Robin: A Pastels Tutorial

This tutorial is hosted by me and the children. A direct result of the confidence we’ve built in following Nana’s instructions. See, we pulled out the chalk pastels during a nature study as we often do. And we sketched robins to compliment our studies.

Here is what we did. We watched robins in the backyard. Then we opened our favorite bird field guide.

We turned the page to the American robin. And we sketched.

We remembered what Nana said in the chickadee tutorial. We looked at the basic shape of the robin and sketched it first. We filled in colors and details of feathers (all this made us notice even more the bird’s beautiful design). I made my robin’s breast too big – so I took the gray and the black pastel chalks and just added more feathers right over the orange. Pastels are very forgiving that way.

  • I also touched the black on the robin’s head just a bit with the tip of my finger – and I blended the bird’s back, making the gray feathers.
  • Depending on where you decide to perch your bird, you may not even need to draw his little feet. Notice my bird is standing in the grass, so you can’t even see his feet.
  • We remembered the ‘painterly affect’ Nana taught us. Some of us gave our birds a soft background by choosing a color and turning the pastel stick on its side. Then we blended the color softly around the bird by gently smudging the color with a finger.

Some chose to sketch other birds they had noticed in the backyard. One a towhee and one a brown-headed cow bird.

So, this tutorial is more of a progress report than a step-by-step. But I hope our bird pastels encourage you to enjoy chalk pastels as part of your nature studies. Or just for fun!

But Nana will be back to share a new chalk pastel tutorial as part of my 10 Days of Lasagna Learning. Because art is definitely a wonderful learning tool for teaching multiple ages.

This makes 40 chalk pastel tutorials!


  • Print this lesson: Just click the green, ‘print-friendly’ button at the top, left of this post. You can choose to print the lesson with or without photos. By clicking the ‘remove photos’ box, you may print the text directions only.
  • A note on chalk pastels: Pastels are an easy, forgiving medium. Fun for children and adults alike! Details on the pastels and paper we use, how and where to purchase, and links to all of Nana’s other pastel lessons (over 40 lessons now) are all contained in the post Pastels plus links to tutorials. A simple set is very affordable.
  • The practical aspects of a mess: Pastels are blessedly messy. We always have baby wipes close by to wipe hands. We wear something we don’t mind getting stained or don a smock.


  1. 3


    How lovely! We are avid birdwatchers, but I am ashamed to say that artwork falls by the wayside here. :-( However, I can appreciate that drawing birds invites one to study it in more detail, as you noted above.

    I was interested to read your inclusion of a brown-headed cow bird. A couple of years ago, we witnessed from our windows a much smaller mama bird (a house finch, I believe) feeding a larger baby brown-headed cowbird at our feeder. This prompted some research, and we learned that cowbird mamas lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. Cowbirds tend to hatch earlier, and, once hatched, the baby instinctively knocks the other bird’s eggs out of the nest. Hence the foster mama bird has only the cowbird hatchling to care for. I wrote a post about it. If you already knew this, I apologize!

    I love all your pastel tutorials!

    • 4


      Ellen – I did not know this about brown-headed cow birds! How very interesting! We will have to watch more closely next time. Thanks Ellen, fellow bird watcher :)

  2. 5

    Nana says

    I am so very, very proud of my students and their wonderful, beautiful pastels of robins! You are examples to everyone that pastels are a glorious way to express nature…right in your own backyard! Good work HodgePodge children!

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