Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Review: Bird Art by Alan Woollett

a new book about drawing birds
If you want to learn how to draw birds - in graphite or coloured pencils - then 'Bird Art' a new book by renowned bird artist Alan Woollett, was designed for you!

One of the well known 'secrets' of wildlife art is that birds sell fast! Twitchers not only like to 'collect' birds via their binoculars, they also like to have birds on the walls in their homes.

This may well be the reason why more than a few artists have dedicated themselves to drawing and painting birds - and all the ones I know are also fabulous artists too! Most paint and a few draw.

One such bird artist - who draws in graphite and coloured pencil - is Alan Woollett. Alan wins awards for his bird art; has his drawings selected for international exhibitions of bird art; teaches internationally, and even manages to sell his drawings before he's even finished them. In other words, he knows a few things about how to draw birds!

(Follow him on Facebook at Alan Woollett Art - he doesn't have a website and on Twitter @awoollett)

Wildlife Artist of the Year - Earth's Beautiful Creatures Category Winner
Maribou Portrait by Alan Woollett
( Maidstone , Kent)
(coloured pencil on Fabriano Artistico)
Not the prettiest bird in the room - but very striking and caught my eye from the other side of the room. Wildlife Artist of the Year 2016 - The Awards

Alan has an amazing talent for making a very striking image. I suspect this talent has been hard won. He lives near Maidstone and trained at the Kent Institute of Art and Design and has been a professional artist for a long time. He's always focused on wildlife art and for the last few years has been drawing in his studio at the bottom of his garden.

Latterly he's also been writing his new book about how to draw birds. This is as much about Composition and Colour as it is about the overall approach from beginning to end that he uses and the stages of his drawing process.
"In essence I want to show you how my pictures are conceived" AW
UKCPS 2015 Annual Exhibition - R.K. Burt Paper Award for Best Still Life
Birds Nest Study by Alan Woollett

coloured pencil, 36cm x 27cm

What I like about the book

  • The reproductions of artwork in this book are excellent. I love the fact a significant number fill a double page spread. This is a book to look at as well as read! The artwork alone will teach many would-be bird artists that there's always scope to improve.
  • This is a very well designed book - a bit like one of Alan's drawing. The white space gives the images space to breathe without feeling in any way wasted
  • He provides detailed guidance on the materials he uses. This is a standard section in every art instruction book. What I'm very jealous about is the fact he was allowed to comment on the different brands and what his personal preferences are. I do think it makes for a much more informative book when authors can say what works for them as artists.
  • Great section on how and why to watch birds and the need to collect reference material. One might think this is obvious - but in an era where many wildife artists are content to work from photos and never ever stray outside their studio to look at their subjects in their habitat, Alan makes a great case for why this practices provides added value to the artist and the art. (I was also interested to see that he, like me, now opts for a good quality bridge camera, for getting reference photos as opposed to lugging around the weight associated with a high-end digital SLR with big zoom lenses)
  • Excellent sections on composition and colour explain what makes Alan's pictures special. All art needs to be grounded in a really good understanding of these two very important basics which can so often get missed out by those who've never had classes.  It was great seeing how Alan uses techniques associated with composition and colour to make his work so striking.
  • Tips and techniques but no one way of creating bird art. I very much like the fact that while Alan provides guidance and tips and techniques he's not advocating one particular way of making bird other.   He explains what he does and why but is equally clear that there is no wrong or right way of making art.  I'm not a fan of those who behave as authors as if they have the complete answer and their way is best!
  • His step by step demonstrations have a different quality to them. The second half of the book is devoted to demonstrations of the way Alan works. They have more pages AND content devoted to each project than you find in other books. Each bird follows a well structured process - with a good summary and lots of detailed comments in terms of text and yet the images sit centre stage and occupy the most room.  One of the things I particularly like is he provides a very clear explanation of the order of his work in both image and text - and the reasons why.
Examples follow this sequence over five double pagespreads
  • Reference material
  • Materials used
  • Stage 1: the initial drawing
  • Stage 2: Creating an order of work
  • Stage 3: Mark making
  • Stage 4: Completion
  • Alan's conversational style works well and makes for an easy read. It's both relaxed but informative. I imagine he's an excellent tutor in the classroom if his writing is anything to go by.
If you'd like to see inside the book you need to:

Who should buy this book?

Those who love drawing wildlife - particularly the feathery kind - will love this book.

I think it's a book which will hold appeal from beginners who will get an excellent grounding from his explanations of process through to those trying to improve and develop and finally more experienced artists and other professionals who are always interested in how their peers work - and whether they have any good tips!

Technical Info:
  • Publisher: Search Press
  • Edition: BC Paperback
  • Publication: 09 March 2017
  • ISBN 13/EAN: 9781782212966
  • Size: 216x280 mm | Illustrations: 250 | Pages: 144
  • RRP Price:£17.99


Note: Those who have followed for a while may be surprised to see book reviews back on this blog. They departed for Making A Mark Reviews when I was writing every day and had far too much material for just one blog! However following my second retirement (haha!) and time spent developing websites for other art interests I've decided to bring them back to Making A Mark.

1 comment:

  1. Hello again and thanks for the review KT - acted on your advice, bought the book and so pleased I did.
    This is packed full of useful advice and inspiration. Will enthusiastically unleash my coloured pencils now after a lengthy lay-off.
    Best wishes
    Dave Richards


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