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The challenge with this painting was getting the cactus to read like cactus. I ended up scumbling the shadow areas with mixtures of the blues and neutrals I used in the rest of the painting and finishing with a liner brush to make the spiney prickles. The wrens were fun to shape in and they took several layers getting more detailed with each layer.


  1. This is beautiful. Very complex. You really are good!

    • Thank-you, Isabelle. I think I pay more attention when trying to paint these birds because I never spent a lot of time looking at birds before. Lately, I’ve wanted to try them over and over again.

  2. Last week I happened to see some pheasants in the bushes when I took a walk in the pine trees. They have grown up already. In spring they were little young birds.
    The birds were as beautiful as the ones you painted in your picture.

    With my best regads,
    Hidenori Hiruta

    • Thank-you Hidenori Hiruta! Birds do grow quickly. I enjoy watching little ones grow here every year. I usually have a family of robins and a family of house wrens.

  3. Absolutely love your rendering on these birds. I just can’t imagine them sitting on prickly cactus. Or can they?

  4. How do you manage to paint so much,post so much,teach, interact with so many of our blogs & I’m sure the list goes on…? I think you must be superwoman!
    These wrens look quite different from the European ones – much more elongated & colourful than the tiny round ones we have. I find the name in French appealing – “troglodyte” or cave dweller.

    • I spend my evenings painting and drawing instead of doing other things except the two nights per week that I teach a class. My classes run two sessions of 12 weeks and the rest of the year all my evenings are free. When I teach I try to multi task and come up with new ideas so my repeat students will remain inspired. I enjoy visiting all your sites much more than watching TV etc. I can assure you that I am no superwoman just older and have a grown family. Thanks for asking, Sonya. You are right. If you google images for cactus wren there are little fat ones and longer skinnier ones in the images. I don’t know what that’s about. It may be me and my artistic license didn’t get it just right, but I tried! Troglodyte IS cool. 😉

  5. I love this – it has life. You’ve captured the spirit of the birds very well indeed. And I like the complexity of colours and shapes.

    • Thanks Sarah! It was fun trying to figure out how to do this and not have to render every feather.

  6. I’m captivated by those birds. Nice work.

    • Thanks Jay! It says in the Wikipedia that these birds select a mate for life. I’m glad I did them in a pair.

  7. Really nice painting of birds. I love the spine of the cactus and the wonderful detail of those birds. Reminds me of the humming birds i see every morning, have been imagining drawing them for quite a while but just cannot get myself to do it.

    • Thanks Francis. I know that hummingbirds move so very fast. That would be quite a challenge but I bet you could do it.

  8. leslie.
    These birds look good enough to eat.
    i’ve got my net ready.

    • No cooking the birds on the blogs, Kokot. Besides….they are so small. Thanks for the comment.

  9. As a desert dweller I can truly say you captured this beautiful bird as well as the cacti.

    • Thanks sister Nancy! It means a lot to me that you visit my blog.

  10. Those birds are great, but I really, really love the cactus!

    You are magic with that scumbling and I’m crazy about the greens you used.

    Sweet that they mate for life. I’m glad you painted them in a pair too.

    • Thanks Carol. I don’t know about being magic with the scumbling. That is what I’ve admired in many of your paintings. I think I need to use it more often. The mating for life kind of means they must have some feelings, right? How many times have I heard people discussing animals and if they have feelings?

  11. this has a wonderful light about it and the layering and scumbling have really paid off. r.

    • Thank-you Rahina.I wanted it to look warm so I added that bit of burnt sienna to the sky and let loads of water carry it. it seemed to have an effect on the light.

  12. I imagine this painting, with all those careful details, was difficult to paint – almost as difficult as trying to land on a prickly cactus as those birds have done.

    It’s fascinating how you manage to retain the shape and edges of the cactus, yet keeping it so fluid-looking at the same time. Ah! Just spied Carol’s comment. Scumbling? Whatever you did the cactus is very effective.

    Also the texture and shadow detail on the birds is cleverly observed and this whole painting certainly demonstrates the effectiveness of competent layering.

    • I was not happy with this one when I painted it. I think it was the struggle to get the cactus to not look stiff and detailed. I call it scumbling when I mix two or more colors on the paper and move my brush around in it. I have to be careful when I do this, to not damage the paper or get too muddy. Thank-you for the comment, June. 🙂 ….and thank-you for teaching me about these emoticons.

  13. Man, I like everything about this painting. The the artistic details of both the cactus and wrens are perfect. It’s too bad you live so far away, because I would love to take some classes.

    • Thank-you Ryan. I was thinking the same thing a while back when you mentioned teaching. I could benefit from taking a class from you. I have to drop by your side of blogland and see if those horses are done yet.

  14. This is really beautiful, Leslie!

  15. I’m with Carol King. While I love the birds, it is the cactus that captured me.

    Yes, you are a busy one, but it is amazing how much one can do in the evening if one does not have tv (or does, but doesn’t watch it). I lost my 3 channels when we went digital, and can’t bring myself to pay for tv.

    • Thank-you, Kate. I worked the longest on the cactus. Phew…that kind of long, so it is nice that you all mention it.

      TV? When they kept raising the rates, I finally called and had to ask for the cheapest pkg. I pay $20/month for local channels. I don’t know how young people in their 20’s and 30’s afford all they do.

  16. Hey Leslie – this is so good. You are motoring along – S

  17. This is beautiful! I love the delicate detail intermingled with the simplicity of it.

    • Thank-you Jenna. Believe me, I tried to detail the cactus and that was UGLY! Scumbling the cactus in worked so much better and actually balanced the birds.

  18. Very nice.

  19. Very nice wildlife!

    • Thank-you Bill! I’m struggling with a sea and skyscape right now. Long for the wildlife…..maybe I should add some gulls and that would help. lol

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