As with a lot of natural history illustration, nothing beats drawing from life and working in the field.
John Muir Laws has several wonderful quotes in his book 'The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds'
'The purpose of field-sketching is to learn from nature. Train yourself to look and look again until you see. Do not worry about making pretty pictures; instead focus on documenting on what you earn during a direct encounter with nature'
'A field sketch is not about making a perfect illustration; instead it is a tool that allows you to look more closely'
'The sketching process cements memories in your mind'
|This very quick pencil and wash sketch of a Blue tit was one of my very fist field sketches. It is very small and only measures about 6 x 5 cms. It still sits a bit tattered on my pin board in the studio.|
In reality sketching out in the field is not always possible. When starting to draw birds it can be daunting sitting in a public place such as a bird hide or park, whilst people may look over your shoulder. Using your garden is a different matter and I encourage this as much as possible, when observing birds but also when starting to make the first few tentative sketches. Remember, nobody else has to see them !
I can hear you saying 'what about using photographs ?' This is often frowned upon by some natural history artists, some of the reasons I totally agree with. But using photographs alongside other resources can create a more holistic approach and encourage people to actually get out there to sketch too.
|The resource table at the Summer School Course. Not only photographs but also taxidermy specimens of birds, bird id guides, books from bird illustrators and examples of other artwork.|
If using photographs you do need exceptionally good images and I am lucky that I have a good library of my own images, but also access to other images from a photographer friend.
For the Summer School we used the resources seen above all in combination with photographs.
|Next we moved onto painting our drawings using artists quality gouache on coloured mountboard.|
I'll be talking more about using gouache for bird paintings in a later blog post
|Can you guess what bird this paint palette was for ??|
The bird illustrations taking shape as the we moved through the 2 days of the course.
We also had a visitor that stayed around for the second day of the course.
The final pieces. Everybody worked so hard and really enjoyed discovering more about their bird species and how versatile gouache can be - more about gouache in a later blog post !
The next course will be even more exciting as we will be using live birds as our subject matter !
Cherry and her beautiful owls Beebo and Eddi from the New Forest Owl Studio, will be paying us a visit in October for the 'Sketching the beauty of Owls' course