Win a Copy of ‘The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds’

Illustration by John Muir Laws
Illustration by John Muir Laws

Win a Copy of ‘The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds’

A new book offers a novel array of tips that are easy and rewarding to follow.

By the Audubon Editors
Published: 08/15/2013

UPDATE: The contest is now closed.

We're giving away 10 copies of The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, by John Muir Laws. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below, and be sure to include a viable email address (it won't show up on the page). The official rules are below. The contest ends at midnight, Friday, August 30, 2013. In the meantime, here's the foreword from the book, written by the immensely talented David Sibley. Good luck!

I have been drawing birds for most of my life. I started almost as soon as I could hold a pencil, around five years old, and I kept at it. Birds have always been my favorite subject and have provided me with a lifetime of challenging and stimulating work.

My father is an ornithologist, so there was no shortage of technical information about birds in our house. Finding instruction on drawing birds was more of a challenge. I watched birds constantly, I studied museum specimens and worked in bird-banding stations where I could hold the birds in my hand, and I sketched them whenever I could. I studied the work of other artists. I took lessons and read books about drawing in general, and I had a short picture book written and illustrated by Lynn Bogue Hunt called How to Draw and Paint Birds (published by Walter Foster). That book was big on demonstrations--showing Ms. Hunt's nicely styled sketches--but short on instruction. It didn't offer much more than the self-evident "Try to draw something that looks like this."

Book Giveaway. Drawing Birds Cover
The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, by John Muir Laws (Heyday Books, $24.95)
Slowly, over years of study and practice, I learned various tricks and details that made my drawings better. I learned about bird anatomy: how the feathers radiate from the base of the bill (page 22 in this book); how the tail pivots from a point far forward of where you would expect (page 37); how the feathers meet to form a crease down the center of the belly (page 24); how the feathers move as a bird "stretches" its neck (page 7). I learned about creating the illusion of form in two dimensions by making the darkest shadows away from the very edge of the bird (page 90), or merely suggesting the arrangement of feathers by outlining a few of them (page 35), and more.

People often ask me if my passion for drawing came first or my interest in watching birds. I have always done both. For me the two are intertwined and mutually supportive in ways that I can't even begin to describe. Since drawing is one of the things I do, whenever I watch birds I am thinking about details of drawing them. I notice the line of the back, the way the bill opens, the interaction of colors and form.

Conversely, when I am drawing I look more closely and ask and answer questions that I would not have considered if I was just watching. In that sense, drawing becomes a way to interact with the birds, and drawing leads to understanding. The simple act of trying to draw something can change the way you look at the world. And that brings me to the underlying message of this book, and one of my favorite things about it: Drawing birds is about so much more than just drawing birds.

Drawing is often misunderstood. Non-artists tend to focus on the end result, and think that the primary purpose of drawing is to produce pretty pictures. For one thing, as this book points out, that's a stress-inducing way to think about the practice of drawing, since by that measure most of your drawings will be failures. More importantly, it misses the deeper and longer-lasting rewards of drawing--the knowledge and understanding that come from the process.

This book is superficially about drawing and painting birds, but it's really a guide to a more thoughtful and inquisitive study of birds, with drawing as the method. As John Muir Laws says in the introduction, "Every drawing is practice for the next one...make it your goal to learn to observe more closely and to remember what you have seen. With these goals, every drawing will be a success."

Magazine Category


What a fantastic book and a

What a fantastic book and a great tool for expanding art skills. I will put this to excellent use!

I have written poems about

I have written poems about birds I have seen over the years. I always wanted to learn how to do sketches in field books to accompany my first drafts to capture the exact bird. I so admire Betsy Lewin's sketches. I have been thinking about purchasing the book. Winning it would be fun!

My aunt loves birds! This

My aunt loves birds! This would be a perfect gift!

I really, really would like

I really, really would like to win this to help my novice birding skills. I'm 56 and loving birding. I find when it's difficult to identify a bird in the field, drawing helps to remember what I saw for later identification. It would also be fun to annotate a birding journal.

Drawing birds helps me attend

Drawing birds helps me attend to detail and field marks, which helps me grow as a birder. What a pleasure.

I have been trying to learn

I have been trying to learn to draw birds, my favorite. Have not been successful. i am looking forward to learning to achieve my goal, drawing birds. Hoping to win.



I like birds a lot. I also

I like birds a lot. I also like drawing a lot. Having this book would probably really help with my ability to draw birds more realistically; It might also improve the quality of my quick sketches.

No home page for me, sorry.

No home page for me, sorry. My drawing skills are crap. I've tried to photograph birds for many years with very limited success. Recently, I bought a 300mm lens and have had very good success "shooting" birds, with a camera, of course! Some basic instructions on how to draw birds quickly and accurately would be really useful when I'm out birding without lugging my big lens and camera along.

My granddaughter loves to

My granddaughter loves to draw. This book would be a great gift for her.

Add comment

Login to post comments