Hummingbird Muse

Hummingbirds continue to be my muse this week, with a focus on living birds, instead of trying to bring dead ones to life (Bringing Hummingbirds to Life). Since these little gems won’t return to the northeast for another two-and-a-half months, I watched a video on for reference. I also swapped my usual set of watercolor paints here for gouache, which is an opaque watercolor paint that can be layered light on dark.

Tips and Techniques– I wanted to try gouache without a big investment, so I bought Windsor & Newton’s Primary Color Set (primary red, yellow, and blue, black, and white). This meant lots of color mixing, which was good. I don’t have much experience with gouache, so it took a lot of trial and error to figure out how to get the right consistency, as well as how to use white and black (something I never do with transparent watercolor). Although the new medium tested me, it also stretched my thinking. I’ve started a second hummingbird nest painting and I’m eager to keep learning.

39 Comments on “Hummingbird Muse

  1. Oh! I love this! I can’t wait for their return. I’ve never used gouache either but you pulled it off nicely.

    • Thanks Erica– I like the painterly quality of it. I felt like I was constantly learning, but it was nice to be able to rework areas that I didn’t get right on the first go and just keep working with this piece as I figured it out.

  2. What a delightful little bird, it has such a hopeful look in its eye. We don’t have such exotic birds in the UK. The gouache works really well it really captures the sunlight through the leaves.

    • There are eight species of hummingbirds that can be seen in North America, but only one, the ruby-throated hummingbird, exists in the eastern U.S. They are fascinating and quite unique little birds. I recently found a nest in my yard, so I am quite excited by that. My next painting is of a nesting ruby-throated hummingbird. I’m hoping that the similarity of the subject will help me solidify what I learned doing this painting.

  3. Such a wonderful design with all of the angles. I appreciate you sharing how you started with gouache. I’ve never used to quash and have wondered how to go about trying it. It seems that just doing it would be the thing! What a sweet picture!

  4. The texture almost looks like pastels to me, the leaves especially. The hummer is delightful
    The colors on her are so vibrant. Makes me smile, come on spring!

    • Thanks! I enjoyed it, when I wasn’t baffled by it. I did this on an Ampersand watercolor board, so I wonder if the gouache will do different things on heavy watercolor paper. I’m eager to keep learning with it.

  5. Love your new gouache painting…you have used it beautifully! You can also try using watercolors the same way, lots of paint, little water, add white….works very much like gouache. There seems to be a new movement toward what is called “modern watercolor”. Some people are also using gesso as the white…just have to remember it is an acrylic and don’t use your usual palette to mix it in. Golden’s QOR watercolors work well as “modern watercolors” because of their bright colors and they do have a synthetic binder. Probably more than you want to know, but I am excited about the new methods being used with watercolor!

    • Hi Rhonda- Happy for the details. The thing I love about watercolor is its transparency, so I don’t want to give that up. Still, I enjoyed the effects of layering and blending gouache and I think it might help me tackle certain subjects (landscapes, clouds!) that I tend to avoid in watercolor. I am an “artist educator” for Golden’s QOR, so I am using many of their colors and like them quite a lot. I haven’t tried all the mediums yet, I may be too much of a traditionalist…or I just may not have had time to play around with them yet. At any rate, it’s good to try something new.

    • Ah– so you are know Belle! How nice. I was glad she moved off the nest to give me different views of the foliage and nest materials. A video is nice for making hummingbirds sit still for a little while.

      • I do know, Belle, She is a very active little lady. I have often thought she was an excellent subject. You really captured here. I have been watching this site for the past couple of years.

      • I do know, Belle, She is a very active little lady. I have often thought she was an excellent subject. You really captured here. I have been watching this site for the past couple of years.

  6. I’ve never used gouache except to add a bit of cowhide to the final of a watercolor painting. Your painting entices me to try it out. The greens are wonderfully springy! Can’t wait for warm and green all over the place. Thanks for sharing….very, very nice.

    • It’s been sort of fun to mix all the greens and experiment with gouache. It’s also been rather challenging to figure out how a new medium works! My hope is that what I’m learning will be useful to my painting practice no matter what medium I use. More greens are just a few months away!

  7. Your painting is absolutely beautiful and we just love our hummingbirds who stay all year round here in Vancouver, BC. We get very busy when the temperature drops and we need to thaw out their frozen feeder! We wonder how their little bodies survive those cold spells. Check out what painter Patti McNutt @pattihmcnutt posted on Instagram today — amazing video of two babies in their nest!

    • Thanks Lisa– nest cams are really a game changer for understanding and appreciating birds. I didn’t realize you have hummingbirds year-round in BC. I guess coastal areas are a bit milder than interior. Glad you can enjoy them all year.

  8. It’s a whole other animal, isn’t it? I never tried gouache. Kudos to you for plunging in. :-0 I bet you’ll find things to like about it. Layering colors must be very different.

    • Hi Linda- It is good to push myself to learn a new medium. I do lots of layering with watercolor, but the layers are transparent. It’s the opacity that is foreign, as well as the use of white and black. I won’t be giving up watercolor any time soon, but I like adding gouache to my repertoire.

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