I recently discovered The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, by John Muir Laws. It is an excellent book, and I recommend it if you’re looking to learn how to draw birds. He has terrific instruction on things like drawing feathers, birds in flight, and field sketching.
Laws is a very good bird and nature artist, but the focus of this book is to give up on the idea of pretty pictures and really look at what you’re drawing. He believes that by studying nature in order to draw it, you change yourself, saying in the first chapter of this book, “As you grow in patient observation, the world will open and you will be changed forever.”
I agree with him. After drawing, I see things more clearly. After plein air painting, colors shout and announce themselves. One of the great joys of drawing is the act of studying, the process of slowing down enough to really look at what you’re seeing. I’m not going to say that it’s meditative, because for me, there’s a pulse of excitement when I’m really looking at something and able to co-ordinate my hand enough to get my observations down on paper. My heart beats with each line, and my mind seems to sparkle and tingle. Seriously? Better than any drug or drink.