

  4. I love both of these and immediately saw what you were doing with the placement of the lettering and the species name. I think it’s brilliant…the common more familiar ‘name’ standing out. I can’t wait to see what’s next. I’m especially excited to see the heron. How about a kingfisher?

  5. Absolutely beautiful! They make me smile.
    Thanks for sharing both the finished “bird on words” and the thought process that led to the finished design. Too often I rush into a subject….hoping it will work out. Planning is so important but for me often neglected.

    • I suppose there is a balance between planning and spontaneity. But working out some of the bigger structure/shapes and design ideas typically pays off. I think the mock ups can help get you in the groove for drawing/painting too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. The decision to put the type of bird front and center and the adjective smaller is brilliant, as are the whole layouts, and of course, the painting. That wren perched on the “E” is as sassy as they come, making me miss Carolina wrens so much! And the cursive “Swallow” in a slightly ethereal blue could almost take to the sky, just like a Tree swallow. This is going to be a fabulous series. 🙂

    • It’s worth it if you’re going to invest a lot of time in a piece. Sometimes your first idea is not your best, but a spark of something better comes to you when you do a mock-up. Your painting is really advancing by leaps and bounds! You must be pleased by how far you’ve come in such a short time.

  7. Beautiful and inspiring! Do you work from photos? Or do you know birds so well you can just draw them? Or do you have some other tool/resource? Also, I love your lettering styles, do you use a style sheet for these? Thanks for all your tips.

    • Hi– Let me try to answer your questions: I’ve observed and studied birds for many years and I’ve sketched live birds and dead birds from museum skins and specimens so that I am familiar with anatomy and feather groups. I also work from photos, but it’s the combination of all of these that help me when I sit down to paint a bird. As for lettering, I have studied and practiced many letter styles and calligraphy over the years. The fonts here are my own variations on basic italic script and Roman capitals. Pick up a copy of the Speedball Textbook– its a great basic resource. Best wishes!

  8. Pingback: American Robin | Drawn In

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