Getting Started With Nature Drawing: Advice for Young Bird Artists from Barry Van Dusen

As part of our annual Taking Flight youth bird art exhibition, different acclaimed bird artists will offer advice to budding young artists. The goal of the Taking Flight exhibition is to create a greater awareness, conservation, and appreciation for birds while fostering the development of young artists and sharing their work with the public. Submissions accepted March 1–June 15, 2018. Click here for more information.

Our first post is by internationally recognized wildlife artist, Barry Van Dusen, who was recently an artist in residence at the Museum of American Bird Bird and meet with the young bird artists in the 2017 Taking Flight exhibition.

 

If you’re serious about becoming a good naturalist and a good artist, start keeping a nature journal/ sketchbook to record your observations.

A young artist looking closely and sketching what she notices

Learn to look carefully and NOTICE what you see.

Young artists sketchbook

It’s more important to OBSERVE carefully and RECORD your discoveries than it is to make pretty pictures in your sketchbook.   Try to LEARN SOMETHING NEW each time you use your sketchbook

Young artist’s sketchbook in winter

Make WRITTEN NOTES along with your drawings to help you remember what you observe.

When you’re just beginning, practice drawing leaves, twigs, pinecones, seashells, crab shells, dead insects and other natural object you find outdoors.   These things do not move, so you can take your time to look at and draw them.

Draw the plants and flowers you find in a garden.

Try to draw the SHAPES you see with simple line drawings.  Drawing accurate shapes takes lots of PRACTICE!   Artists call these “contour drawings”.

Visit museums to observe and draw the stuffed animals, skeletons, and other specimens.

It may sound gross, but drawing from freshly dead birds (window strikes or birds hit by cars), is also a great way to practice drawing and to learn about animals.  (Give the birds a proper burial after you draw them.)

You can practice drawing subjects like birds from photographs, too.  Start with sketchy lines to block out the bird.

Notice the proportion of the head to the body, and the different angles made by the bill, tail, wing and legs.   The birds in the photographs don’t move, so you can take your time.

There are lots of places where you can get close to live animals and try drawing them:

Bird feeders…

Farms…

Frog Ponds…

Parks and Duck Ponds…

Zoos and Nature Centers…

Fish Hatcheries and Aquariums…

and Butterfly Conservatories…

…to name just a few.

Most important is to HAVE FUN and enjoy learning about Nature! 

The goal of the Taking Flight exhibition is to create a greater awareness and appreciation for birds while fostering the development of young artists and sharing their work with the public. Submissions accepted March 1–June 15, 2018. Click here for more information.

 

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