For a very long time, I struggled to get accurate proportions in my drawings of birds. Despite my efforts to improve as a bird artist, I seemed to get nowhere! Then I stumbled on The Artist’s Compete Guide to Figure Drawing by Anthony Rider.

While not directly related to drawing birds, I found Rider’s approach to drawing the figure, a method called the block-in, to be incredibly helpful.

“You will see that the shapes you are drawing are consequential, and that you must occupy yourself with their widths and heights, their degrees of overlap, and their many other qualities and relationships.” —Anthony Rider

In this post, I’ll give you a brief look into how I use the block-in to draw a bird, in this case, a Varied Thrush.

First, I begin with the placement of the bill. I spend a lot of time carefully measuring the proportions and angles of the bill and I lightly block those angles in, without concerning myself with the curvature.

I then carefully measure the location of the eye relative to the bill and block-in its shape.

Using the placement of the eye as a guide, I block-in the remainder of the head and neck. From there, I use sight lines from the landmarks of the head to block-in the remainder of the body, the feet, and legs.

Once the block-in is complete, I lightly erase the lines and go back over the entire drawing, adding in the curves (what Rider refers to as the “contour”) and sketching the major field marks. Now the drawing is ready for shading or to move on to paint!

Related: My Favorite Art Supplies for Drawing Birds

[Varied Thrush Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

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