Archive for category Author: Andrew Forkner

Drawing Birds || Andrew Forkner

Where Andrew’s previous book dealt with acrylics and included colour, this concentrates on drawing and monochrome.

Birds are never an easy subject and simply observing them can be a challenge. Although Andrew does not cover the use of photographs in detail, he does hint at their possibilities and also has some useful notes on sketching in the field. The assumption is, I think, that you’ll find your own reference material, of which there is plenty available.

The book begins with some handy notes on structure and plumage along with features such as eyes, beaks and bills. This section is worthy of considerable attention as it introduces basic techniques and helps you work towards the complete studies that come later.

These demonstrations cover a good variety of species from garden birds to waterfowl, birds of prey and game birds. Andrew shows you how to map out the outline and structure and then fill in the shading so that your finished result has both shape and solidity.

Although birds are not a subject for the complete beginner, neither is this a masterclass that need deter those who are new to the subject and it should satisfy them as well as those who want to take the art considerably further.

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A-Z of Bird Portraits || Andrew Forkner

There aren’t many books on painting birds. The reason, of course, isn’t hard to find: not many people want (or think they want) to paint them. They do, however, provide a wide variety of colourful subjects and there’s no reason in reality for them to be any less popular than flowers. And you can’t move for books on flowers.

Andrew Forkner adopts the sensible strategy of putting all the basic techniques (working in acrylics) together at the beginning of the book. These include information on colours, composition, eyes, beaks and, most importantly, feathers. These are the building blocks you’ll use later when it comes to particular species. The approach avoids continuous repetition, but it does mean a degree of jumping about if you haven’t fully grasped the technical elements – which, frankly, you should have. Time spent at this stage is like learning musical scales, unexciting perhaps, but invaluable.

The bulk of the book is devoted to the twenty-seven (yes, you get a bonus one) that the title implies. Arranging things by Latin rather than common names gives Andrew a bit of leeway, but the fact is that he still has to incorporate European, North American and other species in order to fulfil the brief the title gives him. It also means that each demonstration has to be relatively short – four pages including the final image that introduces it. Although the introductory technical sections cover a lot of the methodological work, you still get very few step-by-step stages and are limited to an initial sketch, a list of colours and a simple set of instructions linked to a captioned half-way stage and a detail breakout.

In the end, the variety promised by the title is a bit of a straitjacket. A lot has to be crammed into a limited space (even if it is 144 pages) and many of the species illustrated will be unfamiliar – European Robin, yes, Bee-eater, I wish, Red-billed Quelea … what? (That’s where the classification-by-Latin – Quelea quelea – and alphabetisation bit you on the leg, wasn’t it?) To be fair, though, I counted at least 19 species I have a fighting chance of seeing and a few more I have at least heard of.

The whole thing is neatly executed and is about as good, within its own constraints, as it could be. The A-Z format has worked before, but that was for flowers, and it’s just that I’m not sure this is the place for it. Flowers are popular and well-known. Birds are, too, but I doubt there are enough people who both admire them and want to paint them for something like this to work. It’s not, when all’s said and done, a book for the complete beginner and I do honestly think that’s what’s needed. On the other hand, if you’re passionate about painting birds but need practice and instruction, this is absolutely the book for you.

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