Nashville Style: Part Two

How to add some local color to the Nashville warbler.

By: Text and photography by Al Jordan
Updated May 07, 2019

Here’s the finished bird, minus habitat.

When painting the Nashville warbler, I will not use an airbrush. I am relying solely on my paintbrushes. Before painting, I seal the bird with Deft sanding sealer. I then paint directly on this surface. I don’t feel that using gesso on this bird offers any benefit.

Paint Swatches

The paints I used for this project were Atelier Free Flow acrylics. The colors were cadmium yellow light, arylamide yellow, titanium white, raw umber, Payne’s gray, and burnt sienna.

My brushes were #2 and #4 Loew-Cornell 7020.

  1. White mix
    90% titanium white;
    10% raw umber

  2. Blue-gray mix
    40% Payne’s gray;
    40% titanium white;
    20% raw umber

  3. Pink Mix
    60% titanium white;
    40% burnt sienna

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Wash the entire bird except the head with several thin washes of cadmium yellow light. Include the throat/neck area. Follow these washes with a couple thin washes of arylamide yellow on the major flight feathers (tail, primaries, secondaries, secondary coverts, tertials, primary coverts, and alula). These are the areas of the carving that I burned.

  2. Now wash the entire back area with raw umber. You should do this at least twice. The desired result is a nice, soft olive green. Follow this step by painting the inner portions of all the burned feathers with raw umber. The goal here is to change the feathers to a firmer olive green with a lighter olive edge.

  3. The undertail gets a single, even wash of the raw umber.

  4. Line the edges of the burned feathers with a toned-down version of titanium white (90% titanium white with 10% raw umber). I concentrate the white on the tail, primaries, primary coverts, and alula. I was after more yellow and less white on the secondaries and secondary coverts.

  5. Paint the head and bill—but not the throat—with a blue-gray mix (40% Payne’s gray, 40% titanium white, and 20% raw umber).

  6. Edge the cape and nape areas with the same blue-gray.

  7. In this photo you can see the white ring around the eye. This is not just the eye-ring—it also includes some small feathers around the eye. Use straight titanium white here. I then lightly paint the lid area with a shade of pink (60% titanium white and 40% burnt umber).

  8. The head feathers on the center forehead area have burnt sienna centers.

  9. I edge the undertail with titanium white. Follow up by individually stroking the same white onto the under-tail coverts.

  10. I continue the individual strokes on the lower flank area.

  11. The individual white strokes continue up the chest and overlap onto the upper portions of the wing. The throat feathers are also edged with white.

  12. I stroke several lighter values of the blue-gray through the head and face areas. I obtain these values by adding different quantities of white to the blue-gray mix.

  13. Here you can see how the color flows from the back of the head onto the cape.

  14. Finish the major flight feathers with individual strokes of different values of white. You can add the shafts with straight raw umber.

  15. I paint the feet with the basic pink color (60% titanium white; 40% burnt sienna). I then take the white mix and randomly dry brush it over the feet and legs. My class members were all pleased with their Nashville warblers.

  16. My class members were all pleased with their Nashville warblers.

About the Author:

Al Jordan lives in Rochester, New York, where he is a master falconer. He was the North American shorebird champion in 2008 and the IWCA Shorebird Champion in 2010. Al is also an instructor and judge and the author of Wildfowl Carving Magazine’s Half-Size Osprey workbench project. You can contact him at ajordanbirds [at] yahoo [dot] com.


Free tutorials, expert tips, exclusive partner offers, and more straight to your inbox!


I have not made this yet so I cannot rate it.

Include a Photo Include a Photo

Click the button above or drag and drop images onto the button. You can upload two images.

Cancel Reply to Comment

Thanks for your comment. Don't forget to share!


Report Inappropriate Comment

Are you sure you would like to report this comment? It will be flagged for our moderators to take action.

Thank you for taking the time to improve the content on our site.

Sign In to Your Account

Close Window
Sign In with one of your Social Accounts
Facebook Twitter
Sign In using Email and Password