February 06, 2012

258: "I Want To Draw A Bird."

Coccothraustes vespertinus
So, when I really want to draw something – and know at the end of it all I want to be happy, I draw a bird. Anyone who's visited here in the past eight years knows this by now. Writers are told to write what they know; illustrators, I'm not sure if they live by this creed or not. Lots do, I'm sure – really good ones don't have to care. I do. I started this site all those years ago to venture forth and see if I had a style. Or could develop a style. And as I drew and drew and struggled and tried different things, I came to the realization it was this, this technique all wrapped up and on display in single drawing of an evening grosbeak. My style has found me, rather than the other way around.

Not to say this drawing is any sort of revelation. It's not. I knew I hadn't genuinely drawn something for quite awhile (as is often the case). When this happens, and I want to make sure I still 'have it', or a semblance of 'it', I draw a bird. It comes to me often like a craving (or a nagging): I want a brownie. I want to get out of the city. I want to draw a bird.

And I get to work drawing the bird. I pencil-sketch it, so lightly you'd think I was confident enough to go straight to pen and ink. I draw a basic framework with a thin-nibbed pen. Go over the more integral lines with a thicker pen, and again with a chisel-tip pen. A patchwork of short strokes in small fan shapes, over and over, and over again, for feathers and texture. Finally, a go-around with a brush pen, to rid the thing a bit of its careful, calculated feel and add some spontaneity. Big, brush-penned needles to cover for my disinterest in adding feet (yes, even with this amount of detail there is laziness peeking through). Then, I scan and I colour.

I've also noticed over time that many of the birds I particularly enjoy – and enjoy drawing – share similar characteristics, textures and tonal ranges. That might be the designer in me talking, but I made this Kuler-style chart anyways, and realized it was the case.

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