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BY THOMAS MAXWELL

What you need:

  • A sketchbook
  • HB, 2B, 6B pencil

As we come into the cool seasons, we will start to see an array of wildlife. I am starting out on bird watching and thought this would be a good time to do a bird study. Today we are sketching a Blue Tit.

Step 1

The biggest thing that catches people, including myself, out with birds is the anatomy. Birds have chests like us and so the best thing is to draw a circle and an oval at the base. This already makes up the bulk of the bird. Make sure that the wings start in line with each other as they should be treated like arms – you wouldn’t want one arm higher than the other! Start marking out the wings, feet and tail. You can see that the wing is in line with the head, which makes it much easier for sketching the anatomy.

Step 2

Birds tend to have a layer of feathers on their wings. It is important for the wings to be separated from mass and feather, usually this is roughly a third into the wing. I enjoy sketching birds because there isn’t a lot of features, which makes it better for sketching on the go! I continued by marking out the bird’s shadows and lighter areas.

Step 3

In this step, we start to mark out the darker areas using our HB pencil and leave the light areas. This helps later when we start to add more and more black with our darker pencils. Blue tits have a unique face pattern running through the eye, which adds context to the face as a majority of it is a plain white. To recreate the motion of the wings flapping, don’t make any hard marks around the lower wing. This sense of ‘undefined sketching’ can give the effect that the birds wings are moving too fast to pick up detail.

Step 4

At this stage I have targeted darker areas in the drawing and I am now starting to use the 2B and then 8B. I find that by using the cross-hatch technique, it gives the effect of creating feathers without going into the tedious detail of drawing every feather. Cross hatching is when you create lines using your pencil, instead of shading, and you cross over the lines with a darker pencil to create that darkness. Unlike shading, the lines leave a more textured look, which looks similar to the texture of a bird’s body, covered in feathers, as opposed to a human’s face which is smooth. Keep cross hatching in those areas and build up the black. The best advice is to always go darker than you think you need to. Keep halving your area of shading as you use darker so that you can see a transition of light to dark.

Step 5

Keep building up until you are happy! Remember the key elements which are: Half your area of shading as you get darker to avoid too intense of a transition. Shade the darker areas with HB first and leave the light areas to help developing later – and do not add too much mass to the wings!

Keep up to date with Thomas on Instagram @thomasomaxwell or visit www.thomasomaxwell.com.

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