3 Little Birds with Colored Pencils – Blue Jay with Polychromos Pencils

3 Little Birds with Colored Pencils: Blue Jay with Polychromos Colored Pencils

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Lesson Description

In this lesson series, we’ll create a representational drawing of a Blue Jay on PastelMat paper with Faber-Castell's Polychromos colored pencils.

Lesson 1 - Materials

In lesson one, we'll review the materials used for this lesson series.

Lesson 2 - Background and the Head

In lesson two, we'll transfer the photo reference to the drawing surface and develop the background with PanPastels. We'll then begin colored pencil applications, starting with the head.

Lesson 3 - The Upper Body

In lesson three, we'll develop the upper body of the Blue Jay. We'll layer multiple applications to build up the texture and create complexity in the color.

Lesson 4 - The Lower Body

In lesson four, we'll continue working down the body, addressing the complex, overlapping feathers.

Lesson 5 - The Talon and the Branch

In lesson five, we'll complete the drawing by addressing the remaining feathers, the talon, and the branch.

Lesson Materials

  • Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils
  • PastelMat Paper
  • PanPastels
  • White Pastel Stick (Soft Pastels)

Lesson Resources


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Reference Image

Finished Drawing

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3 Little Birds with Colored Pencils – Blue Jay with Polychromos Pencils — 26 Comments

  1. Just a recommendation! Prismacolor seems to have become the affordable standard in coloured pencils. Most videos, books, and some magazines now seem to be using in exercises what the majority of people are using. I believe on youtube two people have worked out comparison charts between Prismacolor and Fabre-Castill. I know what it is like to have the tools but they are not the tools that will do the job. Even trying,spending time and energy just doesn’t get the exercise done to ones satisfaction. Perhaps during exercises, regarding coloured pencils, you could provide such a comparison chart?

      • Hi Bill,

        Yes, you can but blending may be more difficult than necessary. Pastel pencils are simply a concentrated form of soft pastels – they are similar to hard pastels. For this reason, you may find it difficult to blend applications. Instead of pastel pencils, traditional soft pastels may be a little easier to work with.

    • Hi Louisa,

      Prismacolor Premier pencils are wax-based and will behave differently from oil-based pencils like the Polychromos pencils used in this lesson series. So even though you may use similar colors, you will not get exactly the same results. (For example, if I were using Prismacolor pencils for this drawing, I would not have used black.) The oil-based pencils do not burnish in the same way and layer differently than the wax-based pencils. The physical make-up of the pencil greatly affects how it performs.

      I would be wary of matching charts since the pigment concentration and the exact pigments used will vary between manufacturers. These are two different brands of colored pencils, using different binders, different pigment ratios and likely – different pigment sources. If I created a chart like this, I would feel as though I was misleading people into thinking that they can get the same results using a different brand with different colors.

      I should note also that this course is not necessarily just about drawing 3 birds, but it’s also an exploration in different forms of true colored pencils, how they behave, and how the surface plays a major role in the final artwork.

      I do know that Prismacolor pencils have become very popular. (They are still my favorite.) Their popularity is partly due to a broader distribution. Not too many years ago, you had to go specifically to an art store to purchase Prismacolor pencils. They were also expensive. Now you can purchase them nearly everywhere – including office supply stores. The price has dropped considerably as well. Some artists argue that the quality has fallen off – although I haven’t noticed this personally.

      Even though Prismacolor pencils are very popular, there are several artists out there that abhor them – and I mean passionately despise them. Some of these artists are very skilled with colored pencils and simply prefer to use a different wax-based pencil or an oil-based pencil. Among professional artists, the Polychromos pencils are well-liked and many prefer them. That’s why they’re included in this series.

      I hope this helps a bit.

      • How many professional artists are taking this course? How many people prefer something because it cost more? I know most of what you say and most are correct. However the price of Prismacolor has come down because of the volume of people buying them they are a good standard of pencil at an affordable price. That fact should always be worked in when judging something. Derwent has come up with an idea without lowering the price. You purchase a tin of so many pencils, say 24, and the tin actually will hold the entire collection, You purchase the rest as you go along and can afford to buy. Purchasing individually is more exspensive than buying a set. A very smart idea, especially for those into Derwent pencils, and the company. Other manufacturers would do well to follow it or come up with their own ideas. Although I believe some companies are a bit too snobbish to do this and wish their clientele to be possibly professional artists. I know the fundamentals of the course, but you did a course on pastels and concentrated on soft pastels not oil. In fact the course should have been entitled “Soft Pastels.” In order for all to get the best out of each exercise it would be good to offer as many options as you could. All three birds could have a selection of pencils to use, the members in turn would learn so many other thing not just about different pencils, but drawing colouring, technic, etc. If charts don’t work then people will soon discover that. Nevertheless we are all here to learn, me above all. Thanks for your time!

        • Hi Louisa,
          I’ll do my best to address everything you’ve responded with here. Firstly, there are several professional artists that are members. Are they taking this course – I don’t know? But that doesn’t matter. If you ever want to create professional level artworks, then you must consider using professional materials. This is why I try to use higher quality materials for the lessons and suggest that you do the same.

          I don’t know if people prefer things because they cost more or not. But sometimes, things that cost more are, well – better. There’s a reason why some things are more expensive.

          I can’t speak to Derwent’s practices as a business or other art manufacturers. I do think it wouldn’t make sense for a company to be snobbish with their product. They likely want people to purchase their product.

          As for this course… We already have a course specifically on colored pencils. It’s The Colored Pencil Course and you can access it using the main menu at the top. This course is different. It is basically a comparison between different brands of colored pencils and surfaces through the lens of three drawings of birds.

          As for Pastel Landscape Mastery in which you referenced…When most people refer to “pastels”, they are referring to soft pastels or hard pastels. Oil pastels are quite a different medium. The binders of these two mediums are very different and as a result, they behave differently from each other. One module on oil pastels was included in that course, but the focus on that particular course is painting landscapes with pastels. We will likely add a course specifically on oil pastels in the very near future.

  2. Hi Matt! Love this project. I think you have a hit with these quick projects. The format is perfect. Thanks again for creating this option to your course line up. I am amazed at how much variety you continue to offer us.

  3. Printed off the second bird ebook. Again the detail of printed instruction and associated pictures is “outstanding”! A new artist has a leg up on classroom classes. It does get easier. Grateful for your continuous effort. Thanks

    • Hi Robin,

      The third bird is ready, but the drawing’s not :). I hope to have it published by the next newsletter (within two weeks). The art takes a while, but the editing, ebook, and other things take just as long.

  4. Made it! Amazing job Matt, as always. I’ve learnt so many handy little tricks during this lesson. I feel ancouraged to try some other birds myself but would be great to watch some more made by You.

  5. Outstanding instruction! Thank you!

    I’m a new member and so glad I stumbled across your website. I’ve always loved drawing but never had a foundation so I’m very excited to have this available to me now. You are a very gifted artist and teacher.

  6. Excellent quality, presentation and information. I have a lot to learn!!! I’m a new member, but I like your style enough to purchase the yearly plan and plan on having a fun and educational Winter! Thanks Matt!! Right now I am trying to find my “style” and what I am most interested in. I have done mostly graphite drawings to this point, but have mixed in a couple colored pencil drawings – was not real happy with those.
    Thanks again!

      • Matt
        Thank you for your hard work on all your tutorials. I just uploaded your 3 birds set in color pencils, too bad they were not all in prismacolor pencils which I have. If you ever considered making similar tutorial in pastel pencils ( which I got two sets ) that would make me so happy! Thank you again keep up the wonderful work!

  7. I have really enjoyed this course Matt. I would not have thought of using PastelMat paper with coloured pencil but it is wonderful to work on. I had a few pan pastels which had lain dormant for a few years. Had I realised how useful they would be in creating a blurred background it would have saved me hours of frustration! I had a little trouble maintaining really white areas and getting the white highlight to really glow on the top of the head. I have sent off for more white pencils in case it was just a defective pencil. These lessons on the Blue Jay have helped me overcome a period of artist’s block. It is so different from my usual style. Thank you. An excellent course. I look forward to trying the other two birds but first I must complete this picture.

Lesson Discussion