Drawing and Painting Sierran Birds

General Description:

How can you draw birds that move or even fly away? With a combination of understanding bird structure, knowing where to look when you see the bird, and a simple shorthand to get down the basics, anyone can quickly create accurate bird sketches in the field. John Muir Laws is writing a new book about drawing birds. Come learn the secrets first hand in the grand classroom of the Sierra Nevada.

With a combination of indoor illustrated lessons and fieldwork, learn the basics of bird anatomy and how clumps of feathers ruffle, pile and unfold. Learn the basic shapes and methods for capturing the form and movement of songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and raptors. We will look closely at birds in flight and foreshortening wings. and tricks to quickly draw birds in the field and avoid anatomical pitfalls that creep into many bird drawings. Understand which critical details to check when you see a bird and master the one minute gesture sketch. Learn techniques for detailed drawings of heads, wings, and feet even after the bird has flown. We will explore techniques with pencil, colored pencil and watercolor for fast field work and studio drawing.

This class is open to all experience levels.

Class Schedule

Plan to arrive at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus on Sunday. We will get acquainted that evening, but the class will begin at 7:30 AM on Monday. The week's activities will be flexible to take advantage of some of the best viewing opportunities but in general each day will be spent in the field, with time to relax at lunch, and returning to the field campus by dinner. Throughout the week we will learn tricks and techniques to help sketch birds, flowers and more both in the field and in evening workshops. Walks will be generally short but could range up to 3 miles over moderately rough terrain. The class will end in the afternoon on Friday.

Supplies and Other Useful Items

Drawing Equipment

To see a list of equipment go to Jack's web site by clicking suggested equipment.

Field gear

Camping gear


Days are warm, even hot, while evenings are quite cold (close to freezing). Clothing that can be layered for variable weather conditions is best. T-shirts and shorts are often perfect during the day, with a wind jacket or raincoat as backup. Long pants, warmer shirts and sweaters with a coat are necessary in the evening. Comfortable shoes, sun hat, wool hat and gloves are important. Old sneakers or rubber boots and a swimsuit may come in handy while visiting marshes. Miscellaneous: Day pack, sunscreen, insect repellent, raingear, alarm clock, water bottles, hat etc.