[Deja Perkins] Hello, everyone. Happy Black Birders Week and Happy National Creativity Day. My name is Deja Perkins and I will be your moderator for today’s Avian Art Hour. So welcome. Today we are so lucky to be learning from 2023 Black Birders Week co-organizer and Buffalo, New York teaching artist, Emma Brittain-Hardy. Welcome, Emma.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Thank you. I’m super excited.

[Deja Perkins] Awesome. And we are super excited to be learning from you today. So I’m curious. What bird are we going to be learning how to draw today?

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Of course, we’re going to focus on the theme bird, the Red-winged Blackbird.

[Deja Perkins] Awesome. Yeah, I’m super excited. I think these are such a pretty bird. It’s one of the common birds that we saw on one of my bird walks earlier this year, and this week for Black Birders Week. And we were talking about how cool the fancy red shoulder pads were. So really excited to learn any tips and tricks you have for us about birding and learning how to draw, I guess, on the fly.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Oh yeah, definitely. It’s definitely tricky. We’re just going to focus mainly on having fun. Drying out in the field takes lots and lots of practice. So if everyone is just a beginner, we’re going to start that journey. If you’re further along on the journey we’re just going to practice a little bit. But the main focus is going to be having fun.

[Deja Perkins] Awesome, well I’m super excited to learn from you today. My utensil of choice is a pen. I think this is something that I always have on me. It’s not really something that I think about as an artist, a drawing tool. But I think, because, it’s accessible this is what I’m going to use today. And I’m really excited. So whenever you’re ready to get started.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Awesome. So I’ll switch my camera. I have a camera set on my drawing materials here.

So I scribbled out this Crow a little bit earlier when I had some time. I’m working backwards. I just want to preface this by saying, I’m an artist who really likes color. I like color more than I like accuracy, so I’m not a scientific illustrator. I love to draw and I love colored pencils, and I will just throw in wild colors. So that’s what brings me joy, and I just want everyone to work with whatever brings them joy.

My second note is, I did some practice sketches earlier, and you can barely see them. I’m going to be drawing darker than is normally recommended, just so the video will pick it up. But it’s best practice to draw as light as you can, so that way if you make a mistake it’s really easy to fix.

I have people who draw and they’re like, Oh, I know what a bird looks like. And then they get really mad when they don’t like what they drew, and then they can’t really do anything with it. So I would just recommend draw as loose and sketchy as you can.

I would suggest everyone– I’ll switch my video back for a second. So you want to loosen up when you go to draw, and like flap your elbows, it seems really silly. All the time when I was in college in my drawing classes, my art professor would come along and shake my elbow. He’d be like, loosen up, you need to be able to move, you need to be able to flow. You need to not take it so seriously that you’re not going to let yourself enjoy it and have fun.

I think the first step to being good at anything is enjoying it. There’s a trend in audio on Instagram that’s like, the first step to being good at something is being really bad at it, that’s also true. But I think you have to enjoy it to want to keep doing it. And so if you’re making yourself not enjoy it from the start, you’re not going to continue, and you’re not going to get any better.

[Deja Perkins] OK. Those are some awesome tips. So I heard a couple of tips there at first. So number one, be loose, stay loose. And I think this is a really great, not metaphor, but it’s really great for, I guess, the rest of what birding does for me and my mental health. It is a way for me to relax, and let go, and de-stress, and hopefully drop my shoulders from where they’re constantly up here.

So it’s a good reminder to know that maybe before we start our drawing sessions when we’re outside and picking on a particular bird, maybe we do a couple of shoulder releases, and–

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Definitely.

[Deja Perkins] Doing these exercises. So that’s awesome. So be loose, number two, have fun, and don’t draw too heavy.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, don’t be hard and heavy on it.

[Deja Perkins] OK.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] My next step is going to be, forget that you’ve seen birds before. Eventually it will help that you know things, and Cornell has some great classes on bird anatomy, and those can be really helpful. But when you’re first starting out, I feel like you need to forget that you’ve seen a bird before, forget that your brain thinks it knows what it looks like. Let’s switch my camera again.

So our brains like to categorize things. And our brains do so much that they have to be lazy. And so they tell us apples are red, bananas are yellow, and you stop looking to see more details in it. So we need to kind of Unchain our brain from that when we go to draw. And we might think birds are shaped this way, beaks look like this. But depending on the angle, the bird is holding itself, and that can really change.

And so we need to be open to seeing that, rather than just categorizing, like, well this is a bird shape and that’s what I’m going to draw. I want everyone to try to draw what they see, rather than what their brains have told them. And it’s really a good practice to, in connection with Black Birders Week, brains being category driven, wanting to do that sort of thing, that’s what drives stereotypes.

And so that’s why having representation, like Black Birders Week is so important, because the more you actually see things the way they are, the more you can drive out the stereotypes from your brain and get yourself really acclimated to what’s really happening. black people really are outside birding. They enjoy this too just as much as anyone else. And yeah.

[Deja Perkins] I love that. I think one of the reasons why I struggle so much with drawing, is because I have that whole perfectionism idea in my head that. Oh it has to be perfect, or I know what this bird looks like. So all the angles have to be right. It always comes out horribly. So thank you for that reminder to be open-minded.

We do have one question already in the chat. And it’s a really good question for us to hop into our drawing session, and that is, “What is the proper way to hold a drawing instrument?”

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Oh, OK. Yeah, I’m actually not the one to ask this. I’m very casual with everything. I’m going to be drawing with a pencil. I’m going to hold it you know how I’ve always held my writing utensils, except for sometimes I’m going to switch it, and I’m going to– Actually I’m going to switch my camera so I can demo this.

So sometimes I might hold it more like a wand or something. And I’m just going to use it to fill in space. And sometimes I’m going to hold it more like a drawing, like how I would hold a writing pencil. And I’m going to use it to play around with my lines. So I really switch between– So sometimes I want to get the side of the lead, and sometimes I want to get the point.

[Deja Perkins] Mmm. So thank you. OK, yeah, there we go. I was going to ask you to show us that first position, holding position, one more time.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah.

[Deja Perkins] Awesome, OK. It’s very loose.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, everything we’re going to do today is going to be very loose. Yeah there’s definitely more research, or scholarly drawing chips where they would be more specific with how to hold a pencil. But those are my two go-tos, whether you’re focusing on drawing with the point of the pencil, or drawing with the side.

[Deja Perkins] Awesome. Thank you for those tips. So what is the first step? So we’re outside and we see a bird we see our Red-winged Blackbird, what do we do?

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] OK, yeah. So we’re going to actually practice with some pictures. So first we’re going to practice with pictures, because they’re not going to move. But yeah, when you’re outside, things are going to move.

We’re going to start with gesture drawing, which is really scribbling loose. You’re just trying to get the general shape and feel. My cat is trying to jump up. I just keep having to block him. So if you see me like– I got to play defense here.

So we’re just going to focus on the general shape, we’re just going to scribble. I like to use colored pencils, because what I do is I start adjust your drawing, and I’ll demo it. I’ll start in one color. And if I can continue that drawing, like the bird hasn’t moved, and I can add more detail, or if there’s something I need to correct, I’ve switched to another color. So my lines I can clarify what’s real and what’s a super scribbling.

So let me switch again.

Here I have a few gesture drawings that I was working on earlier, so I’ll just go off with one of these, because we’re all going to look at a picture together and I’ll draw then. I personally prefer to draw with my drawing board up and down, or on an easel. I’m going to draw on the table for now so you can see.

But out in the field I really recommend that, because then you don’t have to really change your head position that much. If the bird is in front of you and your paper is straight up and down in front of you, you don’t have to keep moving your head all around and like disorienting yourself. You can just keep your viewing angle from one point.

So these are some of my gesture drawings from earlier, I was looking at a wood thrush. And so I didn’t get the details of the dots or the speckles [INAUDIBLE] along its chest very much, but I did start to add how they form an arc. I tried to get that. But yeah, you can see I Probably Drew for 10 seconds. I’m going to just highlight the lines so that they show up darker.

It was really scribbly. Sometimes I didn’t even pick up my pencil while I was drawing. I’m just trying to get the basic details before that bird flies away. So it’s not going to look like a finished drawing, it’s just going to look like some scribbles.

And some of them can be really quite beautiful after you take some time and you look at it. I did this one earlier, that’s just part of the bird’s head. And there’s just something about that I really like, even though it’s just scribbling.

I’ll be nice and we’ll start with a 30-second, looking at the picture. And I just want everyone to just scribble and just play around with trying to figure out, OK, what does this look like, where are the wings, where’s the head. It can look really squiggly like that. And that you’re perfectly on track if your piece looks less like a bird and more like a five-year-old drew it, that’s what I want you to be.

So I’m going to share my screen. Everyone gets their drawing materials ready. You’re going to be looking at the image of the bird, rather than watching me draw it, because I want you to draw the bird. So I have a Red-winged Blackbird.

And this image is from the Cornell Macaulay Library, which is a really great resource. But yes, I would just take a second. You can look at it first, and then we’ll start to draw. I just wanted to give everyone a second to get ready. If you’re already drawing that’s also fine. But yeah, we just want to do really scribbly, where’s the head, what’s the general feel.

[Deja Perkins] So Emma I have a question. So you are starting your drawings with these scribbling emotions, and you’re using colored pencils. So I know there are no erasers. So how do you turn your product from a scribble into a more defined when you don’t have the ability to erase?

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, so normally I actually don’t turn these drawings into finished products. Some of them I do really like, and I’ll keep them around, hang them up in my studio. But mainly they’re just to practice drawing, and to see everything.

My art professor told us once, when I was in college. He’s like, you guys act as though everything is your final. And he like, whereas it’s like, when you write, you have a rough draft, and you practice. You write out lists of what you’re trying to say, and you’re writing. You write your first draft, you edit, you edit, you edit. And then what you publish is something totally different than what you had started with.

I’m going to stop screen sharing for a second. So I think just having that practice in art is really valuable. What’s going on.

I’m struggling. Oh, there we go. There we go. I was really struggling to stop sharing there. But yeah, so this is what I drew. So it just gives you the general idea. He was sitting on some sort of post, he had his wings out, his tail flared, his beak open.

[Deja Perkins] OK, I’m not quite there, but we can hold on. I’m not quite there, but very similar I think I got the general body shape right, so I’m not mad. Yeah.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, if you draw lightly you could turn this into a final sketch. Even though this is all red, especially with a Blackbird, I could go back over with colored pencils and really refine this, if I love it. But I frequently do just like to let these images be what they are.

In my sketchbook I like to see when it’s a moving image. You capture some more of that movement. You can do whatever extra lines around to show the wings were flapping, and the head was moving a few times. You can see I re-drew of it, and things like that.

So let’s try another one. I’ll try to keep track of the time a little bit better, hopefully, so we can get a little bit more regimented.

[Deja Perkins] Yeah, I think I can help you keep track of time. We’re at 12:18 right now. And as you prepare us for the next section, I will ask one of the questions from the chat.

Someone says, “What do you do if the bird does not fit on one paper? Do you start all over, or do you continue drawing on what you already have?” When you are in the field and then you say you typically have an easel. But personally, I might have a little journal or something that I jot down my bird sightings, or anything else and just trying to capture that bird that I haven’t seen before.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, it’s tricky when you have a small journal and, you’re trying to work, then you have to shrink your work. And that’s like another translation for your brain to go through. What detail can you fit in a smaller drawing.

I honestly like to try to avoid that as much as I can, and work on really big pieces of paper. But when I am out sketching, frequently if I end up needing more paper, I’ll just have two pieces that I overlap. And I’ll just sketch across multiple pieces of paper, because for me it’s just practice, and I don’t necessarily need to keep the final drawing.

Usually, if I like it, I take a picture of it, and then I go on from there. But I think it’s easier to draw on bigger paper, if people can carry bigger paper out with them. That’s good, but the best approach is always to do what you’re actually going to follow through with.

So if the idea of lugging around large paper really makes you mad, and you’re like, no, I don’t want to have to walk around with a huge pad of paper, use a small sketchbook, use what you’re actually going to use. And just keep working on it, the more you practice, the more you’re going to get better at whatever you’re doing. So if it’s doing the smaller-scale drawings, just keep practicing. If you have to shrink down the size that you’re drawing at, you’ll get used to it the more you practice it.

[Deja Perkins] OK, thank you for that tip. What I’m learning in this session is that a lot of us can take a lot of life lessons, daily lessons from artists is, be loose, have an open mind, go with the flow. So, yes, it’s like you all don’t have a lot of rules when it comes to freeform drawing.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, well really drawing is another way to help you see things. So I’m thinking, and especially for this audience people who are just into birds. And maybe they never want to have a drawing hang in a gallery, but they just want to be more observant. This is a great method for that. You can take an image with a camera, and it’s really quick. The shutter speed is like ch-ch.

And then I think a lot of us, we just have all those camera images. And you’re like, eventually I’ll sort through these drawings a lot slower. So you’re not getting an immediate image, but you’re taking the time to look, observe, try to sketch, resketch.

And I just find I memorize things so much better if I’ve drawn them. I understand it, I notice details that I haven’t noticed before. So that’s why I would encourage it, for enjoyment and also for the observational benefit.

I see there’s a question of how do you know where to place the eyes? So let me share my screen with this next image. Actually this one doesn’t have– Oh yeah, the eye is there. So for me, every time I’m looking at a bird, or anything that I’m trying to draw, I try to find other markers that I can compare to.

So you might see artists holding up pencils, and squinting at things. I think that’s a cliche in movies. You’ll see the artists standing back with their pencil up, squinting. What they’re doing is they’re measuring. I can go back to my screen real quick too.

So this is a way of measuring. If you hold up your pencil you can keep your finger at one point and measure it. Be like, maybe I can demo on myself.

So I have my pencil at the point of my glasses, and I’m measuring how long from the point of my glasses it fits my chin, and then I can compare that, Oh, is that the same length that is my shoulder. So then I can have a reference point. And some people even draw the arc line to that to figure out where am I placing this?

And it’s just constant measuring it, because it’s going to depend too where the head is positioned. Sometimes that measurement point is going to change. So you want to try to find something, it’s nice to look straight down, maybe my eye, at this point, is at the corner of my mouth, and almost to the center of my shirt, a little off center.

And measuring like this way and this way, and just trying to figure out what can I anchor that to? What’s going to be a good reference point to figure out where that actually is sitting? Hope that makes sense.

[Deja Perkins] So you’re using your pencil to help you measure or visualize the reference point from your eye to the length of your chin? Am I OK?

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, I’m doing it as if I’m trying to draw myself, looking in the mirror here. But just because I couldn’t demo it, like while I’m looking at a bird. But yeah, like you can figure out–

[Deja Perkins] Like the angle from the eye to the beak maybe.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, let’s look at this picture.

[Deja Perkins] OK.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] So in here the eye is at an in-between point between the edge of the beak and the point of this red patch. So you could tell if your I was sitting like way back here, and it’s overlapping the red patch on the shoulder, maybe it’s not in the right place, or if it’s touching the beak, it’s not in the right place.

[Deja Perkins] Let’s see. I’m trying to measure.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] So the beak and the space on the head where the beak are, are about the same length for me. And so you can also get your head to be the right thickness that way.

[Deja Perkins] I’m just doing a quick scribble here.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] You can see there’s not very much head above the beak, I would say it’s probably about a third of the way down. And then two-thirds of the head is underneath the eye. Well, it’s estimating that way too.

And the more you do it, the more you get used to like, Oh, this feels like it’s in the right spot. But even then you still need anchor points to measure from. It’s very easy to finish a drawing and look at it and be like, there’s something wrong here. And then you have to bring it to someone else before you people see like, Oh, well the eye’s in the wrong spot.

[Deja Perkins] Yeah. OK, so I hope that everyone watching at home is now trying your quick sketch on the image, this new Red-winged Blackbird that we have on the screen here. So first, we tried a quick sketch with the wings out, and the shoulder pads, or the epaulets, puffed up. And now we have this different angle of the bird. So give your artist hand a try.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, we’ll let this one set a little bit longer, since we were talking about observation. So that you can do your quick sketch and then start to clean things up and place things where they might actually go.

[Deja Perkins] We have another relevant question in the chat here. “So noticing that the Red-winged Blackbird is mostly black with some red, and in this photo there’s a little bit of yellow on the wings. How do you address details on really dark parts of the Blackbird, or even add light to it if you’re working with a singular utensil?”

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, so I actually did start drawing with just a regular HB pencil, just one that you would use in school. And it’s basically, you’re making a gray scale at that point. And so you can vary your pressure of your pencil. I’ll make one and then I’ll switch my screen.

The harder you press, the darker it’s going to be. And you can do that with the shading. You can vary that on your drawing around his head, and his chest is not where the sun is shining, the sun setting his back.

So the area where the sun’s not shining the chest, the head, those areas are almost pitch black to our eye, so you could really shade and heavy there. And then along the other areas you want to go with a lighter touch and leave them more of a gray. Even though you know it’s a Blackbird, you think that it’s all black, there’s still shades in there. And once you add color, there’s different colors hidden in there too.

[Deja Perkins] Yes, there are so many shades of black and brown . There’s a diaspora.

OK, I’m trying to use the pencil, the sight trick, to figure out my body proportions for the bird. I think that the body versus the tail is one of the places where I’m struggling right now.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, for me it looks like the tail is about as long as the wing, up to the little point of the red there.

[Deja Perkins] OK.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] It’s a little bit shorter, I think, but it’s almost the same. And I really like how the front leg almost has a straight line down from the beak. I think I’ve made him look a little chunkier than he is in real life, but–


–I love a fat bird.

[Deja Perkins] Yeah, people always say to me, Oh, is that the same bird? It looks so chunky. And it’s like, yeah, it’s just a little fluffed up, that’s all.


[Emma Brittain-Hardy] OK, I’ll go back to mine. Look here, I didn’t even put the tail in mine. There’s the gray scale at the bottom.

So you can see where I pressed heavier, and where I went really light. You can also change your stroke, your pattern. So right here I’ve drawn in pretty much all the same direction.

But I can add interest and depth by coloring in different directions. And usually what I do, is on things that are round, I’m trying to color with the curve. And even just those lines start to make it look more round. So you can play around a lot with that.

If you have a pencil, if you have a pen, even if you have a pencil too, there’s a lot of traditional methods for making a gray scale out of patterns, out of your lines. So you can do cross-hatching. You can do stipple, which is really fun. These are more like studio practices. You could do cross-hatching out in the field, but stipple you’re probably not going to do.

So when you stipple, you’re going to draw a whole bunch of dots, and the closer the dots are together, the more darker it looks, and the more space there are, the lighter it looks. You can barely even see my light ones.

[Deja Perkins] Yeah that’s cool. I really appreciate all these tips, because even though I might not add the detail in the field when I go home, I’m probably going to add in maybe some stippling, or some cross-hatching to help add in that color.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, it can be really fun to explore. Yeah, stippling, and you spelled it right, Arde. That’s where you do a whole bunch of little dots, usually with a pen. Because with a pen you’re not going to be able to just change your pressure, or change how dark things are. So you need to use other tools like cross-hatching or stippling.

Some people even scribble instead of crosshatch, I really like that. I’m a really scribble person. The denser your scribbling, the darker it’s going to look, and the more spread out your scribble, the lighter it’s going to look. I really didn’t even press darker for you guys to be able to see what I’m doing. I love a good scribble

[Deja Perkins] Right. We have one more question in the chat asking, “So when we’re first starting, folks are asking are you working with the basic shapes, do we start with ovals, and circles, for the head, and then a long rectangle for the tail, or are we just working strictly from the outline. Is there a best practice, a better method?”

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] So you can definitely play around between the two. Basic shapes are super helpful, but people can sometimes get too hard and heavy with them. And sometimes it’s nice to just play around with the outline, both will be helpful to practice. So I would include both in your practice.

Sometimes focus on starting with the basic shape and sometimes focus on just going for it and scribbling and seeing what you get with the outline. Sometimes, in art school, we would do like all sorts of different practices, I’ll draw some on my paper here. So just to get you observing and doing different things.

Sometimes they would ask us just to draw the background around a shape. So we’d be looking at a bird, or whatever, and our job was to just color a line that represented the background to making a white outline of what we were looking at. You could also do the opposite and just scribble the basic shape. We did this too. And play around with that.

There’s all sorts of different drawing exercises, just to loosen you up and get you looking at things in a different way. But yeah, the basic shapes that’s a great go to start any drawing, because everything can be broken down into basic shapes, and that’s super helpful. But it’s also sometimes nice to try something that feels a little wonky, just to get your brain rethinking how you want to look at things.

[Deja Perkins] Yes, please keep reminding us that we need to be free-flowing, open-minded, and just go with the flow, practice those free form shapes.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, I think it might be fun to switch to a video now. So I’ll share my screen. Make sure I have the right one open.

So Cornell, they have live-stream cameras, live cams of different birds, and they have a FeederWatch. So I’m going to pull up one of those that has Red-winged Blackbirds. But I’m going to slow down the playback speed. So we have a little bit more time to watch what’s going on and we’ll sketch moving objects.

Tips here, if the bird moves out of the pose that you’re sketching, just start a new drawing. And maybe it will come back into the pose, or a similar pose, and you can add more details to your first drawing. But I would just go ahead and fill whatever amount of space you have, I’m going to get a whole new paper, do little drawings and maybe you’re going to have five drawings over 30 seconds, or some are more complete than others. It’s all fine, just go with what you can. I’m slowing down the video, so hopefully that will help, but birds move really fast. If you’re starting with field work, I would try to start with geese floating on water–


–where they’re going to hold their position most of the time.

OK. So I’ve slowed it down to 0.25 playback speed. So hopefully that gives us a good chance to warm up and to having moving images, moving birds. And I’ll speed it up in a little bit.

Yeah, go ahead and try to sketch. Even sketching when the birds tail is facing towards us, and they’re not looking at us, that can be fun to sketch the weird shapes, you’ll get there.

[Deja Perkins] This is so challenging. I don’t care about anybody else, but I feel like for me, the most challenging part is picking which bird to draw and which position to focus on.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, it’s really a lot. That’s why my emphasis is especially on just having fun, don’t take it too seriously, Drawing out in the field is really difficult, which is why Audubon and early naturalists were shooting their specimens, and taking them home to draw on them.

[Deja Perkins] Yes, that is such an important fact. People always ask, well, why is the red-bellied Woodpecker called the Red-belly Woodpecker, and there is no red. And it’s like, it doesn’t look like it’s any red because of the way that they sit on the tree. But knowing that early naturalists used to shoot the birds, and name them, identify them, et cetera. But in the hand, I’m really glad that we have found alternative methods, such as drawing to appreciate birds.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] And sometimes if you can’t get a whole bird, you’re having a hard time spending, or drawing quick enough to cover the whole,


I’m watching this Blue Jay, cover the whole bird. you could focus in on, like today I want to draw the bird’s face, or I want to draw wing positions, and just do that. Oh this is fun.


[Deja Perkins] And what speed did you slow the camera down, for anyone who might be interested in doing this at home?

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, I put it on a quarter playback speed, so a 0.25.

[Deja Perkins] All right. I see a couple requests for tips for drawing a bird that may be looking face point at you. I see that little bird in the center there is face [INAUDIBLE].

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah. Let’s see if we can get them paused on a good frame. OK, so this is one of the times where– I don’t know if I could see them any more, I don’t think I can. So this is one of the times where it’s good to forget what a beak looks like, because this is called foreshortening.

So when something is looking towards you, the view that you’re getting of it is foreshortened, so it doesn’t look as long, or it doesn’t even look really like the shape that it is from a profile. So I would spend some time maybe squinting at it, trying to break down some of the lines and just get that basic shape.

So for me it looks a little triangle. It’s not an equilateral triangle, I don’t know what you would call this one. And it looks really weird on its own. See this is what I drew for it. I’m thinking it looks something more like that. And that looks really weird I’m going to add the head around it and that will add some context that will hopefully–

[Deja Perkins] I can’t help but chuckle at my little quick drawing, but I think they’re getting better. So this is my little rendition of the [INAUDIBLE] bird.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] I love it.

[Deja Perkins] Thank you.


I feel like a proud kid. Mom put this on your fridge.


[Emma Brittain-Hardy] I still do that. Oh my gosh, when I make something I’m proud of, I bring it to my grandma. Because grandma will put it on her fridge, or–


–she’ll do something with it.

[Deja Perkins] Ah, I love that.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] This is my quick scribble. But you can see the beak looks a bit different than we know it looks like from the profile.

Let me get my camera.

But it can look very different. Like this frame it’s still a little to the side, so it still has that shape, it’s just a lot shorter looking. But sometimes– I don’t know if I still have the drawing that I did earlier. Sometimes they can look really funny. Or if it’s something like a duck looking straight at you, there can be some really funny shapes, and you just have to let go of your like, I know what a beak looks like, and just draw whatever shape you’re seeing.

This is a fun exercise if you have a picture that you’re drawing from, to turn the picture upside down and draw it that way, because it helps you get out of that like, well I know what this looks like. And sometimes when things are in weird positions they don’t look right. So even though you know what it should look like, it’s not going to look right if you draw it how it should look. It has to look at like whatever angle the bird is at in that picture.

Can’t see if there’s another– Oh this is funny because he’s got the seed. It would be nicer if we had one of these as a picture. Maybe I can find that real quick for us. I’ll stop sharing for a second.

[Deja Perkins] So as you all are going through a drawing session, and I hope that you’re picking up what Emma is throwing down, and that is let go of your expectations, OK, let them go.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Looking through the pictures real quick to see if we can find a good foreshortened beak reference. And if not, we’ll let it go. But those were my general tips in all. This one.

So here we’re looking more straight on. And it doesn’t even really look like a beak at this point, it looks more like an oval, or a slightly elongated diamond shape. That’s what it looks like. So if you’re trying to draw it, that’s how you’re going to draw it. And it’s helpful if you have color or shading.

At least this is very much lighter than the surrounding area, if there was a bird where it was more similar color that might be tricky to draw and have people be able to read it. But you just do your best. Yeah, it gets much lighter here. And there’s a little tip from the beak that has a slight color difference.

If you’re drawing something, and you’re doing your best, and you have someone come up and be like, well, what’s that, that doesn’t look right. Just don’t talk to them anymore.


You don’t need that negativity. It’s not always going to look great. But you’re always going to learn something, you’re always going to get better as you practice.

[Deja Perkins] Yes, I love that. Practice makes better. And at the end of the day, this is all for fun. And I’m not in school for becoming an artist, so I’m so happy that we have you here to share some of these tips and tricks with us, and for making this so approachable.

And we’re getting a lot of comments in the chat about how approachable this is. And how letting go of those expectations, and focusing on the overall outline rather than the shapes, is really helping people to be able to start having a few better sketches.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Can we share our sketches? Is there any way to see? Or maybe people could just tag us on an Instagram post.

[Deja Perkins] So that’s what I’m thinking. I would love, if everyone in the audience, if you feel comfortable, whether that be Twitter or Instagram, to tag us, and tag Emma. Let us see your beautiful sketch work, your drawings today. We’d love to be able to see you all are able to produce.

Don’t be embarrassed, because I’m probably going to share mine. And I’ve been sharing mine all– And I think they’re getting a little bit better. This was number one. And then I’m practicing with the little shapes. And they don’t all look like blackbirds. But it’s, OK because it looks bird-like in progress.


[Emma Brittain-Hardy] And really, you’re building memories too. I love sketching while traveling, because it makes you more observant. And then you have something you can look at, and you really remember like, Oh, I sat there for a while. And I remember hearing the birds.

And I remember, this person passed me, and maybe someone stopped and talk to you, because you were drawing. I think it builds more of an experience than just taking a picture. But I do really respect and love photography. And you can really capture a moment with photography that will bring memories like that too. But, yeah, drawing can be a bit more experiential.

[Deja Perkins] Yeah, I do find myself when I am taking pictures, I’m a little bit more focused on than being perfect. And the clarity, and making sure that you can actually see and have an identifiable picture, versus the drawing, this is so much more relaxing. I’m more in the moment, more present than just focusing on capturing the bird.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah. So I’m looking at some of the questions. If we’re drawing with a black pencil, any suggestions on what kind of pencil?

So I might go to, and I guess I’m really into marketing, I don’t draw with drawing pencils usually, I do own them. My go to is a Ticonderoga. And I think I just became obsessed with them as a child, because they advertise them like their box says, world’s best pencil, or something.

And so this is just an HB number two. This is generally what you get when you’re working in school. I know I did a lot of those tests where you have to fill it in with the number 2 pencil. I really like it because it’s an in-between.

The harder the pencil lead, the finer the detail you can do. So like in studio that might be really good, but out in the field I would use something that’s the medium, so you can get the best of both worlds. The softer the pencil lead, the darker and the more malleable, the more spreadable it is.

So I would go with the medium hardness. But just keep in mind, if you want more detail, it might be nice to reach for a harder pencil for that. And if you want a darker dark, it might be nice to have a softer pencil available for that.

Do you have any advice for drawing a bird that refuses to be still?

Just go with it. At that point you might just want to take a picture. I would do some gesture drawings, get what you can. And then, if it’s not going to work out, I would go somewhere else rather than get frustrated.

[Deja Perkins] While you were on the topic of utensils and pens, versus pencils, someone was asking about coloring pencils, but before you were using the red coloring pencil.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, so mainly I have Prismacolor brand, but there’s a few other nice brands. I go for the colored pencils that you can blend. So let me actually switch to my other camera, and I’ll show why I like these.

So with colored pencils that are blendable– School brands, like Crayola, they’re not really blendable, they’ll just give you one thing. With those ones you can lightly color, and color over top, and you might get some nice effects that way. With these colored pencils you can start lightly coloring, and then you can start to really press hard and blend the colors on the page.

So you can see I’m getting a little bit of a blue into a green, mixing with this yellow. I’m just grabbing random ones. I like to really work up layers and mix the colors on the page. If I go over with a white, there you can really see it the white is blending. I’ll hold it closer to the camera in a second.

Draw what it’s attached to. So you can see where I overlapped the yellow, it’s turning green. I really like that ability with colored. Pencils and I like that they also don’t smudge. They still smudge a little bit if there’s loose lead on the paper, but it’s nice when you’re working out in the field to have something that’s not going to smudge, because if you’re working with something that’s smudgeable, you have to be very careful transporting it.

So I really like the colored pencils, I also have them in stick form. So if I’m trying to do a really big drawing, it’s the same thing, but with just bigger. So I can really go at it with all the colored pencil sticks.

I know a lot of people use watercolor in the field, because you just need water and the water colors, and then it will dry really fast usually, and you can bring it home easily. The best thing is whatever works for you. So whatever you’re actually going to do, do that.

If you’re working out in pastels, they’re smudgeable, but you can carry them in a certain way, and just be careful to not smudge them, or you could bring something like hairspray or something that will stop it from smudging, at least a little bit, so you can transport it. Regular pencils are great.

[Deja Perkins] I had no idea about the hairspray tip, OK. I see the culture in art overlapping, love that. While you’re on the topic of pencils, someone else asked about watercolor pencils, and have you ever used those?

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, I haven’t really used watercolor pencils, but they definitely could be a great option. I would, probably, if I was using them in the field, I would just draw with the watercolor pencils, and then take them home, and activate them with water. But you could do you could do both.

I have a few of my watercolors with me. I haven’t used this brush yet, but I have one of these– Oh, it’s really hard to see. I have one of these brushes that has the water in the handle.

And so you just squeeze and water comes out the brush end. So you can use it and I have a little travel watercolor pack. If I can open, it it’s really stuck close. So yeah, that’s an option too.

[Deja Perkins] That’s so cool, I’m learning so much. There are so many tools, I didn’t even know about. This is awesome.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, sometimes I use oil pastels, because they’re also blendable. They’re a lot better than a colored pencil. So you can get larger drawings done quickly. So not really great for birds, unless you’re doing something like life-size Great Blue Heron. But yeah, they can be really fun to play around with.


[Deja Perkins] Well this was awesome, Emma. We have about four minutes left unfortunately, that time passed so quickly. But I feel like we learned so much from you. Oh my God, yes, we’re just going to watch you do your thing for these last couple of minutes, and just enjoy this little sensory experience. When you were demonstrating the coloring pencils earlier, and the shading and blending, I was ready for that to turn into a painted bunting.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Yeah, I love colored pencils, I will add so many colors. And they really can take a long time, because you’ll layer them up for so long to really blend in a lot of colors. But that’s what I love about them. And this is a brush, but yeah, this brush is amazing too.

[Deja Perkins] You’ve definitely inspired me, and so many others, to use coloring pencils, for just color in general, in our sketching, in our work. Someone asked if you could really state the watercolor brush that you’re using.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Oh, I don’t know the brand of it. They’re pretty common now. I’m pretty sure I bought this at Michael’s. You should be able to find them at most arts and crafts stores. I think it’s called a water brush.

[Deja Perkins] Awesome. Well since we only have two minutes left, I’m going to say thank you everyone for joining us in this lunchtime Avian Arts drawing session. We had so much fun. Thank you so much, Emma for sharing all of your tips and tricks with us, and just making this such an approachable way for us to learn birds.

If you all are interested, and what to keep engaging with us online, if you want to showcase your attempted sketches, your progress, how you’re getting better, make sure to take a picture, post it, and tag us on social media, using the #avianarts.

Arde, if you want to drop those hashtags in the chat one more time for us, #avianarts and #blackbirdorsofly. If you want to add Black AF In STEM, or add Emma– Emma do you have a specific handle you want to share.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Sure, I can type it into the chat too. So I go by Black and Birdie Pots, because I actually do pottery. So I make things with creatures on them. I wish the lighting was better on this, maybe I’ll switch it to the other camera. But yeah, I’m at Black and Birdie Pots. There’s my Salamander mug.

[Deja Perkins] So cool. And is this both Instagram and Twitter?

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] Oh, perfect you got it for me. I’m just on Instagram. I don’t know how to tweet.


[Deja Perkins] No, worries So if you’re on IG at Black and Birdie Pots and at Blackbird and Stem, regardless of the platform, use #avianarts and #blackbirdorsofly. You can showcase your art with us. And to continue the conversation, make sure that you all check out the rest of the Black Birders Week events which you can find on our website at blackafinstem.com.

And we hope you all enjoyed this session. Please connect with Emma. Purchase some of her artwork. If it’s for sale, check out Emma’s website and, yeah, keep being fly y’all.

[Emma Brittain-Hardy] You can watch out for our giveaways. We’re doing a lot of giveaways for Black Birders Week. Nicole, just put it in the chat.

[Deja Perkins] Yes, thank you for that reminder. Check out the giveaways. Check out the daily giveaways, we giveaway so many things. And yeah, keeping fire y’all. Have fun.


End of transcript

Grab your drawing supplies to follow along with artist Emma Brittain-Hardy as she shows us the basics of drawing birds for nature journaling in this lunchtime Q&A.