I’ve just enrolled for a Wildlife Drawing and Painting Course at Ludlow Museum. The museum has a good collection of bird specimens that are interesting to draw. Our tutor Angela Gladwell MArt (RCA) is pushing us in the direction of careful observation and accurate recording. Good basic principles once instilled into art students in the life class. Drawing museum specimens is a good discipline. It’s more like drawing from the antique casts that were once used to prepare students for the life class than drawing a living breathing model.
That said it is a worth while form of study and a lot easier than drawing birds in the wild. I’ve tried drawing garden birds and visitors to our bird table and also puffins at their nesting burrows on Skomer. This is essential study if you want to capture a sense of how birds move, perch, or feed but there is no substitute for having a mounted specimen to study anatomy and plumage. I’ve only ever managed to record such details in a very superficial way in the brief time you get to observe from life.
Having tried sketching birds from life I never cease to be amazed by Charles Tunnicliffe’s sketchbooks. The published sketchbooks are a good source of reference and I’ve learned a lot about drawing techniques from making copies from them. Another artist I greatly admire is Victor Ambrus who makes drawings to reconstruct the buildings excavated by Channel 4’s Time Team.
Victor is also a prolific book illustrator and he has published ‘Drawing Animals’ a book which describes his method of sketchng animals from life. All of his drawings were done at various locations using carbon pencils. I’ve found it instructive to make copies from these by following his methods.
These quick studies copy the style of each of these two fine artists – a brush drawing based on an illustration from Tunnicliffe’s ‘Peregrine Sketchbook’ and a Macaw from ‘Drawing Animals’ by Victor Ambrus.
Angela Gladwell’s web site is also worth a visit at