Drawing birds from life

Jonathan Sainsbury, long-tailed tits, charcoal drawing,

Jonathan Sainsbury, long-tailed tits, charcoal drawing,

Jonathan Sainsbury is drawing birds from life as they come to the feeders outside his studio.

Species in the past few days include Long-tail tits, Sparrows, Great tits, Blue tits, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Robins, Coal-tits.

Jonathan Sainsbury uses charcoal and Canson paper for drawing birds from life.  'Charcoal goes down quickly, captures gestures, then I develop them,' he explains.  He uses a number of sheets at a time, covering them in drawings based on what he sees outside the windows of his studio.

At the same time as drawing birds from life, which provides him with the raw material of observation, he is also making tiny pencil sketches that will bring together the creatures and settings for the design of a picture.

'Designing a picture of wildlife which is honest, says something about the birds and their environment and at the same time has an original composition is my aim.  Pictures are compositions, not mere imitations of reality,' he says.  'You want to put together feelings about the birds and the scene as well as observations.'

'I wanted to get the movement of these birds.  I've got an idea for them flying in and around some catkins.  The twigs make a network, like a fishing net.  The movement of the birds will be echoed by the lattice-work of twigs.'

But wildlife artists have to work with the seasons.  'I'm waiting now for the catkins to come on further, before taking these drawings any further.  Catkins and a good fall of snow is what I need.  Snowy days are best for watching Long-tailed tits.  They come to the feeders more and you can see them in little flocks moving through bushes.  'My idea for the light in the picture is of a snowy day: light coming up that is misty, lemony light coming through cloud.'

For the time being, the drawings will wait for Nature.  They will be sold as sketches in their own right, alongside the painting they help create.