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Drawing Southern Africa's Birds

Posted by Matthew Bell on
Drawing Southern Africa's Birds

In light of the recent (ish) release of my 'Collection Of South African Birds' poster I thought it would be fitting to focus this months blog on an aspect of my art that I really love, drawing Southern Africa's fascinating birds

I have always been a keen birder, and coming from the Lowveld (the bush), I was always nearby to some birding 'hotspot' and of course the Kruger National Park and surrounding game reserves which offers some of the best birding in the whole of Africa. My bird drawings are most often in square format, unlike the animals which generally are in landscape format and a random fact that I have discovered over the years is that buyers generally seem to like art in a square format. When I create my prints this also allows me to make them all in the same size so that they can be bought in sets

I am on a long term mission to draw as many different species as I can (there are over a thousand species in Southern Africa so I'll be skipping a few of the not so beautiful birds). Up to this point I have completed drawings of about 53 different birds, the latest being a White Starred Robin, so there is still a long way to go! Living in Cape Town, I should probably be thinking about drawing a pelagic (sea bird) or two... but I can't quite get excited about drawing a sea bird just yet! A penguin is on the list though, as this is something I often get asked for by tourists buying my prints (most likely because they have visited the famous Boulders Beach and seen the African Penguins there)

Birds do, however take slightly less time to draw than animals, mainly due to the fact that feathers are quicker to draw than fur or skin with an average bird drawing taking around 8 to 12 hours to complete. As with any drawing the most important part to get right is the eye, which is why I always start with it. The eye of the animal or bird is what gives the drawing life and draws the viewer in, so my main aim for any drawing is to make sure that is perfect!

Another reason why birds as a subject are a favorite of mine is the range of different colours that I can use, unlike with larger animals where one uses almost only a range of browns, yellows, blacks and greys. The bright lilacs and blues of a Lilac Breasted Roller, the fluorescent green of a Malachite Sunbird, the deep purple of a Purple Crested Turaco all make drawing Southern Africa's beautiful birds a lot of fun! It also allows me to study closely the bird that I am drawing, as and when I add in every little fragment of detail. 

With regard to the original bird drawings that are currently available, they are all listed in the originals section of the website

Look out in the near future for my new drawings of a secretary bird and the unique Hammerkop!

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