“When cardinals appear, Angels are near.” From a poem by Victoria McGovern
Cardinals are a favorite for me. I love painting them. Their personalities are never quite clear. There is nothing like seeing that beautiful bright red on a snowy day or a day when the leaves have all gone brown. At this point, they are probably the bird I’ve painted the most. People seem to have an almost spiritual connection to them. They frequently tell me that a cardinal is a message from a loved one passed on. When they see a cardinal, it is a visit from the loved one. To see a painting of cardinals is to keep that loved one near always.
There are a number of places to read about where the story started about the cardinal’s relation to someone in the past. One such place is the Wild For Birds blog. A nice description on the site covers the high points of the meaning behind the cardinal as the main messenger bird. Most sources give the origin to the saying, “When cardinals appear, angels are near,” from a poem by Victoria McGovern. Read the complete poem on Bonnie Lecat Designs website.
I’ve painted so many of them that I have my paint colors down to a short list. My favorite red is Winsor Red from Winsor & Newton. It is more transparent than the cadmiums and does not have their toxicity. Indian Yellow brightens up both male and female bird when used in transparent layers. Payne’s Gray is my choice for the masks. I try to never use black if possible and Payne’s Gray will achieve the darkness I’m seeking but occasionally I’ll add a bit of Hooker’s Green to the Payne’s to create a little drama to play off the surrounding red. Zinc White or Mixing White are my lightener colors. Titanium White is too opaque and chalky for my tastes. A more transparent white is my preference. Occasionally, a bit of Lemon Yellow is needed to brighten up the lightest spots on the birds. Really only a few colors are needed to paint beautiful richly colored cardinals. The only other colors needed are your choice of background color and some Burnt Sienna and Naples Yellow for the twig.
Have fun painting a few “messenger birds!” Let me know if you get any messages!