How to paint a Sandhill Crane landscape, step-by-step
The big lesson behind this demonstration is flowing from one sketch to another as live birds move before you. Do not get hung up trying to finish one sketch. If your bird moves, start a second, and then a third, right there on the same page. You do not have to finish any of the sketches. If your bird returns to a pose that you have already started, jump back to that sketch and continue drawing.
In this case I made sketches in three poses. The first two birds are roughly the same size and their feet come to the same level in the drawing putting them on the same plane. The third bird is much smaller. I placed the head of the bird at the same level as the head of the foreground bird. This also puts the birds on the same plane. When I added distant birds, their heads too fall on the same line (the horizon). This simple trick of aligning the heads allowed me to join all the birds into one scene. It is also fine to just jot new birds anywhere you want on the page. You do not need to incorporate all of them into a unified sketch. You can turn any drawing into a little landscape. Just draw a window behind your bird (or other focus object) and draw your landscape within it. Let the focal object break the frame of the box, extending beyond it her or there.
Click on the first image to start a step-by-step slide show.
Imagine you are out in the field starting to draw a crane. Start with a contour line along its back and neck. Make these lines lightly or with a non-photo blue pencil.
Block in the mass of the body, head and rear bustle. Hang these elements form the first line.
Indicate legs, noting the length and insertion point on the underside of the body.
Now the bird moves. Just add a new head to the body you already started.
Check your proportions then begin to draw over your guidelines with bolder, crisp lines. Note a little mistake here, that angle on the back of the head should not be there. That is a carryover from having drawn lots of egrets and herons. Crane necks are more smoothly rounded.
Continue developing your sketch over the blue guides.
Now the bird begin feeding again. You could start a new sketch or flow with it back to the other neck position. I like to have several heads on one body. This give a little sense of motion.
As you refine the shapes, it is easy to draw what you think rather than draw what you see. Remember, always keep looking back at the bird. Here I made the cranes neck too angular. Egret necks have angles, crane necks are smooth curves.
As you find mistakes, keep refining your lines.
Choose one of your bird heads as your primary shape. Strengthen the lines.
Now, distant cranes begin calling and the bird begins walking away. Start a new drawing there on the same page.
The process is the same, start with the line of the back, then hang the body and head from it.
Overlapping drawings give a sense of space and depth.
As the bird walks away, keep drawing. If the bird is not as close, make sketches with less detail but keep sketching!
Develop your drawings.
Add detail and strengthen foreground lines.
To turn the collection of cranes into a unified landscape, add a frame behind the birds. Note that the heads of all the erect cranes are at the same height. This makes them feel like they are all on the same flat plane.
The watercolor application is simple. Less value and cooler colors in the back ground. Warmer colors in the foreground.
Don’t get fussy.This is a quick application of color. To much fuss will draw attention to the background and away from the birds.
The birds are just two coats of paint. Light and medium gray. Let the paint dry between coats. Note that sharp contrast helps reveal the structure- angles where the body turns.
A little detail at the bottom of the pictures brings the foreground forward.
As tempting as it is to add bright red, show restraint on the skin patch.
Crisp up your edges and strengthen some foreground lines. Line variation helps show important shapes and adds interest.
The drawing only tells part of the story. Look how much more interesting it is when you add words with the sketches. Study move storyboards for inspiration.