The history of Chinese flower and bird paintings can be dated back to the beginning of the tribe. It was from then that the genre began to be established and gradually preceded on a series of changes. From the Tang dynasty until today, flower and bird painting is a special branch of Chinese paintings, loved by many people including the Chinese and people all over the world.
It is common that the bird is the focus of a flower and bird painting, whereas the flower serves only as a foil. This preference makes painting rather difficult for beginners of this genre, because the movement, the colorful feather patterns and body shapes of the bird can be so diversified. What adds to this difficulty is that the learner is required to choose from a large variety of painting skills in order to bring out the texture of the complicated patterns of feathers on a bird. There is, of course, no doctrinal prescription of what technique to use on a certain bird. Rather it depends on the situation: sometimes the gross free hand style is preferred, sometimes the more careful free hand style is better, and still some other times, both the free hand and refined methods must be employed. Yet the beginner should not be discouraged by all this, because hard labor today will bear fruit to a well-trained foundation tomorrow, and by that time he will be able to capture the spirit of the bird and learn the unifying principle underlying variety. In the beginning, the learned must not become impatient and do away with the pursuit on verisimilitude between the real bird and his painted bird.
The first step in learning to paint the bird is to imitate other paintings, to learn their techniques. Here are some of the basic methods artists usually employ to paint a bird: for the head, dots, or lines, or a two-step method in which sketching first with dots is followed by coloring with mineral green or azurite when the dots are almost dry; for the eye and bill, a rather dry brush and thick color. so that the eye becomes vivid. As for the body (wings, back and breast), the feather (drawn together or stretched) and the claws (clutched or relaxed), respectively, where detailed descriptions and suggestions are given with illustrations. Upon these fundamental but simple skills, further progress must be built with keen observations on permanent and bountiful Nature. Nature gives us a wealth: the changes of seasons, the vitality of plants and herbs, and the numerous differences among birds revealed even in the most insignificant detail such as the glamour of the eye: both the hawk and the crane are large fowls, and yet the eyes of the hawk are cuttingly sharp and those of the crane are tender and mild. So learning to paint birds must start with imitation, and then proceed to observation, then to drawing and finally repeated sketching. Each step should be accompanied with unfailing practices and mindful remembrance of the shape, pose, characteristics and color. of each bird. Remember them constantly so that they become part of your most intimate possessions, and then in drawing them, you will be able to use your skills in capturing the vitality of each bird on a paper or cloth.