Introduction to Field Sketching: Rye Harbour

A beautiful Solstice evening for my first workshop at Rye Harbour’s Discovery Centre, organised by Sussex Wildlife Trust. I arrived as the staff at Lime Kiln Cafe were clearing up after another busy day, and set to work arranging the tables for the six attendees.

Katie kindly provided tea, coffee and cake for us all, and we made our introduction before settling in. We started by discussing the benefits of drawing over simply watching or indeed smartphone snapping, and went over how to tackle basic birds shapes. A lot of the technique with field sketching – or indeed any drawing – is developing some muscle memory so that the movement of hand an pencil becomes an extension of your eyes. Bearing in mind the location, I focussed on a duck, a heron, a wader and a passerine. Drawing ovals and triangles in the right sort of proportion and placement is the best way to start, always remembering that in fact we are drawing spheres and cones as the birds have three dimensions; this is something that only ever using photos for reference can cause us to forget. Apologies for the poor photographs; I was using a 2H pencil!

We looked at leg placement, acknowledging the thigh and knee are concealed by feathers so in fact we only really ever see the ankle, fused foot bones and toes of a bird. Beaks and the slope of the forehead are also diagnostic.

A Little Egret helpfully stood fishing in the pool in front of the Discovery Centre, and a Grey Heron was spotted further in the distance. Black-headed Gulls and a Mallard drake also made an appearance, although the group of Starlings flitting about the saltmarsh were a bit of a challenge. Having the birds on hand gave a great opportunity to practise some new-found skills in their sketchbooks.


  1. I love your blog! Thank you for sharing. My name is Curry and I’m based out of the USA but wish often I was out there and could come to some of your field sketching classes.




    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, thank you so much! I am hoping to share some online resources soon so maybe you could join in with those 🙂


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