A few last minute gift ideas for you or the lucky bird artists in your life:
The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, by John Muir Laws, Heyday Press, covers so much ground so comprehensively that the next time I teach a bird drawing course, this will surely be the textbook. Proportions, angles, anatomy and birds in motion (there’s a cute orange-and-toothpick visualizing exercise you can do at home) are explained with abundant, beautiful illustrations. Laws is a great instructor and motivator, and this is my new go-to book when I’m stumped on eye-shape of a foreshortened flycatcher or the secret tricks of wing-drawing. Highly recommended.
Capturing the Essence, by William T. Cooper, Yale University Press. Cooper is the king of parrot painting, and if you haven’t seen his Parrots of the World or more recent Australian Parrots, those would make splendid gifts, too. Capturing the Essence goes into anatomy and field sketching, and Cooper describes design process through thumbnail sketch compositions and good step-by-step painting demos of birds in watercolor, acrylic, and oils. Huge plus: we get loads of gorgeous sketches and paintings of Old World/Down Under species: bowerbirds, hornbills and birds-of-paradise. Admire and study this wondrous book.
Drawing and Painting Birds by Tim Wootton, The Crowood Press. A terrific blend of practical instruction and inspirational work by Wootton and other fine bird artists (disclaimer: I’m on pages 15, 24, 73, 83, and 121). Lots and lots of field sketches to ogle at; cool skeleton drawings reveal the internal scaffolds of various avian body types. There’s a super-helpful articulated gull model to copy, cut-out, assemble and draw from (and freak out the cat with). Demos and discussions of field sketching techniques, how to add color in the field and compose a painting, plus a slew of exercises to warm up your hand and eye prior to sketching real live birds. Awesome book.
Other than peering at a quetzal through new binoculars while wearing hand-tooled cowboy boots, I can’t think of a nicer way to spend the holidays than curling up with one of these volumes, unless you throw in a mug of cocoa and plate of cookies, which I will gladly catch.