Orange-crowned Warblers are subtle birds to draw. The have no bold contrasts and are a fun challenge. By incorporating some of the colors of the background into your bird sketch, you can achieve a harmony of color where it appears that the bird and the background might be illuminated by the same light. In this demonstration, we will walk through the process of drawing an Orange-crowned Warbler and its environment, pointing out some of the important details and shortcuts as we go.
Click on the first drawing to enlarge the images and start a step-by-step slide show.
I start with a single line that indicates the posture of the bird. Here, a dynamic downward angle.
I add an oval for the body on top of the posture line. Note that the posture line cuts through the center of the body oval.
Now I add the head.
I have a lot of trouble placing the heads on my birds. I often put them too far forward and make them too big. It helps to imagine a line in front of the chest and to note how far the bird’s head sits relative to this line. Usually the head is back behind this line. It is on this bird too. It is easy to reposition the head at this early stage in the drawing. I am glad I caught it here.
This is much better. The head is now tucked back into the body.
I now add the eye-beak line and the tail. In this bird, the tail is parallel to the posture line. This is not always the case.
I now carve in the angles. I look for the inflection points in the curves of the body and cut these in as sharp corners. This helps avoid the over-rounding that often comes with starting with two circles.
Looking at negative spaces (the shape of the air next to the bird) is a great way to focus on the contour and see the angles. Look at that great angle below the tail and the straight line down the back.
My last step of the preliminary drawing is to place the leg and wing. I note where the wrist starts and where the tip of the wing ends and connect them with a line. I also add a cross bar on the wing at the point where the secondaries end. The legs usually come out at a forward angle.
On top of the non-photo blue pencil shape, I carefully draw my details. Note how I have simplified the wing into the basic feather groups, and indicated some of the major feather groups on the head. Also note the use of Bill Berry lines (see blog posts on drawing mammal fur).
I add texture and shading with my pencils. If any of these lines show through in the final drawing they will suggest a hint of feather texture and help me begin to think about values.
I paint the shadows with a mixture of Daniel Smith Shadow Violet and Raw Unber. For help with bird shadows see my blog post on Drawing Better Bird Shadows.
I now begin to apply in layers of color, starting with the lighter values and working toward the darker ones. Because the shadow color has a subtle purple hue, the yellow breast shades to a neutral brown-gray. Purple is great in shadows on yellow objects.
I begin to build up layers of color with a dull olive on the head and back.
The darks are primarily Daniel Smith Bloodstone Genuine, one of my favorite colors. Note how I keep the wings simple, only suggesting detail and feathers.
The bird needed to pull together so I painted over the entire bird with a dull green. This unified the colors.
A little bit of colored pencil on the dry watercolor is a great way to add texture.
Here is a simple, effective and fast way to handle the background. Paint a green wash behind the bird.
Once the wash is dry, draw leaf shapes with a sharp pencil.
Paint the spaces between the leaves (rather than the leaves themselves). Darkening the negative spaces between the give a sense of sunlight and shadow. I chose not to add more detail in the background because that would have pulled the leave up into the foreground and I wanted them to recede.
This drawing is based on a
photograph by Vivek Khanzode. Used with permission. Studying from photographs is a great way to start to learn how to draw a bird and is a great addition to field work.