How to Paint a Folk-Art Songbird

With their bright red feathers and distinctive song, cardinals are one of the most recognizable birds in North America. Learn how to paint one with a folky, Americana feel with Folk Art Fusion: Americana.

Songbird, Folk Art Fusion: Americana

Growing up, my mother placed birdseed around the garden to attract songbirds. We saw so many kinds of songbirds that I think they will forever serve as inspiration for me. My favorite, though, remains the iconic cardinal.

Songbird 1, Folk Art Fusion: Americana

Step 1 With a pencil, lightly draw the shape of a cardinal. Reference wildlife photos to get an idea of the sizing and placement of the feathers, beak, and belly.

songbird 2, Folk Art Fusion: Americana

Step 2 Using a large, flat-tipped brush, paint the background a light, dusty blue mixed with a bit of periwinkle. Paint around your cardinal. Go over the background two to three times, and then let it dry.

Paint the cardinal using various shades of light, primary, and dark red with a medium-sized round-tipped brush. The key to getting the perfect cardinal color is multiple layers of bright reds and blending. Keep the darker shades of red on the cardinal’s wing mixed with a bit of black. Keep the lighter reds at the base by the belly. You can even blend a touch of coral here. Keep the edges soft, like feathers. Using a slate gray or black, paint the bird’s mask and any feather detail you’d like to add.

songbird 3, Folk Art Fusion: Americana

Step 3 With a pencil, carefully sketch stems and flowers around the cardinal.

songbird 4, Folk Art Fusion: Americana

Step 4 With a small round-tipped brush, gently paint the stems of your flowers. Use different shades of green for each species of flower to create depth and variation. Let your painting dry.

songbird 5, Folk Art Fusion: Americana

Step 5 Paint the remaining details of the cardinal, including his eye, beak, and any feather details you’d like to add.

songbird 6, Folk Art Fusion: Americana

Step 6 Using your smallest round-tipped brush, add the flowers, layer by layer, making sure each layer is dry before adding new flowers. Use royal blue mixed with periwinkle, coral pink, ivory, and chartreuse yellow for the flowers. Let some of the flowers overlap.

When the flowers are completely dry, use a chartreuse or yellow pastel pencil to create a grainy glow at the bottom of the painting. Use a white pastel pencil to gently create a grainy glow around the Queen Anne’s lace.

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Folk Art Fusion AmericanaFans of Charles Wysocki, Mary Engelbreit, Grandma Moses, and folk art in general will fall in love with Folk Art Fusion: Americana.

Featuring projects that instruct artists of all skill levels how to draw and paint subjects including quaint homes, pretty patterns, colorful gardens, picturesque farms, beautiful birds, and textured florals, this book features American-themed folk art infused with a modern twist.

Beginning with an overview of what folk art is, followed by introductory topics like color, tools and materials, and drawing and painting techniques, Folk Art Fusion: Americana also includes 16 simple, step-by-step projects done in approachable and popular mediums. Rounding out the book is a gallery of folk-art pieces sure to inspire lovers of all things Americana.

Simultaneously fresh and nostalgic, Folk Art Fusion: Americanadraws on America’s rich artistic tradition and heritage and provides a fun, accessible take on creating beloved scenes from the heartland.