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I was still not satisfied with the painting. When I can’t lay a finger on why I’m not totally satisfied, I splatter. I used three of my darks ( Sepia, phthalo turquoise, winsor red). I loaded a #10 round with watery dark pigment and tapped it against the index finger of my other hand aiming it where I wanted it to go. I directed the splatter from the bottom left and up the right side of the paper.


I was not happy with the light blue wash because it made it look as though these baby birds were sitting out in the open, so I repeated the background wash with winsor green. I then introduced large amounts of clear water around the birds and the nest just as the paper began to lose it’s shine but well before the wash was dry. This pushed the pigment back and made the cauliflower-looking shapes. I darkened the nest and detailed all the birds using the colors I have already listed but darker and in detail lines and shapes to give the figures definition. I made black around the adult birds’ beaks by layering phthalo turquoise, winsor red and sepia.


Next, I wet the background and worked my way around the piece washing in light washes of phthalo turquoise and quin. gold. I used winsor orange, sepia and some sap green, wet in wet, for the branches. I painted the orange to fill in the branch and fed sepia in on one side or a shadowed area. Where the branch was near some leaves, I introduced sap green with a small brush. I used mixtures of all the colors to create the nest and shadowed one side more than the other. The leaves were painted wet in wet with sap and winsor greens, burnt sienna, yellow ochre light and quin gold. I did not mask the center veins on the leaves but saved the whites and washed quin. gold in later.


I selected an S shape for the composition for this painting of cardinals. I began with wet in wet washes on the birds. I allowed the colors to mix on the paper. I rarely mix watercolor on the palette. I used cadmium red, winsor red, winsor orange, quin. gold and sepia for these washes.



  1. Very nice Les, I love the way you did the progression photos. I love this one.

  2. I am amazed at the skill required to know what a particular piece is missing and how to produce the desired result.

  3. This painting is just great. It makes me happy every time I look at it.

    • Thanks, Jay.

  4. What an artist you are, Leslie. I particularly like this series as it shows the progression of the piece, and you share your thought processes as well.

    It is a great gift you share with us.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog for a look at Dave’s Lavender Coast. I could tell you were an artist from the comment. Me, I just take photographs.

    • Thank-you for visiting and for the compliment. The tag in watercolor caught my eye and I am glad I took the time to see it. I will be revisiting your site. It is very interesting. I’ve never been to Big Sur. It looks beautiful!

  5. I love this painting Leslie!! What are the dimensions? Is this for sale? I’m very interested, email me.

    • Hi Jamie,

      I’m sorry. This painting sold, locally, shortly after I painted it.

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