A Birdy Book Review: “How to Draw and Paint Birds” by Maury Aaseng

Aaseng birds book3.5/5 stars.  At only 32 pages, this was a fast read, but a worthwhile one.  I read the whole thing last night, and I’m glad I did.  I did pick up a few tips I can use when drawing the species he includes, and a few techniques that will help me along with other birds as well.

For the most part, though, this is a study of six birds:  the Barred Owl, Great Blue Heron, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Gray Parrot, Pileated Woodpecker, and the Black-capped Chickadee.  The author gives very detailed, step-by-step instructions of how to draw each bird in graphite, including which pencils he uses for each step.  It makes for pretty boring reading, actually, but if you’re using this book to complete a drawing of a chickadee, for example, then you might find it helpful as a start.

For me, the most useful part of this book is the section on drawing specific bird features, such as the beak, foot, flight feathers, etc.:  information you can take to any bird species.  I’m not really looking for a paint-by-number approach to a specific bird, as detailed here, but rather a general approach that will give me the confidence to tackle any bird I might come across.

I am finding this book much more useful in that endeavor:

Laws Guide to BirdsI’ve not read it from cover-to-cover, so I won’t post a review just yet, but browsing the first few pages, I found tons of information that will help you understand bird anatomy, to rough-in basic shapes, explains the importance of understanding the angle of the head, spine and tail, etc.  This is good stuff, and I believe it’ll help you produce a more accurate drawing.  I highly recommend it.   This book actually helped me to create some nice cardinal Christmas cards this year, because without a good underdrawing, you can’t expect a great (or even good) painting.  I followed this book’s step-by-step suggestions for drawing the cardinal, and now I’m able to feel more confident drawing almost any bird.

I hope I’ve inspired some of you to try drawing and painting birds.  If anyone can suggest any good books that helped them, I’d be thrilled to hear about them, also.

8 thoughts on “A Birdy Book Review: “How to Draw and Paint Birds” by Maury Aaseng

  1. I’ve got the Laws Guide, and it’s fantastic! Thanks for the great review on the other book. It’s good to know there are more options out there.


  2. I agree that the Law book is great as a general book to get you to think about the structure of a bird when drawing, esp if you live in the UK and don’t get that birds illustrated in there. The RSPB one from the UK by Busby is good for different styles of drawing and looking it what it is you wish to capture about each bird. Get yourself along to a local uni or museum to study the skeleton of a bird – it really helps with thinking about how to make your birds convincing. good luck! It’s like life drawing of birds 🙂


  3. Birds are amazing subjects! I do a lot of quick sketches of live birds, and nothing has helped me more. Out the window, in the park, swooping into the cornfields or river. Its a great way to get a feel for movement and shadows. This book looks fantastic for detailing. Im so enjoying your daily work. You are so creative and great with your sketches. Looking forward to the rest of the alphabet 🙂


    1. Thanks so much, Alisa. That means a lot. *sucks up encouragement into my sponge* lol. I’ve never tried sketching birds from life. I’d love to be able to do it, but they move so fast! We have a windowsill feeder, and I consider myself lucky if I can snap a photo. But I think that’s a great suggestion. It’d get me drawing faster, which I’m really gonna need to do once tax season gets cranking up here. I’m gonna try it. Thanks so much for mentioning it. I’m so glad you’re enjoying my drawings!

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