The Contented Cardinal

By  Nancy Dale Kinney-Stout 

If you love the sight of a cardinal's bright red plumage against the winter snow, you'll enjoy painting this beautiful scene to grace your home's décor.

  • The Contented Cardinal


  • Round Wooden Plate, 10” (available at most hobby shops)
  • DecoArt Americana Acrylics: Antique Green, Baby Blue, Black Green, Black Plum, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow, Deep Burgundy, Lamp (Ebony) Black, Light Buttermilk, Prussian Blue, True Red, Victorian Blue


  • Loew-Cornell Paintbrushes: La Corneille Golden Taklon: Wash/Glaze, Series, 7550, 1”; Chisel Blender, Series 7450, #2, #4, #6, #8; White Nylon: Script Liner, Series 800, #1
  • Sponge roller, 2”
  • Nancy Kinney Small Dabber
  • J.W. etc. Right Step Varnish, Matte
  • Krylon Matte Finish
  • Jo Sonja’s Gel Retarder
  • Multi-purpose sealer
  • Candle with candle holder
  • Old stainless tablespoon

Basic Supplies

  • old scruffy brush, sandpaper, soft cloth, transfer paper, pencil, potholder, newspaper (to cover work surface)

Pattern - The Contented Cardinal

  • Preparation
  • 1. Sand plate if needed; wipe dust with soft cloth. Use wash/glaze to apply multi-purpose sealer. Let dry. Sand and wipe with damp cloth. Use roller to apply two coats Baby Blue over entire surface.
  • 2. For marbleized smoke background, light candle in holder and allow to burn a few minutes until there is a good tall flame. Hold bowl portion of tablespoon over flame until black carbon buildup is achieved. (Note: Spoon handle may become hot; use potholder.) Continue moving spoon over flame until steady stream of black carbon rises above spoon. This stream of smoke is what will adhere to plate surface. Hold plate over carbon stream, moving plate around so carbon adheres to various places; be careful to not allow spoon to touch surface. When desired result is achieved, spray immediately with Krylon Matte Finish to set smoke. Let dry.
  • 3. Print pattern; transfer basic details onto plate.
  • Color Mixes
  • 1. Mix 1 = Lt. Buttermilk + Antique Green (2:1)
  • 2. Mix 2 = Lt. Buttermilk + Cadmium Yellow (2:1)
  • 3. Mix 3 = Lt. Buttermilk + Lamp Black (1:3)
  • 4. Mix 4 = Burnt Umber + Lamp Black (1:2)
  • Painting Instruction Note
  • 1. Apply two coats paint for all basecoating.
  • Tree Branch
  • 1. On covered work surface, use Burnt Umber and #4 chisel blender to base branches; use liner to paint tiny branches and twigs. Dampen larger branch with retarder; use #4 chisel blender and Mix 4 to shade along bottom then pull with slightly curved motion up limb. Immediately pick up Lt. Buttermilk and pull from top edge down into Mix 4 slightly curving as you pull.
  • Cardinal
  • 1. Use #6 chisel blender to base red areas Deep Burgundy in direction of feathers. Base black areas around face with Mix 4; as you work into surrounding areas, turn brush onto chisel edge to work colors into each other.
  • 2. Base beak True Red; while second coat remains wet, side-load #2 chisel blender with Black Plum and shade beak along edge of head; use chisel edge to shade along top edge of bottom beak to separate from top. Dampen beak with thin coat retarder; lighten edge and middle of top beak with Cadmium Orange. Further lighten with Cadmium Yellow.
  • 3. Dampen entire cardinal with retarder. Use Black Plum and chisel edge of brush to brush dark value into areas of bird.
  • 4. Dampen entire bird with retarder, and use small dabber brush and True Red to lighten top of head, large breast, cheek, and out wing allowing to dry between light values. (Note: Force dry with blow dryer if desired.) Dampen again with retarder and build up light areas with Cadmium Orange and then Cadmium Yellow. (Note: You may need to do this several times for good depth.) Use Mix 2 for last highlight value. For good depths, repeat entire step several times.
  • 5. For eye, base entire eyeball Lamp Black. Paint eyelid True Red. Thinking of the eyeball as a clock, side-load liner with Lt. Buttermilk and paint highlight line from 11 down to 7 o'clock; turn brush over and repeat from 3 down to 5 o'clock. Add a highlight sparkle at 11 and 5 o'clock.
  • 6. For claws, load liner with Mix 4 flattening brush as much as possible. Drag tiny edge through Mix 3; with Mix 3 facing left edge of brush, paint claws using "c" stroke. Wipe brush and load small amount of Mix 4 to paint tiny claws. Do not allow claws to "grow"; they are just a hint.
  • Leaves
  • 1. Base all leaves Antique Green. Working a couple leaves at a time, dampen with retarder and use dabber brush to scrub in dark value with Black Green in areas indicated by cross-hatching on pattern. Dampen again with retarder and pat in light values with Mix 1 where indicated by dots on pattern. Repeat steps for good depth.
  • Berries
  • 1. Use #4 chisel blender to base Prussian Blue. Dampen with retarder. Using tip of dabber brush, dab Victorian Blue around outer edges where indicated by dots on pattern; wipe excess paint from brush and dab to blend. Dampen again with retarder and lighten further with Baby Blue. Add Lt. Buttermilk highlight sparkle. Use liner and Burnt Umber to paint stem from branch to berries. Repeat as needed.
  • Finishing
  • 1. Apply two coats varnish.