Birds Feeding in Winter Leads to Digital Art


Cardinal Digital Painting

The painting technique above is similar to a watercolor painting, one I could do by hand. It is a many step process in digital illustration. Lots of little (and big) brush strokes make up the digital file.

The weather outside is frightful, yet the warmth inside delightful… want to see more art?


Sparrow Digital Painting

These images are not what you see most people doing with the one-step watercolor filter in Photoshop, or even those one-step texture overlays. They take about an hour or somewhat less to complete with brush strokes, not the five seconds with the use of the filter.

Two and a half feet of snow…

And some gusty wind make outside not all that hospitable, especially for birds, but it was a great excuse to sit by the computer and make some art. But first the birds wore on my sympathies… and then the story.


I went outside to see what was causing the commotion in the conifers, usually it signals a hawk, but…

The snow was light and fluffy luckily as what did I see but a tiny and alone Tuffed Titmouse (reenactment by our little gold sparrow) burrowing deep into the snow to get the seed that fell to the ground the day before. It was alone as all the other birds were tweeting from the thick green plants. The little guy was wearing on me because…


Throwing the Snow

it looked so pathetic mere inches down in the feet of snow, flicking and kicking a white shower of snow high above its head.


Digging for Seed

As I stood a few feet away, gazing at its industrious, arduous search for food, I made up my mind to hop in my Jeep, brave the weather, and go purchase seed at the grocery store.

You should have heard the chorus of chirping in harmony to the whistling of the wind, like they knew what I was thinking. Birds get very boisterous when the feeders are empty. It sounded like they were cheering me on from the sidelines of a big sporting event. So off I went.

And when I returned arms full of bags of feed, they were happy upon my return, rumbustiously dive bombing me as I was filling each feeder (not sweetly, amusingly, gently or spiritually fluttering about like in the fairy tales – they were literally aiming at my head).


But seriously, small birds are at a disadvantage in winter as they usually eat smaller sized food, which is harder to find when buried in the snow after a storm. Be watchful of feeders and the activity around them.


So back inside… time to bring my disorderly and disruptive backyard birds some warmth and digital life.


Sparrow on a Rose Bush Digital Painting

Hand painted sparrow on created background. Rose bush perch is the photo. This is a different process than the two above. I have many ways to create a ‘painting’ as my mood and whim guide. Birds make great subjects to paint in any medium.


Female Cardinal Painted

These images are similar to my gnome paintings with animals and natural scenes. The gnomes are completely created from scratch though, like the one sparrow. Not many gnomes running around willing to sit for a photo!


Black Capped Chickadee Illustrative Painting

A series of filters and textures along with small white and buff brush strokes make this bird very realistic and the background ambiguous. I also painted a Blue Jay, Hawk and another male Cardinal.  I did not post them because of the time spent and quality of those images due to likely loss of my art to internet thieves. Sorry! You guys get the second stringers.

Up next, an unusual bird family, one I couldn’t believe my eyes in, Rare White Bird Sighting – You’re One Odd Bird Lady Sparrow!. And just in time for the GBBC.  Then we have, So How Beneficial is Feeding Backyard Birds?, a post with information that might ruffle a few feathers.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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49 Responses to Birds Feeding in Winter Leads to Digital Art

  1. Brian Comeau says:

    I’ve tried this a few times but it’s been a long time (years). Thanks for sharing the idea. This might be something for me to revisit. 🙂

  2. mjump50 says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Your artistry is a gift to all who visit this site.
    My feeder is being invaded by pidgeons yuck!

  3. Helene says:

    These paintings are beautiful, and I can truly appreciate what work that lies behind them 🙂
    It is sad that we are not able to have our artwork in peace on our blogs and websites, I have found so many of my pictures and greeting card stolen and reposted on other websites – they don’t even bother renaming them so they are easy to find in a search! Over the years (more than 10) I have realised that getting my pictures reposted is part of the culture, if I want people to see and have access to what I make I also have to accept this as part of it. I no longer get upset about it.

    If you post your pictures to somewhere like Fine Art America it is less likely your pictures will be stolen as you can have a watermark on every picure displayed and the large picture displayed only show up in pieces (only 50% – you will need to have a look to see what I mean by that).

    • Thank you Helene. Each has a digital watermark. It is invisible to the viewer without software to ‘see’ it. I have a watermark logo that I have placed over the image, but I personally don’t like the look on a blog. I will check out Fine Art America to see of what you are speaking. It does sound like a way to dissuade.

  4. Beautiful! I’m sure the birds were extremely grateful. The smallest feed I put out in winter is Nyjer seed for the small finches. The juncos eat the Nyger that falls to the ground. I do think the smaller birds eat crumbs of peanut and sunflower left by the others. In summer I spread white millet on the ground for buntings and sparrows.

    • I get a lot of Juncos too. I feed Nyger and safflower when I get to the feed store. The grocery store food has a lot of millet. The sparrows here are very greedy and will eat just about anything. That golden sparrow eats whole corn kernels and I have no idea how it swallows them.

  5. sguz21 says:

    Reblogged this on sguz21.

  6. These paintings are really beautiful. I always enjoy your photos but this is something very special! Besides I really liked your article and the way you described the behaviour of your hungry guests in the garden as well as your own. I vividly could imagine how you started to get the new feed … ^^
    Thanks a lot for sharing! Till next time.

    • Thank you. I do like painting and often do actual watercolor and oil paintings each winter, but this year I have had little time for my hobby. I used to sell my art in galleries and need to build up inventory if I ever want to do that again. But the way digital art is going, it is similar to making prints to sell, rather than traditionally painted originals. I do spend lots of time on some of them for this purpose at a later time.

  7. …leads to incredibly beautiful digital art!!!!
    You are gifted, my dear Donna!

  8. Very charming! I laughed at your story about running out to the store to get seed. I would have done the same! 🙂 My feeders were all empty yesterday and the birds definitely had something to say about that. They didn’t dive bomb me but they were all sitting in the surrounding trees as I filled the feeders getting rather excited.

    • I can imagine many others having this same scenario. The birds that do the bombing are the chickadees. They are pretty fearless in their attempts. I could never figure out what they are trying to prove? After all, I am their waitress at the feeding restaurant.

  9. Christy says:

    These paintings are so breathtaking!! You have such a gift! Your birds must have been so excited to see the seed they were trying to get close to thank you! 🙂

  10. Lovely as always. At least our photos aren’t our primary income, although I hope to earn some money by selling mine. I feel sorry for musicians whose music is pirated all the time.

    • The stealing has reached high levels. I am not sure why the increase lately, or what they are doing with them. Many, I hear, use them on websites to promote their own work. People in my camera club have had this happen often.

  11. HolleyGarden says:

    So pretty! I laughed at the thought of the birds dive-bombing you as you went to take them more feed. They get pretty used to getting fed, don’t they? And who feeds them! The only birds I feed are hummingbirds, and it’s always so interesting – when the feeders are empty, they come look in the windows as if to say “Hey, you! Get out here, you servant!” 🙂

    • I just mentioned the hummingbirds in another comment. They still come to my window too, but I have not put the feeders out in years. They must have very sharp memories. I know the birds are trying to get me to come fill the feeders. A naturalist or biologist would scoff at this, but I am sure the birds have intent.

  12. Pat says:

    Beautiful work!

    • Thanks, Pat, your digital work is so beautiful too. Check out those two links I left for Brian. The Disney illustrator shows his paintings though each step. It is so darn simple a process for those of us that can draw and paint. I actually copied his fairy and it looks very similar to his. I was so pleased I could do it that well. I cannot post the image though, since I literally copied it.

  13. roberta4949 says:

    awwww lots of beautiful birds never get tired of them. don’t understand digital painting but they are beautiful nonetheless. I am old school, water color, colored pencils, acrylic and oil painting. I do mostly horses when I draw. occassionally I do birds too.

    • Digital painting is pretty similar to traditional painting or illustration if one does it with digital brushes rather than texture overlays and watercolor/oil filters. I too paint traditionally in acrylic, oil and watercolor. I also draw in a very realistic manner.

      If you want to see how similar digital art is, see the two links I left for Brian to check out. The Disney illustrator does paintings one could not tell were done in an nontraditional manner. They take very long to do though, but not as long as an oil.

  14. Jenna says:

    Your digital paintings are beautiful! I love each and every one. Such a wonderful style. Well done!

    • Thank you Jenna. I wish I could post the better ones and not my ‘rejects’, but I would surely lose the art and have no control on its use. Then it takes a long process for getting it removed from sites. But that is not may main problem. I have had photographs stolen that was used in print. That is much harder to rectify and recover loss.

      • Jenna says:

        I’m sorry to hear you’ve had photos stolen from you. That’s really too bad and must be so maddening. 😦 Some people just don’t respect art as it deserves to be respected.

  15. Great technique and beautiful pictures. It helps that you’re starting with wonderful photos.

    • Connie, it is kinda the opposite in a way. I look for an interesting pose and sometimes an out of focus image or over/under-exposed photo. It gives the form and color guides, but then I can add the details and shading myself. Too much detail in the image require softening and blurring anyway. It does not take on the watercolor look with out having excess work that you have to do with a well done image.

  16. b-a-g says:

    Donna – I’ve lost count of all your talents. It’s really interesting to see the way that your interest in nature leads to photography followed by art.

    I don’t think people (including myself) realise that saving a photo from the web to their computer counts as theft.

    • Actually, it is backwards. I was an artist since very young. The photography came along in my late teens, but blossomed in my twenties to a passionate hobby. Architecture developed as a 3-D way to express myself in a lasting way. I understand borrowing images for educational and learning purpose, but when it is commercial, it makes my blood boil. I am the one that should profit from my work if I choose.

  17. janechese says:

    I like your artistic interpretations. Yes, it feels good to help feed when the heavy snows hit and/or the temperature plunges.

    • I like helping the wildlife, although I am aware of the biological impact on doing so. I try not to interfere if out in the wild, but at home, I do like bird feeding. I know that is a contradiction, but I live with it.

  18. Pearl says:

    Those are beautiful! My favorites are the cardinals. That’s an unusual looking gold sparrow. Just curious as to what it is?

    • It is an leucistic sparrow. My next post is on the mother that is almost pure white. This is a genetic abnormality that affects how melanin is used in the body. It is not the same as no melanin like that in albinos, but a leucistic bird can also be pure white and very rare. In reality, they are just plain sparrows, only of a different color.

  19. Donna-your artwork is breathtaking. I look forward to each one of your posts and you never cease to amaze me. I also loved the story behind the photos. Thank you for putting a smile on my face and supplying me with inspiration.

    • Thank you so much Lee. I was thinking of doing more back-story on images, because as an artist, there is always a story behind the art. It seems to be the same on photographs too if one is looking at it as more than picture snapping. Saxon Holt always speaks of the story and I do try to have that come through in photographs, but that really is a tough nut to crack. Sometimes it works, and other times it doesn’t. He also says every photo tells a story, but I am inclined to disagree on this. That or the story is crap sometimes and not a ‘best seller’. I guess crap can be a story too.

  20. Love the photo of the Chickadee zooming in to the feeder. Great action shot!! I know your birds were happy for the seed. I ran out of suet cakes and needed to get more before this weekend!! Luckily the store also had the fruit and nut variety of seed that is a favorite of the many of the birds. Now am set for the Bird Count!

  21. This is a much nicer way of doing it than the simple watercolor filter. They seem to be done with much more care, and don’t feel so over done. Very nice

    • They can be with a multi-step process. I may show the first image in process sometime on the blog. I just have to figure how to condense it down, or if I can do a screen video somehow. Once the technique is learned, the images are great for illustration, note cards, calendars, or anywhere you might want a creative touch.

  22. Gorgeous art work…I have an app that does some painting of photos but I am sure not even close to your wonderful work….

    • There are only two apps (Photoshop and Painter from Corel) that I know of that can do painting like this. I do know of a few more, but they are really expensive and ones I do not know how to use. The app does not really do the painting, the artist does, brush stroke, by brush stroke. The other consumer painting programs do it with applied filters, so no creativity by the artist needed but they do a pretty nice job though.

  23. You never cease to amaze me, Donna. Your digital paintings require a whole different set of skills than just what one needs to make good photos. BEAUTIFUL!

  24. Pingback: Winter Cardinal Love WaterColour | new mexico mtn girl's weblog

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