Painting a swallow

Painting a swallow

I was so thrilled yesterday to receive  a message from someone in New Zealand, she told me she regularly reads my blogs and likes to try them out every week. Wow, how amazing is that? I sit in a small studio in Devon sharing what I know and it reaches all that way, and touches someone . That is the beauty of the internet , and the ability we have to connect with people, she asked if I had a blog on a swallow painting , I didn't, I do here goes

Firstly sketch out a swallow, I chose one in flight 



Next I began with the eye, I use Winsor and Newton series 7 brushes, especially when I paint the detail. They come to a lovely point and I am able to paint in a very small area. I used a 000 one here and began with cerulean blue



Can you see I have left a very small patch of white paper , you can use a touch of masking fluid for this, Then I go darker with indigo 


and I use similar colours on the beak using the same sort of brushes. These details are very small but they anchor the painting in reality


You can see ( above) that I have now changed brushes, this is a 1 brush, try to use a size of brush that suits the area you are painting 

So now I am moving onto the head,

I udner-painted in yellow then dropped in orangy red tones, 

Similarly with the blue feathers i under-painted in cerulean blue and dropped in indigo for the darker shades. This is all done wet-in-wet so that the feathers join together. It is all about controlling the water and the paint, if it spreads too far it is too wet, if it doesn't spread at all it is too dry.


Now the rest of the body , defined by subtle shades of blue and purple on what is his white feathers. this is all dropped in wet-in-wet and some moves up the wing.

The darker tones are indigo

I painted in the very important swallow tail, then moved up to the wing

Firstly I changed to a bigger brush 

and I turned the painting so the water/ paint ran in the direction of the wing

It is important that it isn't too wet or too dry.

Then I painted in the veins on the wings using a mixture of cerulean blue and cadmium red, using a small brush

Flicking some splatters at the end in the direction of movement 

Now all that remained to be done was to paint in the far wing using cerulean blue and indigo, and add some splatters,

To finish I also added some 'sky under the swallow to define where he ended and the sky began, and some white acrylic flicks ( i just like to do that).

Have fun and I hope your swallows fly high x




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Hi, I really enjoyed your little tutorial, and am looking forward to seeing more! Thank you!


Rachel, you are amazing! Thanks a lot for your watercolors and tutorials!


Thankyou so much for showing how to paint wonderful watercolours I started painted many years ago oils and pastels (I’m now in my 70s) but although I bought all the paint and brushes I never have attempted watercolours you are giving me inspiration to try would love to see more blogs to help me do this at home you have reached me in Australia where I now live I’m originally from uk thanks again I love your work


Wow, this is the most beautiful swallow, and you are so amazingly generous in your sharing of how you paint! Your blog posts are incredibly helpful and have allowed me to find the joy of watercolour and feeling happy both while I paint and with my finished paintings!
Thanks so much, and best wishes,


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