Painting 4 Calling Birds in 4 Easy Steps

four calling birds in watercolor

So you’re still going… huh ? Nice to see your happy smiling face again 🙂

This is day number 4 of the 12 Days of Christmas painting challenge. The prompt is “4 Calling Birds”.

Did you ever wonder what “calling birds” actually are?

You would naturally think that “calling” refers to a songbird of some kind. But the original text refers to “colly” birds, not calling birds. Colly birds were European Blackbirds. 

At the time these birds were hunted for food. Occasionally they were even baked in pie! Or alternatively, live birds were encased into a pie for banquets. When the crust was broken the blackbirds would escape, flying out in all directions! Probably not something you want to try at home this Christmas !

Below you’ll find today’s painting project, but if you missed the beginning of this series, you’ll find it on this page.

Have fun!

If you missed the start of this painting challenge, you can find out more on this page…

Four Calling Birds Step by Step Tutorial

This watercolor composition includes 4 happy chirping birds (I went with the songbird interpretation). The upper birds are smaller in size to suggest distance. This is another visual trick to create depth to the painting.

Before you get started, here’s the link to download the worksheet.

Try this painting for yourself ! Click the button below to download the worksheet for this painting.

The full list of paints used for this watercolor were as follows:

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I’ve also created a special category for these tutorials which you can view here. This will provide an overview of the whole challenge.

four calling birds 4 step painting process

Step 1

Use a medium hardness pencil to trace the outline onto watercolor paper. Make sure you can see the wings quite well – these will be covered by the first layer of paint so you want them to show through.

Step 2

I painted the shapes of the birds’ bodies using a variegated wash of pink and purple. To do this I started with pink (quinacridone rose) and finished with a touch of warm blue (french ultramarine). The combination of warm blue and cool red creates a wonderfully bright purple appearance. 

I left the eyes unpainted to let the white paper show through.

The word “FOUR” was filled in with Payne’s gray, with a few white highlights added.

Step 3

Now you can use a glazing technique to paint the wings. This is just a uniform flat wash of quinacridone rose (you can use any cool red paint you want). The fist shape must be dry before painting this. 

Glazing is just a term for “layering”. Notice how subsequent layers of paint become darker in tone. The more layers you build up the more intense and dark the values. 

I filled in the bird’s beaks with a warm yellow paint color (hansa yellow deep in my case).

Step 4

I finished off the painting with the smaller details, adding the musical notes, the bird’s feet, and the words “calling birds” at the bottom. I suggest you use a small round brush for this step!

As a final flourish I also added a shadow under each wing using a mixture of purple. This adds an interesting 3D effect.

And that’s it! Happy 4th day of Christmas 🙂

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  1. Anthony,
    Having fun with these cute paintings! I’m a little behind and going at my own “turtle” speed.
    Do you have a tutorial where you explain variegated wash? I’m still having some trouble in this area. Thanks 😊

  2. Anthony,
    I’m throughly enjoying these projects every day. I’m taking your beginning master class and this is allowing me to quickly practice the skills of the techniques from the class. Thank you very much.

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