In this tutorial on how to draw a wren, pay particular attention to how the feathers, especially on the wing, are suggested, instead of carefully delineated. On many birds, you do not see each feather clearly articulated. Suggest the masses of the feather groups with a hint of feather texture. This illustration was based on a photograph by Ashok Khosla and was drawn with a ball point pen, watercolor, and a bit of white gouache.
Click on the first illustration to start a step-by-step slide show.
Start with a single line for the posture of the bird. This will be the central axis of the body oval.
Draw the mass of the body over the posture line.
Draw a head proportionate to the body. Double check the size and position of the head. Most people tend to make the head too large and too far forward.
Indicate the position of the tail and the eye and beak with lines.
The circles are not the edges or contours of the bird. Look for the angles around the base of the tail and where the head connects to the body. Avoid simply following the proportion circles and over-rounding your birds (a common problem in bird drawings).
Note where you first see the wing and draw a line to the wingtip. The wing may be drooped (as in this bird) or tucked neatly on the back. Add little tic mark to where the secondary feathers end.
Draw a line indicating where the leg emerges from the body and its angle (usually forward).
If you make your first lines lightly (or with an erasable non-photo blue pencil) you can draw directly over these lines to start to bring your bird to life. Start lightly. The first lines you put down are the ones that you are most likely going to want to change down the line).
As your drawing develops, add bolder lines with more confidence. Note how the wing is simplified to primaries, secondaries, secondary coverts, and the alula.
Suggest the planes and values of the bird with contour shading. Note how the line direction changes from the mantle (back) feathers to the scapular feathers.
If you are going to add watercolor, start with the shadows. As yourself (or observe on the real bird) where the light would or does fall. Here I use Daniel Smith Shadow Violet mixed with some dull gray brown from my palette.
Paint the local color of the feathers directly on top of the dried shadow color. Here two colors a warm brown for the upper parts and a dull tan for the chest.
Further darken the feathers with additional washes of paint. Here I also lightened the throat with a coat of permanent white gouache.
Crisp up the edges with a sharp pencil or pen and you are done!