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Capturing those fast moving Garden Birds

I can happily spend hours watching the comings and goings of the small birds visiting the garden whilst trying to draw and capture their behaviour and interactions in paint. Working from the same spot means you get to know the routines of the birds that visit your garden. You will also begin to study how the light moves over your garden and when the best times are for getting the light you're after. Top tip: Keep a feeder well stocked!

This A4 oil sketch is on primed cartridge paper. I found working on a smooth paper allows for a range of marks from smooth blends to more impasto strokes, I really enjoy working on this kind of surface.

This is an A4 oil sketch of the garden Robin on a branch it frequently returned to where it would sing. Here I'm working on a thicker multi media paper which has some texture and tooth to it. This is great for making impressionist marks that abstract all the distracting background detail.

Female House Sparrow in the Winter's golden late afternoon light. This light effect was brief, I had to work as fast as I could to get these colour notes down and to get my Sparrow down before it flew off to join the other Sparrows to settle down to roost.

If painting birds from life is new to you I would recommend beginning with large sheets of paper and making multiple studies on a sheet. The key is to start simple.

Keep your focus on observation rather than trying to create the perfect picture too early on. With practice you will enjoy looking at the marks you get down to see what you have caught. With every drawing/ painting you build up your knowledge and understanding of your subject. Your short term memory for visual information will gradually improve too with practice.

There are lots of exercises you can play with to help you begin, all with the sole aim of simplifying what you are seeing and placing an emphasis on looking and looking again! Enjoy the process of experimenting and finding what works for you. Start with the big shapes and postures then study details and gradually it will all come together.

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