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.