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I am frequently asked about what products I use for my pastel work. Below are some product links I use from Amazon for my art supplies that you may be interested in. (*affiliate)   

The Pastel Hangout Newsletter

Welcome to the Pastel Hangout Newsletter!


Birds are one of my favorite subjects to draw and paint. In this issue, I am reviewing some of the developmental stages of this Carolina Wren using pastel pencils and soft pastels. I follow the same principles of design, color values, and layering techniques to achieve realism and detailing in all my bird paintings, no matter what bird species I am illustrating.


I began by selecting shades of cream, burnt sienna, raw umber, and dark brown colors to develop the base layering using my pastel pencils. I use an assortment of Stabilo Carbothello, Pitt, and the General's pastel pencils. I recommend choosing colors that you feel are a close match to the subject and do not overthink the color names and pencil color numbers.

In this first image, I did not apply much pressure with my pencils. I slowly built my layers of colors to achieve a rich saturation of colors that represent the shapes and textures of the bird's body and feathers.

Step 1 

Lightly shade the body of the wren with the burnt sienna, cream, and dark brown colors with pastel pencils. Shade the beak gray, then outline the beak and eye with black.

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Step 2

Blend colors into the paper with a blending tool and add some dark details around the bird's face and beak.

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Step 3

Add some dark brown details to the wing area and shade the cast shadow beneath the wing area black.

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Step 4

Continue to develop the dark values to define some individual feathers and markings in the wings and tail feathers.

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Step 5

Add more layers of brown and burnt sienna to build the color saturation in the bird's body. Bring in some soft violet to the under-belly area and legs.

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Step 6

I shaded the background with light beige to establish a base layer for the background. This is the first layer. Then, I used shades of gray, burnt sienna, and black for the tree branch and bark. I applied light blue and white for the lichen growing on the branch.

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Step 7

I chose a light earth green pastel stick to fill in the background color over the light beige. To blend the background smoothly, use a blending stick or sponge applicator.

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Step 8

Next, I chose a dark earth green pastel to build up the background color. I carefully blended around a cluster of leaves extending into the background. I will add these leaves later.

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Step 9

Once the background is blended, bring in some light green leaves and rub slightly to give it a blurry effect. Shade and shape the wrens' legs and feet after the backgrounds final blending.

The final details in the wrens' feathers are added once the background is complete. The wrens' downy feathers overlap and extend into the background so these details are done last. Add final feather details and highlights to complete the painting.


I hope you have found this process of drawing a Carolina Wren helpful and informative. I understand that some of you are looking for more of a step-by-step guide, but please visit my YouTube channel at: more in-depth soft pastel demonstrations.

Thank you and stay safe and healthy!

Rita Ginsberg

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