Drawing Birds: an RSPB guide. FIRST EDITION
This review by British Birds magazine was written by Ian Lewingon
John Busby is known as being a master of line and movement in bird art. Who better to produce this book explaining his thoughts and techniques of drawing birds. His ability to express himself and to describe exactly how to achieve a living bird in pencil is extremely clear and succinct and shows the expertise gained from his 30 years of teaching art.
The book is divided into six chapters. The first, introductory chapter deals with how artists have portrayed birds in the past, the feelings and concepts that have developed, and various styles.
The second chapter copes with the difficulties of drawing live birds, explaining simplified means of recording movement and compositions quickly with a visual shorthand. In the third chapter, Busby explains how an understanding of basic bird anatomy aids a quick drawing response, and he shows the use of drawing from easily observed domestic and captive birds. The fourth chapter deals with sketching in the field and how to select the important features of posture and movement to create the ‘jizz’ of the subject. The fifth chapter tries to conquer the difficulties of drawing birds in flight. This he does by describing the aerodynamics of a flying bird and the way changing conditions affect its attitude. The final chapter expands into thoughts of backgrounds, with the use of colour and the composition of a picture.
Throughout the book, John Busby’s lively drawings convert his words into living lessons. From simple lines and dots showing the quick drawing reaction to a moving subject, he moves on to display the solid form of a bird by using the contour-revealing lines of feather masses. His flowing style is a delight to see, all his birds being full-bodied, alive, moving individuals. To help convey his ideas. Busby has included sketches, paintings and illustrations from 29 other ‘live bird’ artists, past and present, some familiar and others a little less well known. Field sketches by Killian Mullarney, watercolour studies by Lars Jonsson, Eric Ennion and Peter Partington, and ‘finished’ paintings by Bruno Liljefors and Keith Brockie, to name but a few, make this book not only a handsome collection of bird artwork, but also aid its main aim of showing the reader fresh ways of interpreting birds through art.
John Busby’s enthusiasm will help kindle and encourage the development of any budding bird artist, and it will certainly inspire many established artists too. Read this excellent book and see how you do in the next British Birds’ Bird Illustrator of the Year competition!
British Birds 1986