Drawing Birds, a Mixed Media Approach

Magpie, mixed media bird by April Sproule


   For ages I have been talking about developing a new collection of bird designs to be used for mixed media textile arts. The hardest part of any project is getting started, and the development of a clear path and workflow to carry the project along is pretty important to keep it from getting stalled.
   This takes me right to the beginning of my Bird Project, which is drawing. Drawing is the basis of everything I do. You don’t know how many friends and students have told me they can’t draw. Contrary to what many people believe, drawing really is a learned skill and not just an innate ability you were born with.

Slanted drawing board by April Sproule

   Drawing is a skill you can learn by doodling, doing little sketches of things you love, or by developing a regular practice where you set aside designated time to draw. I often go long periods without seriously trying to do much drawing, so it always takes me a while to get back into it. I decided to make it easy on myself, so I set up a little drawing area. I had always wanted one of those amazing drawing/drafting tables, but I honestly didn't need one.
  Instead, I used what I had. I found it much easier to draw when my sketchpad was elevated at the top. I used a small book covered in that non slip rug stuff. This kept the book underneath and my drawing board, 18" x 18", from slipping around. The drawing board is a masonite like wood, so I covered it with a sheet of non-slippery plastic so I can do watercolor on it.This works great and it is a huge improvement over trying to work on a flat surface.
Bird drawing by April Sproule
   I am beginning my bird project by polishing up my drawing skills. That means devoting the time to really see and explore my subject matter. John Muir Laws has the best book, The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, I have found on this topic. I am devoting time every day now to my bird drawings. 
  Eventually my sketches will be developed into designs for hand embroidery, mixed media, and surface design projects. I have to start somewhere, so I set up a workflow for my project. The important thing is to see how one medium influences the other and to learn all I can along the way.
  1. Sketches in pencil
  2. More detailed drawings in pen and ink
  3. Finished textile art pieces on fabric
  4. Finished mixed media pieces on paper
 Here are the first couple of birds I did a while ago that are linocut blocks printed on fabric for textile art projects.
Hummingbird hand printed by April SprouleRobin hand printed by April Sproule
   Whatever you intend to do with your drawings, I hope you thoroughly enjoy the process. I am reading a couple of books on birds and their habits. I have already learned a lot about birds, and it has opened up a whole new world for me. And when you have something to share, please post it in our Sproule Studios Textile Group on Facebook. We would love to see your work!