Monday, March 10, 2014

drawing a tawny frogmouth feather

This post is about drawing the feather of a tawny frogmouth. I have quite a few of these feathers in my collection. I am not sure why I have so many, as you don't see that very many tawny frogmouth birds about. This is probably because they blend in so well with the tree branches they are on and they are nocturnal. However I still think that there appears to be a disproportionate amount of feathers compared to birds you see everyday, such as magpies. Tawny frogmouths are one of my favourite birds (I seem to have a few)

Tawny frogmouths. Photo: Keith Smith Photography

The Tawny Frogmouth is found throughout Australia. They are about 35–50 cm and can be seen in almost any habitat type except the denser rainforests and treeless deserts. Frogmouths are often confused with owls, but are actually more closely related to the nightjars. This feather was collected off the ground in Toowoomba, Queensland.

I often draw feathers, but they are usually simple and one or two colours. And I complete them over an evening or two. See them here . In this post I wanted to share my love of watercolour pencils and what can be achieved using this medium

The tawny frogmouth feather was more of a challenge as their feathers are highly patterned. This is the second time I have attempted to draw one and I am still figuring out how to do it. I was halfway through this one when I discovered that Derwent Inktense Bark watercolour pencil is the perfect colour for the tawny frogmouth feather. The pencils I was using were too brown or too grey and I was trying to blend them.
This time I remembered to take these photographs along the way to try to show my work in progress. It shows the real feather at the top and my drawing next to it. I started it in February this year and then put the drawing aside for about two weeks between the last two images.




in detail
Drawn on Arches 300gsm Smooth Watercolour paper.

main Colours

Bark - Derwent Inktense
Walnut Brown - Faber Castell Albrecht Durer
Burnt Umber- Faber Castell Albrecht Durer
Ivory - Faber Castell Albrecht Durer
Raw Umber - Derwent

I have found that the Derwent pencils are too soft for the finer "feathery" details of the feather (the "afterfeather") as you can see the texture of the pencil on the paper. Faber Castells are harder and give a finer line, which can also be dissolved beautifully to give the fluffy look. This is the area I love to draw.  This particular feather was a bit of an experiment. I am very pleased with the final result, and have learnt a lot along the way. NEXT TIME I need to figure out a way to achieve the dark colour patterns and the fine lines of the feather (I think these are called the barbs). I feel that it is a little heavy handed and muddy in this one. However, I am not looking for a photorealistic drawing of feathers. My drawings are more about the impression of detail, rather then actual detail.

Tawny frogmouth and chick drawn from photo, 2010


  1. Fantastic blog post ,really lovely work xx

  2. Dear Alissa - just wonderful drawings and subjects. This feather looks so real. I also enjoy collecting feathers and can't resist painting them too. Glad you gave that tip about Inktense pencils. Thanks for sharing. Have a lovely day.

  3. This is just superb, informative and inspiring!

  4. Beautiful feather Alissa. And the little frogmouth peering around the adult brought a big smile to my face.


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