Beginner Watercolor Bird’s Nest Painting Video

A Watercolor Lesson for Beginners

I was really feeling the spring vibes the day I climbed up and peeked in the Robin’s nest and saw these three eggs. Of course I painted the nest in my “Finding Joy” journal later that day!

I realized the bird’s nest was the perfect subject to share my watercolor painting process. So, I painted it again and recorded it for you.

Here’s what you’ll need to paint your own nest:

  • Watercolor or multimedia paper
  • Watercolor paints. I used brown, black, turquoise, orange, hooker’s green, raw sienna (tan) 
  • Paintbrushes – round in medium to small (thin) sizes
  • Container of water, paper towel, scrap of paper

Click here if you’d like to see the brands I use.

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Watercolor Techniques you’ll learn:

  1. Painting layers
  2. Painting wet
  3. Painting dry
  4. Lightening colors with water
  5. Mixing complements to create the perfect shadow color.

I hope you’ll paint along to the video!

Please like the video and subscribe for more painting videos!

Here’s the reference photo I took:

Robin's Nest Photo

For more beginner watercolor tutorials click here.

I’ve designed several fun tutorials to help you learn watercolor – available in pdf and video form.

Ready to get started in watercolor?

Try my “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” where I walk you through the fundamentals of watercolor with exercises and projects. Learn by doing. Discover a love of watercolor today –> Learn more here!

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Appreciation Journal

Finding Joy Sketchbook Project by Eileen McKenna

I started a personal project that I’m calling “Finding Joy.” I wanted to look for and appreciate the little things in life and I wanted to get back to daily painting.

Since starting, I realized we have moments of joy during the day – “Wow that is pretty,” or “This is fun,” or “This tastes good.” But these moments can be fleeting. In painting them I’m extending the joy!

Finding Joy ~ Extending Joy

I started this project because I’m having skin cancer surgery on my cheek and I wanted to be in a place of positivity. It’s working!

Want to start your own Finding Joy project? It’s easy:

How to start your own “finding joy” Sketchbook project

  • Grab a sketchbook. I’m using a Strathmore Mixed Media Art Journal.
  • Look for and recognize a joyful moment each day.
  • Enter the joyful moment in your sketchbook every day. Use any medium you want. I’m using Watercolor!
  • Let me know if you decide to join in!

Interested in Watercolor?

Watercolor is such a great medium for your Finding Joy project. If you are new to watercolor sign up for my newsletter:

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Posts for Watercolor Beginners

I have a lot of helpful blog posts for beginners to help them get started including:

a comprehensive introduction to watercolor:

The “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” walks you through the fundamentals of watercolor with exercises and projects. Learn by doing. Discover a love of watercolor today –> Learn more here!

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

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Watercolor Painting Tips

Watercolor Dog Portraits by Eileen McKenna
Watercolor Dog Portraits by Eileen McKenna

Recently I wrote about how you should take some time to observe a reference photo before painting. I have to constantly remind myself of my own advice because I want to jump in and start painting. I want to get to the fun part!

1. observe your subject

After painting a few dog portraits, the part 2 to this advice occurred to me:

2. Do a “study”

What is a “study”? Essentially a study is a practice painting, drawing, or sketch. You have most likely seen studies done by the Masters before they painted their final masterpieces.

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The masters did studies

Georges Seurat, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” 1884-1886
(Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago Public Domain)

George Seurat spent two years on site sketching, before painting A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte. He created approximately 60 sketches. “This approach enabled Seurat to capture the color, light, and movement of the scene before him.”

The benefit of doing a study

Sketching or painting helps you see the subject more closely. As I painted the dog portraits I noticed more about the dogs as I painted. When I paint or draw my eyes travel back and forth from my painting to the reference photo and back again.

This is something I try to instill in the kids at the art center where I teach:

Everything you need to know about the subject is in the photo. If you want to realistically draw or paint it, keep looking at the photo and your artwork.

Eileen McKenna

Another way of seeing

I find it useful to occasionally flip both the reference photo and my paper to see things differently. Looking at things this way is supposed to trigger the other side of your brain. This theory was written about in the popular book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

I notice that when I look at things upside down it is easier to see the individual elements of something. For example a face upside down allows me to focus on the elements more than the whole face.

painting Stella

Stella Dog portrait by Eileen McKenna
Stella by Eileen McKenna

When I painted Stella, I looked through many photos and selected a few photos to practice with. I wanted to “see” what characteristics were unique to her. As I painted I felt I was getting to know her. These practice paintings helped me get a more realistic final painting.

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Read “PAINTING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS”

READ “PAINTING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS”

Ready to get started in watercolor?

Try my “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” where I walk you through the fundamentals of watercolor with exercises and projects. Learn by doing. Discover a love of watercolor today –> Learn more here!

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Unique Fabric

Finding Unique fabric

Beach Summer Fabrics - unique fabrics

Looking for unique fabrics for your next sewing project? Looking for fabric that represents a unique hobby or passion? Spoonflower has tons of niche fabrics created by independent designers – like me! Visit my Spoonflower shop here.

Lacrosse fabrics - unique fabrics

Finding fabric for a hobby or passion

It isn’t hard on Spoonflower to find a unique fabric. In the Spoonflower Magazine they have a section called:

“There’s A Design for That”

“With the largest collection of surface patterns in the world, Spoonflower has always been the destination for one-of-a-kind designs. But did you know that thousands of new designs are added every month? Dive into our Marketplace and spend a few minutes discovering the perfect match for any personality-we know you’ll find one as unique as you are.”

– Spoonflower Magazine

I know first hand that people are looking for niche fabrics. By far my biggest sellers are very niche fabrics, specifically my Swimming Laps and Rainbow Goggles fabrics and more recently my Lacrosse fabrics.

Swimming fabrics - unique fabrics

Somewhere, someone is looking to make a quilt or other sewing projects that encompasses their unique interests or a loved one’s interests. That’s how I connected with Sue Finley. Sue made a quilt for her daughter’s swim team. I was honored that my fabrics were part of it. Both my Swimming Laps and Rainbow Goggles fabrics are part of this quilt.

"Eat, Sleep, Swim, Repeat" swimming quilt by Wee Susie Stitches #swimming #quilt

create your own fabric designs

Can’t find the right fabric? Create your own!

I began turning my watercolor illustrations into fabric patterns on Spoonflower back in 2015. You can do it too! Fabrics are made up of a simple piece of artwork that “repeats” over and over. When you are uploading a design to Spoonflower, you upload the single “repeat.” Think of it as a slice of the design. Spoonflower will duplicate the repeat to fill whatever length of fabric you or someone else orders.

Example of a fabric repeat - How to create a repeating fabric pattern
https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/eileenmckenna

How to create a repeat

In the post “How to create a repeating pattern in Photoshop,” I detail how I go about turning my illustrations into repeats. Below is also a Spoonflower video on the same topic.

How to create a repeating pattern in Photoshop. For fabric prints, gift wrap, wallpaper and more.
How to create a repeating pattern in Photoshop.

earn money from your fabric designs!

Not only can you upload your designs and order fabrics for your own sewing projects, but you can offer your designs for sale and make a commission when some else orders your fabric! Who doesn’t love passive income?

Let me know if you decide to give fabric design (called surface design) a try – I’d love to hear!

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Watercolor Tip

Stop and “look at” the roses

Several years ago I dedicated myself to painting seascapes. I painted one after another. I studied my photos as I painted and as time went on I noticed more things about the ocean and waves. These little details are what made my paintings better. 

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By nature I am an impatient person. I’ve heard it said that the Aries motto is “Ready, Fire, Aim.” It is certainly true about me. When I’m painting, I rarely draw anything beforehand. I immediately want to get to the fun part of splashing paint onto the page. But I am often reminded that if I took some time to look at and study my reference photo I would get better results.

I took a close up of a Gerbera Daisy, so I could see the details. A great start! But I dove in too quickly and ended up struggling. My painting had twice as many petals as it should have and looked off. I’m sharing the lesson I learned with you:

Take time to look at and study your reference before painting.

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Read “PAINTING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS”

READ “PAINTING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS”

Ready to get started in watercolor?

Try my “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” where I walk you through the fundamentals of watercolor with exercises and projects. Learn by doing. Discover a love of watercolor today –> Learn more here!

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

A Fun Chance to Win a $25 Blick Gift Card

A St. Patrick’s Day Watercolor Challenge!

I’ve partnered with DuelGood to create a Watercolor St. Patrick’s Day Challenge! Enter for a chance to win a $25 Blick gift card.

DuelGood is a global social platform to inspire creativity, build connections and do good in the world by engaging people in fun, easy-to-execute challenges.

Download the DuelGood app and click Play to find the challenge.
St. Patrick's Day art painting challenge
Download the Free App
DuelGood App
Start creating, start competing, start connecting!

For weekly watercolor tips & Tricks sign up for my newsletter:

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Ready to get started in watercolor?

Try my “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” where I walk you through the fundamentals of watercolor with exercises and projects. Learn by doing. Discover a love of watercolor today –> Learn more here!

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

St. Patrick’s Day Art Project

St. Patrick’s Day Watercolor Painting Lesson for Beginners

St. Patrick's Day painting project - paint an Irish landscape with sheep in watercolor. Beginner friendly.

This Irish Landscape with Sheep is a fun and easy painting for beginners – perfect for St. Patrick’s Day!

Watercolor Techniques you’ll learn:

  1. Taping your paper
  2. Painting a fade
  3. Using crayon to mask areas
  4. Adding details with a dry brush

Supplies you’ll need:

Please like the video and subscribe for more painting videos!

Dive deeper into watercolor with the “Fields of Green” painting tutorial

This Fields of Green Tutorial is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day painting project for beginners! Learn more here.

St. Patrick's Day Art Project
Visit my Etsy shop to download this Watercolor Painting tutorial!

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Ready to get started in watercolor?

Try my “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” where I walk you through the fundamentals of watercolor with exercises and projects. Learn by doing. Discover a love of watercolor today –> Learn more here!

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Spring Sketchbook Share

I don’t know about you but this Covid winter has been long! Creativity keeps me positive but it doesn’t help with the isolation. I was exploring new creative ideas and I remembered reading about two people sending a sketchbook back and forth to one another. I decided, I want to do that!

Spring Sketchbook Share - join in!

Originally my sketchbook share idea involved reconnecting with a friend, but I started reminiscing about pen pals. That got me thinking. It is also nice to get to know someone new!

My idea has grown to include YOU! But I need your help!

Please do me the favor of answering a few short questions to help me create a “Spring Sketchbook Share” that you would want to participate in. I would appreciate it so much!

“Spring Sketchbook Share” program

  • Connects you with a creativity partner
  • Option to invite a friend to be your partner
  • All skill levels welcome
  • Each time you receive the sketchbook you ~
    * Start a page and
    * Finish a page
    This ensures that each page is a collaboration between the creative partners.
  • Partners mail the sketchbook back and forth to one another. (U.S. residents only for right now.)
  • Participation in Spring Sketchbook Share entitles you to three months in the “Spring Sketchbook Share” Facebook group.

Get the latest “spring Sketchbook Share” announcements ~ join my email list!

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Spring Sketchbook Share with Eileen

Each creativity pair receives:

  • One sketchbook
  • Two sets of my favorite pens. (One for each partner.)
  • Ideas List to help inspire you in the creation of your sketchbook pages:
    * Theme ideas
    * Suggested mediums to use
  • Two envelopes of extra “bits and bobs” for some added flair! (One for each partner.)
    I can’t wait to put together these packets!

The “SPRING SKETCHBOOK SHARE” Facebook group

  • Weekly Facebook videos
  • Instruction in different mediums
  • Demonstrations on creating pages within themes.
  • All participants will have the ability (and will be encouraged) to share their sketchbook pages with photos and video.
  • Four month membership in the Facebook Group
  • Milestones will be awarded with entry into giveaways! Milestones will include partners completing 6 pages, etc.

The “Spring Sketchbook Share” is all about:
* creativity,
* connection +
* community!

I need your help!

Please click here TO answer the following questions about the “Spring Sketchbook Share.”

  • What do you like about the idea?
  • What do you dislike about the idea?
  • How could we improve upon it?
  • Would you like to be assigned a random partner or would you like to invite your own partner?
  • Are you interested? There is no commitment at this time.

Thank you so much for your feedback!
Eileen

New here?

I’m Eileen McKenna, creative explorer and watercolor artist. Sign up for my newsletter for weekly watercolor tips and tricks and creative links.

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The “Spring Sketchbook Share” is all about:
* creativity,
* connection +
* community!

Painting Tips for Beginners

watercolor paint SET

When I first started painting in watercolor I was gifted a set of watercolor tubes by Van Gogh. It was a great set with a variety of vibrant colors. Painting with that set and those colors helped solidify my love of watercolor!

Sign up to receive the “Watercolor Basics” free pdf

The “Watercolor Basics” pdf covers paper, brushes, paints and other tools necessary for successful painting!

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Paint palette

The first thing I did with my new paints was squeeze them into my new palette. When the paint in the palette ran out I added more until the tubes were empty. Then I threw the tubes away.

I didn’t give much thought to the specific colors – my Van Gogh watercolor set had the “standard” colors. I thought of them simply as orange, green, blue, red, yellow, etc. I didn’t realize at the time that there are many shades of each color. Imagine my surprise when I replaced my green and it was a totally different green. As I added more colors to my palette – I didn’t know which colors were which. Things got confusing.

Painting Tips for Beginners create a color key - watercolor painting

label your colors

This might seem unimportant when you first start painting, but it can become frustrating when you replace a color and it isn’t the same shade, especially if you are in the middle of a project. Keep track of the names of your paint colors. If you put the paint in a palette like I do – label the palette or create a color key.

Explore your colors ~ create a color key

Creating a color key is a great exercise to learn what each paint color looks like. My key coordinates with my palette. I painted each color at both full strength and lighter – with more water mixed in. With a glance I know what each paint color is capable of.

Mixing Watercolor paints

I love my palette for painting with pure colors. It’s quick and easy to add a little water and re-activate the paints, but it has some limits:

  • The color is watered down, since I add water to reactivate the paint. To paint with full saturation color I use paint from the tube (with only a tiny bit of water mixed in).
  • If I want to mix colors, which I often do, I don’t do it in my palette. I prefer to keep the colors in my palette pure.

I use the plastic top of an egg carton for mixing colors. We eat enough eggs that I always have extra carton tops to use when I want to create new mixes. I hold on to some of the mixes for future use.

When I first started painting I assumed that for every color you wanted in your painting, you needed a tube of that specific color. I quickly realized that it would be impossible! Several years ago I took an acrylic painting class, where the teacher talked a lot about mixing colors. The interesting thing he said was that the colors in your painting would go together better if they were mixed from similar colors instead of straight from the tube.

A few years later when I started focusing on painting watercolor seascapes I used this theory. I mix the colors for my seascapes from three colors, which results in more natural looking ocean colors. Learn more here.

Seascape Painting Lesson
Seascape Painting Tutorials are available in my Etsy shop.

Mixing complementary colors

I also mix colors regularly to avoid using black. If you are painting fabric – there will be folds and shadows in the fabric because of the way it drapes. Instead of mixing black with your fabric color, mix the color with its complement.

As I wrote in my Watercolor Wisdom post:

Mix your shadows instead of using black. Mix a color with its complement to desaturate it – make it less bright – or to create darker values. Complementary colors are those across the color wheel from each other. I keep a color wheel with my paints. There’s a printable color wheel in my Etsy shop – click here.

Color wheel available for download in my Etsy shop.

sketchbook

Working in my sketchbook – a mix media sketchbook perfect for watercolor – is a big part of my art practice. It’s where I feel free to play and try things, explore ideas, experiment with color, etc. I think it’s important to feel free. Sometimes especially as a beginner, you can feel pressure while working on a painting. That is what happened to me. I became afraid of ruining a painting once it got to a certain point. That’s when I adopted the regular practice of working in a sketchbook.

My favorite sketchbook – the Canson Mix Media!

Aside from the freedom a sketchbook gives you, it’s also a great place to take notes. Let’s say you experiment with colors to create different skies. If you like one of your experiments it is helpful to jot down which colors you used. Otherwise down the road you may not remember.

reference photos

I always paint with a reference photo. I tell the kids at the art studio whenever they are drawing that everything they need to know is in the reference photo – you just have to look. Part of my progress in painting seascapes was that I studied the ocean in person and in the many photos I took. But because I took so many photos, I sometimes get mixed up as to which photo I am painting from, especially if a lot of time has past. This is why I write down, in my sketchbook or on the back of my painting board, what photo I am working from – where it’s saved and the date and time it was taken.

Painting ideas for beginners

I’ve developed several painting tutorials to teach watercolor technique while allowing you to paint a great final painting. Each lesson is available as an inexpensive printable PDF with step by step instructions and photos. Some lessons are also available in video format. Browse all the watercolor painting lessons here.

Beginner Watercolor Painting Lesson Starfish
One of several beginner painting tutorials available in my Etsy shop.

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Ready to get started in watercolor?

This Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide is for you!

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises & projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Watercolor is a fun and convenient medium that requires little setup. There are a few basic principles to understand and after that the sky’s the limit!

Start your watercolor journey today – visit https://eileenmckenna.com/guide/

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide
Available on Amazon or as a pdf download.

This posts contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!