Draw a Bird, Own a Bird


To draw something is to own it. You take home a sheet of paper with an image filtered through you, and you have an intense experience of the subject that can’t be taken away. I once sat for hours at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with a sketchbook and made exactly two drawings. What I learned from that observation was that the canyon is a set of horizontal shapes stacked one above the other and fantastically carved by wind and water. A laminated land form. That experience was more than twenty years ago but I still can see it vividly, a side effect of looking long and carefully and transmitting that image from my eyes to my hands. Could there be there some neurological change from this sort of concentration and interpretation? I wonder.

rainbowlorikeets.jpgOne reason to draw a real live bird, to spend so much time with your subject, a pencil and pad, and your very own hand-eye coordination, is that when you have a drawing, the esssence of that bird is yours to keep. You have absorbed it’s every motion, nuance, feather tract and life-force and it becomes a member of the academy of brain cells and nerve fibers. If, someday, you see that species again, you have the reserves to work from, the muscle memory, and the proportions are stored where you can retrieve them again.


This kind of observation of living, moving birds gives you the same intimacy, mixed in with adrenalin and a frantic attention and sense of urgency. These are some images drawn on recent trips to Cairns, Australia and Barro Colorado Island, Panama. The Grand Canyon changes very little while you draw it, you can be sure of that. Birds live fast. They don’t hold still, at least you can’t count on them to hold a pose. How does one catch their image on the fly? More tomorrow…greattinamouandchick.jpg

20 thoughts on “Draw a Bird, Own a Bird

  1. Rich says:

    I am really looking forward to your next update. I’m amazed by your bird sketches, they are so full of life and have such volume. Terrific work.

  2. justin stewart says:

    your art skills are magnificent. the birds look as if god printed them down on paper.you must be very good with animals to look not only outside of the animal but inside also.i love animals and i see the true potential of a animal and the love of them,and you can capture the true essence of the love and different personnality of them.i only wish to one day learn how to sketch that way one day, so please put more beautiful sketches down because i am only 11 yrs. old with a lot more to learn about art.

  3. zeladoniac says:

    I don’t have any pet birds currently. I had chickens when I was a kid, and a cockatiel for a brief period until a roommate left a window open (I still miss the bird, but not the roommate).

  4. Ken Januski says:

    Better late than never with this comment! This really is a wonderful summation of the beauty and value of drawing from life, especially drawing birds from life. I’m fairly new to drawing birds from life but I do know the excitement of working from life. It is more than just a sense of urgency, though that is certainly there. Something also seems to happen on an almost neurological level as you say. You learn in a way that I think really hasn’t even been named yet.
    Back when I used to teach art I pleaded with my students not to work from photos. Ironically I now do so myself quite a bit right now, but more out of necessity than choice. If I were still teaching art this entry is one of the first places I’d point students.

  5. rasheme says:

    i think that your work is very well sketch out and i will very a preshatit if you were to send me some of you latiest work from your sketch pad or your pappers and that will be all

  6. Bob S. says:

    I love these sketches! I am an artist myself and I know that you cant perfect such a beautiful sketch in a few minutes or even overnight. It takes time and so I can’t wait until you show your next sketch. Your work even inspires me and also how I paint.(I am a watercolour artist and I also use paint and make huge murals for people.) I mostly paint nature which consists of birds, so I love these sketches!!!!!!!!

    Bob S.

  7. Bob S. says:

    I know I just left a reply, but I forgot to say something: I would just like to know if you ever went to art school and also if you could email me or send me a copy of your last creation. You should know my email address already!(I gave it out earlier.) Thanks again.

    Bob Snyder

  8. Kat says:

    Wow. Your sketches are so detailed and… alive! I’m intrigued with what you said about muscle memory and shapes. Do you have any other tips on drawing birds in particular? How can you get them to sit long enough to draw one?

  9. Pau says:

    This is SOOO CUTE , realmente Hermoso! keep working, your art is so cool!
    just to see the creation of the nature makes me so good thank you for take this little piece of time and share makes me smile this little creatures are so beatiful!

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