In one of my books about field sketching, it suggests drawing from webcams so as to get practise from drawing ‘live’ but without the pressure…as well as the ability to pause the video for a better study. It may seem the same as drawing from a photo but images tend to be too good, as rarely does one get a clear view or a perfect pose. Acquiring some muscle memory regarding proportions and – in my case – working out where on earth the feet should go in order to make the sketch look balanced is all far easier when the bird is not moving. Becoming acquainted with the general shape and how a bird’s body changes with its position is also something really important. As such, using paused video footage, or photos is fine in order to get practise so that there are fewer distractions when you’re actually faced with a real moving bird in front of you.

We have just had Autumnwatch here in the UK, so I decided to pop the Mindful Moments clips up on my laptop, and pause the passerines. There is lots of wader video but I am focussing on one group at a time so that I can hone my skills.

I am using a 2H pencil for the most part, with the darker from my Blackwing Pearl, which I think is probably about a B. I did indulge in a little coloured pencil Chaffinch but I am trying not to get bogged down in doing a nice sketch, instead focussing on proportions and movement.

Here are my sketches:

I am really pleased with how they have turned out! I take my pocket notebook when I go for walks but I can’t always do much drawing, so I think I will definitely continue with this for the time being and see how my drawings improve when I am out in the field.

I have also just painted a Long-eared Owl for BotSouthDowns. I wasn’t sure whether to draw one at rest (where they are more likely to have their ear tufts up) or in flight. I don’t really like props by way of branches etc but they are sometimes necessary: these owls keep their diagnostic long ‘ears’ tucked away in flight so I was rather obliged to provide him with a log to perch on. I am never sure how to interpret the markings on speckled or mottled birds as the whole point of my illustrations is the kind of clean line, colour block look but anyway, here he is.

Birds of Winchelsea for my friend Paul’s new wildlife group has just gone to the printers, along with my little life drawing book I have produced with my friend and co-host Ann of Soho Life Drawing. I am looking forward to seeing them!

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