Win a Copy of ‘The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds’
A new book offers a novel array of tips that are easy and rewarding to follow.
UPDATE: The contest is now closed.
We're giving away 10 copies of The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, by John Muir Laws. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below, and be sure to include a viable email address (it won't show up on the page). The official rules are below. The contest ends at midnight, Friday, August 30, 2013. In the meantime, here's the foreword from the book, written by the immensely talented David Sibley. Good luck!
I have been drawing birds for most of my life. I started almost as soon as I could hold a pencil, around five years old, and I kept at it. Birds have always been my favorite subject and have provided me with a lifetime of challenging and stimulating work.
My father is an ornithologist, so there was no shortage of technical information about birds in our house. Finding instruction on drawing birds was more of a challenge. I watched birds constantly, I studied museum specimens and worked in bird-banding stations where I could hold the birds in my hand, and I sketched them whenever I could. I studied the work of other artists. I took lessons and read books about drawing in general, and I had a short picture book written and illustrated by Lynn Bogue Hunt called How to Draw and Paint Birds (published by Walter Foster). That book was big on demonstrations--showing Ms. Hunt's nicely styled sketches--but short on instruction. It didn't offer much more than the self-evident "Try to draw something that looks like this."
People often ask me if my passion for drawing came first or my interest in watching birds. I have always done both. For me the two are intertwined and mutually supportive in ways that I can't even begin to describe. Since drawing is one of the things I do, whenever I watch birds I am thinking about details of drawing them. I notice the line of the back, the way the bill opens, the interaction of colors and form.
Conversely, when I am drawing I look more closely and ask and answer questions that I would not have considered if I was just watching. In that sense, drawing becomes a way to interact with the birds, and drawing leads to understanding. The simple act of trying to draw something can change the way you look at the world. And that brings me to the underlying message of this book, and one of my favorite things about it: Drawing birds is about so much more than just drawing birds.
Drawing is often misunderstood. Non-artists tend to focus on the end result, and think that the primary purpose of drawing is to produce pretty pictures. For one thing, as this book points out, that's a stress-inducing way to think about the practice of drawing, since by that measure most of your drawings will be failures. More importantly, it misses the deeper and longer-lasting rewards of drawing--the knowledge and understanding that come from the process.
This book is superficially about drawing and painting birds, but it's really a guide to a more thoughtful and inquisitive study of birds, with drawing as the method. As John Muir Laws says in the introduction, "Every drawing is practice for the next one...make it your goal to learn to observe more closely and to remember what you have seen. With these goals, every drawing will be a success."