Drawing Twelve Birds for Christmas

Sparrowhawk

Good morning, everyone. I think I mentioned that I joined a great Beginner Gouache group on Mewe . And that led me to another group running the challenge – Birdmas. That is, drawing twelve birds for Christmas, from December 1st to 12th. Well, it looks as though I’m on track to complete the full set. So I’d like to show you a few of the earlier ones. For example, my sparrowhawk.

A gouache painting from my drawing twelve birds for Christmas challenge. A powerful sparrowhawk.
My first bird

Drawing Twelve Birds for Christmas – Day One

Just to be clear, the photos which inspired these paintings and drawings were taken by my lovely daughter in law. And they were taken mostly in her garden. And this particular one shows the sparrowhawk peering around carefully to make sure it can safely carry on eating. In fact, it had just brought down a pigeon and in this shot, the grass beneath its feet was covered in white feathers. Actually, during Lockdown, and afterwards, we saw two birds of prey bringing their kill into our own garden. To be honest, I live almost in the town centre and this is something we’ve never seen before. Anyway, I enjoyed painting this magnificent creature in gouache paint.

Day Two – A Pigeon

A Woodpigeon

Actually, this pigeon is quite tame and it will come down on to the lawn to be fed. So there is plenty of opportunity to get good close ups. I focused on the head and tried to capture the softness of the feathers in a pencil drawing.

A Hungry Bird

An ink and coloured pencil drawing of a hungry young crow, beak wide open and with a caption " feed me "
A Hungry Young Crow

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed taking part in this challenge in the Triwing Art Challenge group. And the best part was seeing the creativity unleashed in my fellow artists. In fact, the artwork is a very high standard and it’s very pleasant to see this develop . Personally I think the challenge of drawing twelve birds for Christmas was very well chosen. And, finally, the image above, A Hungry Young Crow was completed in ink and coloured pencil. I tried to show the texture of the ragged wing feathers and the tree bark. To my own surprise, I was inspired by the beautiful work of the other artists to add a caption, not my usual style. The story behind the picture is that this bird was continually exhausting its parents with loud demands for food. I’ll post some more of my drawings soon.

If you want to see more of my bird paintings, look at this post here .

Thinking about Drawing

The Old Church

Last Friday I went to a brilliant exhibition at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield. ‘ Lines of Beauty ‘ and this got me thinking about drawing. I saw some fabulous Old Master Drawings from the Chatsworth House collection like this one by Van Dyck.

A beautiful charcoal drawing of two friars by Van Dyck. A thinking about drawing example.
The Two Friars

In addition to these works of art, there was also interesting information about the artist’s materials available back in the day . And I was very taken by the drawings on toned paper made with black or brown ink, and , then coloured with watercolour wash . Finally, highlights were added in white chalk . Amazingly, these materials were often made by the artist and his or her assistant. To be honest, it made me feel very grateful for how easy it it is nowadays to buy chalk, ink, charcoal and paint ! If you want to see more pictures of the exhibition, have a look at the latest post on our Art Society Facebook page here .

On the shore

Reserving the White Paper

However, to get back to thinking about drawing, I did the drawing above last year. And, I think it shows very clearly how when you draw on white paper, you add the medium tones first. Then you strengthen some of them up to create dark areas . And, all the time you are quite cleverly ‘reserving’ the white paper for the light tones and the highlights. This means, plan the drawing carefully and leave the paper white in all the right places! To be honest, it took me a while to manage to do this properly.

Toned Paper Thinking about Drawing

Now comes the difficult bit – for me anyway. You see, when you use toned paper( that is, not white ) you can leave the paper showing for the mid tones. And this works well with beige or stone coloured paper. Then you can use darker pastel pencil or watercolour wash for the darks. Of course, you can then add white pastel or chalk for highlights. Obviously, this sounds straightforward but it took me a while to get my head around it . However, with the guidance of a good tutor , I managed to produce this drawing at art class.

A portrait of a man. On stone coloured paper with brown and black pastel and chalk. A thinking about drawing exercise.
A Portrait on Toned Paper

The Old Church

This was another exercise we did in class , thinking about drawing on grey toned paper.

As you can see, I had to be very disciplined about the different shades of grey. Because I wanted to show the shapes of the building and landscape as the light fell on them . Actually, all this at the same time as looking at a colour photo of the scene , which can be confusing. In truth, it’s a real workout for the brain !

Drawing from Life

Finally, I would suggest that when you are thinking about drawing, the very best thing you can do is to draw from life . So, here’s some of our pumpkin harvest , drawn very quickly at my allotment yesterday. Just think of all that roasted pumpkin ( with garlic ) that we shall enjoy all winter !

A simple pencil drawing of three pumpkins - a thinking about drawing exercise.
Three Crown Prince Pumpkins

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