Stage Two Activities (December 10th - 23rd):
Choose as many or as few as you like, with special encouragement to try the first two.
1. FeederSketches (do this every week or more often)
Sit at your feeder and fill a page with sketches. Sketch birds, feeders, the habitat, make shapes...draw whatever you like, large or small. The point of this activity is to warm your eyes, hands and brain up to drawing and demystify the intimidation of a blank page. There is no wrong way to complete this activity. Upload your sketch(es) to the FeederSketches topic.
2. Draw a Bird (do this every stage)
From your memory, draw a bird you see frequently at your feeder without looking at a photograph or image - just think about the first image of a bird that pops into your brain. Once you’re done with that drawing, try drawing that same type of bird from a photograph or from life. Upload your sketch(es) to the Draw a Bird topic.
3. Basic BIRD Shapes (Extended)
Start by filling a page with very quick sketches that simply draw a line indicating the bird's posture (the long axis of the body) as it engages in different activities. Next, draw birds with lines for posture, circles for body, and lines for the tail and legs.
Next, focus on the proportions of the bird. First draw the oval shaped body, then add a circular head. (John Muir Laws’ tip: It is easier to draw the smaller circle proportionate to the larger one.) Keep in mind, depending upon the way the bird is standing, the head circle may overlap with the oval body. Look carefully at the subject, since proportions can change between species. Continue to draw bird bodies and heads, while focusing on proportions and the angle of the head relative to the body. Another challenge would be to draw the same species of bird in several different sizes on your paper while trying to maintain the same body-to-head proportions.
Then, looking at your drawings, correct the head position so that it is tangent to the bird’s breast. Feel free to also draw new birds with close attention to keeping the head tangent in an anatomically correct way.
Last, carve in the angles of your bird so that it is not overly round.
4. Drawing to See (Extended)
Go to your feeder, sit quietly for five minutes with eyes closed, open your eyes and draw what you see without looking at pen or paper. Spend five minutes doing these sorts of blind drawings, flipping to a new page when necessary. If there are no birds at your feeder, try drawing a branch, the feeder itself, a squirrel or whatever you see in front of you.
Turn to a fresh page, then draw again for 5 minutes again, but this time look down sparingly.
Go to a fresh piece of paper, and draw for 5 more minutes, but look down as much as you like.
Take a photo of your favorite blind sketch (one from the first five minutes.) After photographing it (so that you’ll be able to compare your original to the next drawing), use that sketch as a template for adding more details. Only add details that you actually see, if the bird has flown away and does not return, resist the urge to fill in details from your memory.
5. Negative Space
Fill a page of bird sketches where you only draw negative space around the birds. One way to do this is “to try to look through” the bird. Try to define the space around the bird. Sometimes it helps to use a framing device, such as a window pane or only the space you see while looking through binoculars.
Although we usually draw objects such as birds using lines and shapes, this time sit by your feeder and while observing a bird try paying special attention to the bird’s mass, and the meat or fluff of its body. Instead of drawing an outline, fill in the shape of the bird from the inside out. It may help to use a drawing utensil that does not allow sharp lines (i.e. using a brush, charcoal, or the side of a pencil.)
7. Challenging and Unfamiliar Perspectives
Without meaning to, it can become standard practice to only draw birds in profile. If you haven’t already, practice drawing birds from unfamiliar or challenging angles. Perhaps this is facing forward, from above, from below, or a ¾ view.
8. Heads, Beaks and Bills
Quickly sketch a bird, paying close attention to its head and the connection to the body, and the angle of the head. Before adding any other detail, draw the eye and the ring around the eye. Then, draw the ear patch and other details. Draw the bill, paying close attention to its angle. Try this with several birds.
John Muir Laws’ Tips:
- In song birds, the eyes sits on top of the bill line. To place the eye, observe its distance from the front of the head.
- Pay attention to the cutting edge of the bill, the angle of this can vary greatly.
- Try sketching open and shut bills, and note that you can’t see the hinge of an open bill. It may be hard to detect movement of the upper bill(stays stationary, unless yawning or begging), and the bill does not hinge at that front of the head.
- Watch how birds move their heads, and how that changes the shape of head whether they’re facing you or in profile.