How to draw birds

Tired of merely watching birds? Ever consider trying to draw them? There’s a method to do so. John Muir Laws is very good at this and he’s written a book that can help you get started, maybe even become good at it yourself: Laws Guide to Drawing Birds.

In case you were wondering, Laws’ name does not connect him genealogically to the famous John Muir; his parents named him that. But apparently, there is a connection between names and what people do, and John Muir Laws is in fact a naturalist.

This book covers all the usual methodology of illustration but with birds. There are a gazillion “chapters” each one or two pages or so in length, divided into sections: Bird Drawing Basics, Mastering Bird Anatomy, Details and Tips for Common Bird, Birds in Flight, Field Sketching, and Materials and Techniques.

In teaching physical anthropology, anatomy, or archaeology, I’ve found it to be very useful to require students to draw things. Even if they don’t become master scientific illustrators (that is a rare bird indeed) they learn about the objects that are central to the study in a more intimate and details way than possible by just looking. I would be willing to bet that the average bird watcher can improve his or her birdwatching skills by taking a bit of time drawing their quarry. In the old days, of course, this was done by first shooting the bird so it stops moving, then drawing it in the studio. This is no longer recommended, but that makes it harder. Instead, Laws recommends “spending time with living bird in natural conditions” which will “help you develop an intuitive feeling for and kinship with the living animal that you cannot get from photographs alone.”

By the way, of you need a source of photographs to help you in your drawing efforts, check out the blog 10,000 Birds, especially the Galleries section.

Laws is also the author of Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada.

Happy sketching.

Comments

  1. #1 Dan J. Andrews
    December 13, 2012

    Thanks! Book now ordered. I do a lot of sketching/drawing, but mostly flowers, animal skulls, and some mammals. My bird attempts sometimes work, but mostly they’re embarrassing.

  2. #2 website redesign services india,website redesign company india
    December 13, 2012

    Nice tips. It is actually incomprehensible opinion now, but also from general, that usefulness in addition to significance is usually overwhelming. Thanks once again and all the best.

  3. #3 Benton Jackson
    December 13, 2012

    My Nephew put “How to draw ___” on his xmas wish list. This will do nicely.

  4. #4 John Muir Laws
    San Mateo, CA
    December 14, 2012

    Thank you for the great review! We seem to have the same attitude toward the process of drawing. It does not matter if you get a pretty picture. The most important thing is that you notice more things and remember what you notice when you draw.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    December 14, 2012

    Thanks for producing a great book!

  6. #6 mark
    Mason and Dixon Line
    December 17, 2012

    I thought drawing fossils greatly facilitated learning about them in introductory geology–classes with students who drew seemed to do much better than classes which did not require students to draw specimens.

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