Monday, November 25, 2013

Blue Jay Portraits

I had a request from my last residency to do a similar project as my Stellar Jay portrait only in a winter setting.

After watching a pair of Blue Jays hanging out in my backyard I knew exactly what I was going to do.


- substrate, can be a primed canvas, primed cardboard, poster board, heavy paper
- photocopied pages from a bird book
- glue
- scissors
- template
- thin recycled cardboard or an old file folder
- tape
- white, black, blue, brown, and red acrylic paint
- pencil with eraser on the end
- black pony bead
- a few red sequins
- black sharpie, white gel pen
- Mod podge for sealing, optional


To add an extra layer to our project I photocopied some pages from a bird book on Blue Jays.  I also made up some text on the computer.

Cut and glue onto your substrate or background.

Roughly mix a drop of black acrylic into some white, I say roughly because I want some variation in that grey.  Add a little water if needed.  Paint over your background.

You want to be able to read some of the text so water down the paint more (like a glaze) for those areas.

Let dry.

I'm using my Stellar jay stencil for this project.  To make a stencil cut out the template or a drawing you have made of the bird.

Place on a piece of cereal or cracker box cardboard. You can even use an old file folder.  Trace around.

I take the easy way out when cutting a stencil.

I cut it in half, cut out the shape and then tape it back together.

Place stencil into position on background.  I have the kids do this in partners.  One holds the stencil while the other pounces on the paint.

Start with the lightest colour and pounce on the paint.  Do not move or shift stencil.  Continue until bird is all stencilled, end with the black paint.

You need to pounce up and down to ensure the paint does not go under the stencil.

Lift stencil.

Paint in a branch for your bird to perch on.

Using the end of a pencil add some red berries to the branch.

With a small brush add some details to the wing, tail and head.

Glue on a black pony bead for the eye and a few red sequins on some of the berries for a little shimmer.

If you want you can add some black sharpie and white gel pen to add a little outlining and detail.

Finally you can add a coat of Mod podge to seal and add that shiny finish.

Here are some of Grade 4's work.


  1. HI Gail, another great work from you. I will definitely try this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Did the students all cut out their own stencils or did you have them pre-made?

    1. In this case I made the stencils for them as we were under a time crunch but I have had kids make their own stencils from Grade 3 on.

  3. Hi Gail, I just found you on Pinterest and I fell in love with your work. I am inspired - and it's a good thing because next year I am teaching 5-7 grade next year :) That's all - I wanted to say thank you and you are amazing!