How to make a Canary


This tutorial is based on the methods I discovered myself to create a canary for my artefact project. What’s key to this project is grabbing some reference photos of birds and keeping them alongside your work area. Images should not only be of full scale birds but also: canary claws, beaks,  feathers, tail, faces alongside other specific details.

Below are some of my reference images:

As my project centred on creating a particular bird from a film, I used photos of this bird alongside a variety of photos of other canarys. Additionally, it’s important to also keep a hold of images where the bird is in motion.

List of supplies:
1. Lemon coloured feathers and/or yellow feathers
2. Two Polystyrene balls: one small, on larger
3. Yellow tissue paper
4. Yellow felt tip
5. Acrylic paints
6. PVA Glue
7. Super glue
8. A5 Thick envelope
9. Tape
10. Back semi spherical beads or any colour semi spherical beads and black permanent marker
11. Pipe cleaners
12. A thin cylindrical piece of wood
13. A large knife
14. Scissors

Step 1:
Taking the small polystyrene sphere (bird head), cut one side to create a flat surface for the bird’s face. Next, cut the sides in the same way to slim the head (Use head photo as reference). Next, taking the larger sphere, cut sides evenly with knife to slim bird, then cut front to flatten chest. Afterwards, take stick and attach both spheres together. Finally, paper-mache a layer of the yellow tissue paper with PVA Glue.


Step 2:
Take the thick envelope and measure a height equal to the height of the bird’s body, plus around 2 inches,then measure around 3 inches horizontally and cut. After this, fold the cardboard 3 times (vertically) and sellotape at the top. Then cut the bottom of the paper so that the lower end is thinner than the top. Repeat this step three times then stick to the bird’s body with sellotape. After this stage, trim the tail according to reference photos.

Step 3:
Take the envelope and measure a width matching the width of one side of the bird to the other. Then (vertically) measure a height matching the neck of the bird to the edge of the body. Now draw a curved line stretching from both corners of the horizontal measurement all the way to the vertical measurement; making a semi circle.

Step 4:
Taking a envelope once again, cut two inch and a half size leaf shapes. Repeat this again for two more shapes, only make them slightly smaller than the first. Attach the two larger pieces first, sloping inward with the top of the paper starting from the bird’s mid back (these pieces can be slightly over lapping). Place the other two smaller pieces sloping along the side of the semi-circle. All pieces should be attached with tape.

Step 5:
Taking yellow tissue paper and PVA glue, create multiple layers around the entirety of the bird. Take care not to mask the features of the birds wings. The drying process can be quicker with the use of a hair dryer.

Step 6:
For the eyes, take your semi-spherical beads and colour them black with a marker (Like I did) or just use beads which are already black. Use super glue (unless beads have an adhesive) and attach beads to slightly higher than the mid-front front, and slightly to the sides of the birds face. Grabbing an envelope again, cut the corner in a straight line (with a radius of about 1cm and 1 half). Next, poke your finger inside the cut piece of envelope opening it up slightly. Finally, carefully attach piece to the bottom mid centre of the bird’s face with tape, and paint a pale pink with acrylic paints (add another layer after this dries).


Step 7:
Taking the yellow tissue paper again, gradually layer specific details of the bird’s features to appear more realistic i.e. around the eyes to appear less circular, and around the front of the face so the forehead can peak out slightly.

Step 8:
Taking three pipe cleaners (preferably pink) twist each around one another (leaving the leg section around 1 inch and a half), leaving all three poking out individually (around 3cm each) like claws. Then, twist another pipe cleaner of  similar length of the other claws to the back of foot.

Step 9:
Taking scissors, trim down entirety of legs (more importantly individual claws).

Step 10:
Glue a layer of yellow tissue paper around claws from around mid-leg down.

Step 11:
Now, paint claws claws a light pink (same as beak) with acrylic paints. Measure the width of the tail, and directly downward from just behind the bird’s neck, mark to dots for where the bird legs are going. Taking scissors, create a hole at both of these points and insert the claws (around half an inch), bending the legs forward around half way after inserted. When this is completed, take yellow tissue paper again and glue from body of the bird to just above the bend in the bird’s leg. Layer this multiple times.

Step 12:
If your feathers are quite light  in colour, colour them with yellow marker to match bird’s feathers (you should also keep lighter coloured feathers). Larger feathers should be secured at their spine with super glue whilst main hairs should be secured with PVA glue. For the wings and body of bird, attach entire feathers to cover larger areas. The feather used for the tail can be slightly lower than the actual tail. As you get closer to the head, cut the feathers down more so they do not protrude too much, then once at the main detail of face, cut hairs from feathers more meticulously and place them carefully; the method of cutting down feathers can be used for covering the spine of larger feathers, and also when needed in other areas. White feathers can be used around the perimeter of the tail.

Step 13:
Use a light yellow acrylic paint condensed with a lot of water to lighten areas of the bird’s feathers.


Initial Canary Planning

After deciding on creating an artefact based on a previous concept sketch, my group and I decided to slightly adjust our concept and place different symbolic objects inside of a cage rather than outside. Whilst we made this adjustment, we also decided to place a bird on the outside to show how Birdy is free from judgement whilst Al is not; we represented him through the bird once again. I took the task of creating the bird myself.

Below are some of the studies I made through out this process; whilst this exercise was different to what I’m used to, I had to continually plan as I went. I initially started by making some concepts based on reference photos of canarys in and out of the film. These sketches consisted of both movement, detailed birds sections, and colours. I also made some notes on multiple alternatives on how I’d create section of the bird.




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