Sketching Animals: How to Draw a Realistic Bird

Sketching Animals: How to Draw a Realistic Bird
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    Hi guys and welcome to another sketching tutorial!
    Today I'll be showing you what I consider when creating realistic sketches of small
    birds, as well as some common- but fixable- mistakes that may detract from a realistic
    And just a quick disclaimer- this video is of course based upon my own experience and
    opinions, so whilst the ideas I'm showing here have worked for me, they aren't the
    only ways of working!
    So jumping straight into it, here I'm starting on the left hand side of the page where I'll
    be demonstrating the problems that can be fixed.
    I'm beginning with drawing just the body and head shape of the bird- and I'll be drawing
    three different birds in different poses today.
    I'm using Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils for all of my sketching here, and I'm just
    using some no-name brand paper to work on.
    You can see I'm being pretty quick and rough with how I put these bodies on the paper-
    which is an indication that I'm not paying close attention to my reference photos.
    Rather than being slow and deliberate, I'm rushing to put something down, and using far
    more lines than is necessary.
    I've drawn these birds in with simple geometry, ovals, circles and egg-shapes, which doesn't
    really represent the complex form of a realistic bird.
    So now moving on to the right side- where I'll show you what I'd do differently
    to create a more realistic and convincing outcome.
    Straight away you'll notice I'm taking a lot longer to draw each body out.
    I'm also being very gentle as to not indent the paper and to keep the pencil lines light
    so they can be easily erased if I make any mistakes- which is inevitable!
    If you're looking to create a realistic result, you should always be very closely
    observing a reference- and that's what I'm doing here.
    And if you'd like to see the royalty free references I'm using, I'll leave links
    in the description box down below.
    If you are following along with the tutorial strongly recommend using the reference photos
    provided- copying my drawing means that you're interpreting from my interpretation, which
    will make it more difficult to draw realistically.
    As you can see, I build up the shape of the bird by working my way around its outline,
    judging each line's distance and angle in relation to the rest.
    The benefit of this method over the way that I drew the birds on the left hand side is
    that I'm giving an indication of all the subtle shapes in the bird's form- you can
    see that there's an indication of the bird's anatomy, and that the bird is delicate-looking
    rather than one solid lump.
    Birds come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so it's really important to see what sort
    of characteristics your bird has.
    Going back to the left side, I'm now going to start drawing in the eyes and beaks of
    these birds.
    So a common mistake when drawing animals is to draw the eyes too far up on the head- so
    that's what I'll do here.
    I'm not considering the shape of the eyes, just drawing in what I *think* a bird eye
    might look like.
    The same applies for the beaks- I'm drawing in a symbol of a beak- a triangle with a horizontal
    line down the middle of it.
    Needless to say, the result looks very flat and cartoony, as I haven't considered the
    three dimensional form of the beak.
    Now to draw the beak and eye in on the birds on the right- again this is going to take
    a lot longer as I'm very carefully measuring with my eye, and placing that onto the paper.
    I'm also open to making adjustments to the lines I've already placed down- drawing
    is a process of refinement, and it's unlikely that I have everything exact the first time
    around- which is why it's extra important to use a light hand when sketching.
    And by this point, I've also broken up my sketch already into smaller, more manageable
    sections, by outlining patterns and areas of shadow or highlight.
    This means I can use these lines as guides to help place the eye, and fit the eye shape
    into the mosaic of shapes around it.
    The same thinking goes for the beak.
    Again- I don't want to oversimplify the shape- and I can break the shape into smaller,
    more manageable sections by drawing in the shapes of the shadows and highlights.
    Something that I really recommend is that if you're having difficulties, try tracing
    these areas on your reference photos.
    Long beaks in particular can be really difficult to get right in terms of length and curve.
    I do want to quickly mention that this is definitely not the usual sequence I draw something
    in, and I'm separating features out to make the process easier to explain- so for example,
    usually I'd draw the beak and eyes whilst I also draw in the outline of the head.
    But anyway, moving on to the wing and tail.
    I think these structures and feathers are the most difficult to make sense of, and I
    know that I would rush them or try and find shortcuts as to avoid drawing them altogether.
    So that's what I'm doing here- giving a rough representation of the wing for the
    bird at the top of the page and bottom of the page.
    For the middle bird, I've again drawn what I think I see, rather than closely observing
    the photo- and here I've given too much of an indication of the wings- in reality
    the wing is barely visible.
    In fact, the wing on the right side isn't visible at all.
    And the same applies for the tails- again for the middle bird I've shown too much
    of it, without thinking about the post the bird's in- and for the other two birds I've
    not considered how multiple feathers build up the tail, and instead given it a very heavy
    and blocky-lookinh form.
    Heading on over to the right side of the page to draw the wings and tails here too.
    Starting at the top, again I'm building up this larger form by splitting it into smaller
    A lot of the wing isn't visible because of how the chest feathers obscure it, so I'm
    not being too careful about getting in the details here.
    I draw in the tail by mapping in each large feather- or block of colour- and it's also
    important to remember to show how the tail feathers join to the underside of the bird.
    It's also worth mentioning that a tiny tip of the bird's far-side wing is visible under
    here, too.
    And this is certainly something I could've easily missed if I wasn't looking out for
    For the middle bird there's little to draw here for the wing, but to draw the tail I
    have to start drawing in the branch he's perching on, as the tail is partially obscured
    by it.
    The way that the bird is sitting means that the tail is affected by perspective, so appears
    quite short.
    Now moving on to the sparrow at the bottom of the page- and this one's the most difficult
    because his wing is fully visible, and the pattern makes it difficult to make sense of
    the individual feathers.
    It's easy to get overwhelmed and lost in this pattern.
    Even after drawing a lot of birds, I still find this sort of drawing to be very demanding-
    so if this is the case for you too, I'd recommend making a tracing.
    And you can use this tracing to directly transfer your drawing onto the paper, or use it as
    a comparison tool.
    Bird wings are something I'd certainly trace if I was planning to sink a lot of hours into
    the rendering stage, as I would want to be 100% certain that my foundation was accurate,
    without using up time needing to check and double check everything.
    But the way thatI'm freehanding it here is to group the feathers into sections to
    work on at a time.
    I'm using the features of one group of feathers to help place the next- again, making sure
    different components fit together like a mosaic or jigsaw puzzle.
    Bird wings are covered in lots of different kinds and shapes of feathers, each with different
    tasks- and this is when referring to an image showing wing anatomy might be helpful in order
    to break down and make sense of your reference photo.
    Later on in the video, I'll further refine these feathers with some colour to help distinguish
    the brown and black pattern on the sparrow's wings.
    Next I want to draw in the legs and feet- and an indication of the surface the bird
    is sitting on too.
    Again I'm going to oversimplify things on this left side, and I'll draw the legs and
    feet very flat-looking, almost stick-like.
    I also won't really consider the anatomy of the feet or toes here- on the top bird
    I've left the toes looking stiff, and on the other two birds, I've drawn their toes
    as if they are entirely flexible and have wrapped around the branch as if they were
    But on the right- like usual I'm breaking things into smaller sections, and I'll use
    the negative space between the bird and the branch or ground, or between the legs, to
    help position the legs.
    I'll also make sure that the toes look like they're curling around the stick that the
    bird is sitting on, but making sure that the toes bend just at the joints.
    At this size, I'm not going to try and outline every abstract shape that makes up the toes-
    most of the definition and form would become more apparent when colouring and rendering.
    Finally, as a bonus step, I'm going to show some simple colouring and refining.
    If I was using the sketches as a foundation for a fully rendered piece I would probably
    stop on the previous step, but as a slightly more fleshed out sketchbook study I'll render
    the birds a touch more.
    On the left side, there's not much to refine as I've used a firm hand over the entire
    sketch- things won't easily erase.
    However, I will add some feather texture in, and here I'm going to do this by drawing
    in lots of rough and long-looking strokes.
    I don't know about you, but to me this looks more like fur, and doesn't successfully represent
    the texture of feathers.
    Going over to the right side of the paper to finish up!
    I'm refining my sketches first, and then I'll start adding some simple shading.
    Sometimes when everything is put in place, slight inaccuracies will become more apparent,
    so you'll see that I'll adjust a few things until I'm happy with how they look.
    I also find that adding a bit of dimension with some simple shading will help to make
    things look right.
    I'm going to give some very subtle indications of feathers on the breast of the bird- and
    I'll do this where there's dark colouration or a shadow.
    You can give the effect of these feathers by using very short pencil strokes in small
    groups, and you can also put them in a sort of curve or scallop shape to represent an
    individual feather.
    If I was creating these sketches as a foundation for a coloured picture, I wouldn't include
    these small details in the sketching stage as they don't contribute anything and would
    just be covered up.
    I'd also continue to use a very light hand for the sketching and any shading, and would
    make sure to use a light coloured pencil for any areas that would remain a pale colour
    in the colouring stage- and this is to avoid my sketch lines showing through, or potentially
    mixing into the pale colours and muddying them up.
    I adjust the bottom sketch of the sparrow by using some different colours to help indicate
    the pattern on the bird's wings.
    I find that blocking in the colours like this can help make a complex sketch or pattern
    more easily readable, so this is definitely something you'll see me do in a lot of my
    foundation sketches for my coloured pencil pieces.
    And here is the final result!
    If you use my tutorials to create something, I'd love to see what you create- be sure
    to tag me on my social media and use the #claudiassketchers hashtag- or you can join the Claudia's Sketchers
    discord chat to share your work and chat with fellow drawing enthusiasts!
    You can find the link in the description box down below, along with everything else.
    If you found the tutorial useful don't forget to leave it a like, and I'd love to hear
    your comments too.
    Thank you very much for watching, hope you have a lovely week and I'll see you in the
    next video!
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