View Full Version : little hummingbird demo

Deborah Secor
11-26-2005, 04:18 PM
I had to paint this for a gift so I documented the process for you to see. It's on a piece of recycled Wallis paper, about 6x6" in size. The funny smudges on the paper were from wet hands! They won't matter in the end, though, so I just ignored them.

Here's my underdrawing in charcoal:

I used a charcoal pencil this time, which I sharpened to a good point so I can get some of the details down. I begin by marking the length of his wing. You can see the mark at the top, I think... This is a broad-tailed hummingbird and the average male's wing is about 48mm. I start with that measurment so I can scale the rest to that size. I was most interested in the two angles: his beak and his tail.

Here I began the background. I always start with the color behind the bird because that way I will construct him over the top and not have to noodle around with little bitsy edges too much--at least not AS much this way. You can see that I made a few marks in different colors on his body. I was just experimenting with the colors that will be there so that I could select an interesting background color that will harmonize. It isn't always 'sky' blue--sometimes it's blaring purple or loud orange... I just decided that since this one would be paired with another that has a green BG I'd use blue.

I've filled in all the colors of his little body and started on the wing and it's blurry path. I want to be sure all his parts are put together correctly and in proportion before I start feather details, although his tail has already come together pretty well. He needs an eye reflection, a blurry wing, and some feet...but generally I'm happy with the way he looks. I used a photo (with the photographer's written permission--Dan True, who is a very famous hummingbird expert!) adapting the pose from a photo of the female and using the feather colors of the male. He had to be a little bigger than a female would be, of course...

I also completed the background using some lighter blues. I needed that sparkle these little ones have, a feeling of movement and joy! I love hummers. :wink2:

Okay, I added those details and I'm calling it pretty much finished. It takes me about an hour and a half, or so, to paint one of these. I really enjoy catching the sparkle with all the little details. I used two different magenta colors and a dark purple for his gorget, and three different greens for the feathers. No, I don't use pastel pencils--at least not often. I usually rely on the charcoal for black areas until the very end, when I add some black pastel over the top in the eye and beak. I also use a colour shaper to move the pastel around a bit and make the feathery look (especially along the bottom of his little belly and in the wings to depict feather shafts.)

The wing blur is simply my fingers! I try to make one pass and stop or they start looking mushy. I used some darker blues and a blue-gray, outlined with the turquoise and then one quick swoop. If that doesn't please me I'll wipe out most of it, repaint and blur again, rather than mess it up trying to blend it over again.

Here's a detail shot for you:

Here's his companion, a Rufus Hummingbird I did a while back.

Any questions? Hope you enjoyed watching! :wave:


11-26-2005, 04:28 PM
I love the beautiful colors- not only in the bird but the background- these little guys are so amazing- they are really quite nasty to each other when you watch them at a feeder, but they are so beautiful and FAST- and you have done your usual wonderful job of painting them.... is it a ruby throated hummer?... now I have to dig out my book of hummingbirds and take a new look... I was just wondering when you would post a new picture- they are always an inspiration!

Deborah Secor
11-26-2005, 04:33 PM
Thanks, Linda. Glad you like it... :)

Nope, he's a Broad-tail and the other is a Rufie. We don't have the ruby-throat around here, they're eastern hummers. The rufies are so aggressive! Dan True told me you can set up a sweeter feeder (just add more sugar) and hang it higher than the other feeders. The rufies will claim the highest and sweetest one, the greedy little guys, and let the other hummers feed in relative peace. You have to put that sweet one up at the top of the eaves, though!


11-26-2005, 04:40 PM

This is quite good.
I want to give an opinion tough.
The greyish shade at the left of the wing gives me the impression of shade and not movement. On the other hand the wing itself shows movement due to the way it's painted.
Now, if the blue is supposed to be sky, then I'd try to see how it would become without that greyish shadow since I don't see it, like I said, as a wing movement and if it's sky it cannot be a shadow (I think).
But if it's only a back ground, then leave the shadow to give a 3d feeling and add a bit of cast shadow to the rest, but not as cast as the part of the wing, since the wing is more distant from the background.
I don't know if I made myself clear ?

Kind regards,


K Taylor-Green
11-26-2005, 04:40 PM
Deborah, just beautiful!! I love hummers, too, and feed them from Spring arrival til Fall departure.

Paula Ford
11-26-2005, 04:47 PM
How beautiful Deborah! Thank you so much for the WIP. Love the movement in the wings!


Deborah Secor
11-26-2005, 05:17 PM
Thanks, all, for your compliments and comments...

Jose--that's his other wing!


11-26-2005, 06:38 PM
He's beautiful! Thanks for the demo.

Piper Ballou
11-26-2005, 08:55 PM
Deborah, thanks so much for the demo, I am bookmarking this to come back to, we took photos of a hummingbird all summer and I was not sure how to paint the wings, now I know...thanks again

11-26-2005, 09:07 PM
Thank you! I love step by step demos and this is terrific.

Deborah Secor
11-26-2005, 09:53 PM
Well, here's the rest of my day. I did two more, though I didn't stop to take photos, which slows me down.

This one is a female black-chinned hummingbird--not quite so rosy looking in real.
And this is another broad-tailed hummingbird.

It was a fun day at the easel! I love painting these little guys.

Piper, the wings are the best part--just be sure you judge how long they are IRL and you can size the bird from there. A female hummer died in my front yard one day so I kept her little body in order to check the size and look at feather patterns. So delicate! It's hard to think of something so insubstantial ever having been so lively.


Paula Ford
11-26-2005, 11:34 PM
Sooooooooooooooooo beautiful Deborah!!


11-27-2005, 02:21 AM
What a lovely series of birds, Deborah. I like them. Here in Holland we don't have humming birds.

Mikki Petersen
11-27-2005, 11:42 AM
Hummers! The kind I like! (not the vehicles) These are all terrific Deborah. I can just see them as a small grouping. Delightfully colorful!


11-27-2005, 05:07 PM
Hi Deborah,

Sorry for that. I did say that seemed shade to me not movement. I must confess that I like the depiction of movement better on the stage before the last one (of the first bird that is).
What do you have to say ?
These would look awsome on a triptich (sp?)

Kind regards,


11-27-2005, 05:51 PM
Deborah, these just take my breath away! Thanks for showing us. I think the wings on the first one actually look 3D.

Piper Ballou
11-27-2005, 08:02 PM
I have dug out our summer photos, and having husband blow them up a bit....it is fun to try to identify the birds, I even have a book....
hopefully I will try some little hummmers myself soon, thanks again, I really like these a lot

11-28-2005, 12:31 AM

Your hummers are gorgeous. There's such movement in your paintings. Thanks so much for the demo!


11-28-2005, 12:38 AM
Beautiful, fresh and lively paintings! Thanks for the demos! I love to watch them in the summer at our lakeside cabin. Real characters!

11-29-2005, 02:15 PM
These are really charming and wonderfully painted Deborah!

Deborah Secor
11-29-2005, 03:34 PM
Thanks! I'm glad you like them. My customer came and took all four of them...so that was nice! He wanted three for gifts and one for himself.

I plan to paint some more, this time on a bright gold background. If I get those done I'll see if I can post that process for you to see--it's really a neat look. The gold makes them look so precious, like jewels.