How to paint ducks in watercolour

Farm animals are much-loved and familiar inhabitants of our countryside and, on the whole, they are easily accessible, says Wendy Jelbert. Cattle and sheep can often be studied from footpaths or roads, and friendly farmers will allow artists into their yards and barns. They will be delighted and flattered if you are interested in their livestock. Also, they are excellent judges of an animal and, if you produce satisfactory studies, they will be full of pride!

Begin by drawing your subjects at rest or feeding. This process will take some time and lots of patience! In the first instance, make studies of detail, structure and form; the shading and texture can be added later. Then attempt movement and habits, as each has its own characteristics. An understanding of muscle, bone, fat and tendons and where they occur on the body is essential.

Animal drawing is as old as mankind. Study examples of the ancient cave pictures; they can teach us a thing or two!


These delightfully shapely birds add a lovely contrast to a farmyard setting. Their whiteness sometimes causes difficulties. White is certainly not ‘white’, which needs gently adjusting in most situations.

Ducks 1







Step 1

1 Draw the two characters and outline areas of the ducks in waterproof sepia ink.

2 Place masking fluid where sunlight falls on the birds and the straw in the foreground.

Paint White Ducks - stage 2






Step 2

1 Using a bright yellow wash, paint the right side of the ducks and splash onto the straw.

2 Paint the background with varying tones of green.

3 With bright orange fill in the feet and beaks.

How to paint white ducks in pen and wash

White Ducks, pen and wash, 41/2x8in. (11.5x20.5cm)

Step 3

1 When dry, re-glaze the green area with another wash to contrast with the white of the duck shape

2 Rub off masking fluid and paint cerulean blue over the shaded area and over the bright yellow.

3 Wash burnt sienna over the straw to form a deep shadow.

You can read more of this article in the September 2008 issue of Leisure Painter

Learn how to paint sheep and pigs in the October 2008 issue.

How to paint cows and horses in the November 2008 issue.

How to paint a complete farmyard scene in the December 2008 issue.