Whenever I draw birds, I start with a light framework that blocks in the basic shape with an erasable non-photo- blue pencil. I add detail and color directly on top of these basic shapes. Double check your basic shape before continuing with the rest of the drawing. Click on the first drawing to enlarge it and start a step-by-step slide show.
Make one line to represent the posture or body angle. Place an oval over the posture line to block in the mass of the body. Here is one of the most common mistakes. Do not pop the head on the end of the posture line like a hotdog on a stick. It will tend to be lower and further back. Here is a corrected head position. Note how it sits into the body and is placed further back on the body than the first (improper) head position. Add the eye-beak line and the tail. The bill will be centered over the eye-beak line. The eye will sit on top of the line, toward the front. Carve in the angles of the contour. Look for the inflection points of the curves. At this stage I over emphasize the angularity of the birds to overcome the pull of the body ovals. Look at the negative shapes (the shape of the air next to the the bird) to help you see the angles of the body. Note the location of the feet and the leading edge of the wing. Carefully place the point of the wrist where the wing starts. How high and close to the front of the bird does it start? Where does it end? Connect these points with a line. I also add a line across the wing to note the extent of the secondary feathers. I draw the details directly over the blue pencil lines. Note how I have simplified the shape of the wing suggesting the major feather groups instead of drawing every feather. On the head, I indicate the ear patch, eye ring, and malar feather groups.. Using a mixture of Daniel Smith Shadow Violet and raw umber, I paint in the shadows. Adding these first helps me think of the drawing three dimensionally. My first coat of paint is primarily Phthalo Blue, giving the bird bright cyan plumage. With watercolor it is easiest to start with lighter coats of paint and work your way toward the darks. Note how the wing evolves from this image to the next. Once the paint is bone dry, I add texture with a white Prismacolor pencil. This suggests a lot of detail and is a very fast way to work.
The most helpful thing you can do to improve your drawings is to start drawing more. Just give it a try for one month. That is not much time. You can do it. You will see dramatic improvements in your work.
This drawing is based on a
photograph by Ashok Khosla. Used with permission.