Lets look at how to draw a bird with a complex pattern and a more dynamic angle. Song Sparrows have finely streaked heads and breasts. The three-quarter view allows you to see the breast pattern and central dark spot. The first steps will look familiar as you block in the posture, proportions, and angles. Things get interesting when you start to add the guide lines that show the center of the chest and body angle.
Click on the first picture to enlarge the drawing and start a step-by-step slide show.
Start with the posture. Make one line that represents the central axis of the bird. Place an oval for the body over the posture line. The posture line runs through the middle of this oval. Place your head carefully. If you do not like your head positioning, redraw it now. Do not make the head too high or too far forward. Make an eye-beak line and add a tail. The tail is often at a different angle than the posture line and does not insert at the bottom of the body oval but higher on the back. Carve in the angles. Fight against over-rounding your birds. It is easy to make that mistake when you start with big ovals. Note the angle and location of where the legs emerge. Add a line to represent the leading edge of the wing. Here it droops below the tail. Place cross-hairs across the head. The eye will sit above the line on the side of the head. These lines will help you keep the patterns on the face symmetrical. The beak will attach to the head at the intersection of the cross-hairs. Draw a line curving down the middle of the chest. This will be a very important landmark as you begin to place the stripes on the breast. Wrap two lines around the chest indicating the flow of the breast patterns from the central dark spot. Note how the line on the far side of the body curves at a different angle than the one on the side closest to you. Add in the most prominent masses of feathers and simplifying the wing to the major feather groups. Visualize how longitude lines would wrap around the oval of the body. The lines on the breast will follow these curves. Notice how sharply the lines on the far side curve down out of sight while those on the side closer to you are straight. While visualizing the longitude lines in your head, curve the streaks on the breast around the body. Now envision the bird as a set of planes. Carve these in your mind. Where would shadows fall on these planes? How would this change if the light came from a different angle? While visualizing the body planes, paint your shadows with a mixture of Daniel Smith Shadow Violet and Raw Umber. Now start with the lighter body colors and block them in on top of the shadow. Add darker paint in progressive layers. It is easy to make your painting too pale. If appropriate (and it often is), push your dark values so that you end up with a full range of values from dark to light. Add value to the beak, legs, and eye. Keep these simple. Add texture with a white Prismacolor pencil. Switch back and forth between this and the previous stage to see the difference that the white pencil makes. We are going to add a little background to the drawing. Paint a green wash behind the bird. Now indicate the shapes of leaves in the background with a sharp pencil. Instead of painting the leaves, paint the spaces between the leaves (the negative shapes). This makes the leaves pop out as light against a dark background. This suggests depth much more effectively than painting the leaves themselves.
This drawing is based on a
photograph by Ashok Khosla. Used with permission. Please share if you like it!