Feathers to the left! Feathers to the right! How do you figure out where all the feathers go?
If you look at this rooster, you may well go ‘EEP! So much going on here! I can’t handle it.’ So let’s break it down into chunks that any brain can handle.
How To Draw & Paint A Rooster – Step By Step
Before Pencil Meets Paper
If you look at the reference photo, notice some areas seem smooth, or stringy, or wild and curly. Birds have feather groups and the feathers in each group are different.
Don’t try to see the exact number of feathers or the exact shape of each feather. Instead, identify the:
- feather groups
- the direction of feathers in each group
- the type of the feathers in each group
- the colors in each group
Sound like a lot of work? Do it a couple of times and it’ll be a snap. In the beginning, it might help to make a map-type chart.
It is easier to see the shapes if they are in black and white.
My chart was drawn on a piece of plastic acetate with a non-waterproof pen so I could erase if I wanted to. I traced chunks of information by tracing sections of the rooster.
The General Shape
Surprising isn’t it? The rooster’s over-all shape is simply a heart. Note the proportions. The left side is larger. The right narrows toward the top.
The Feather Groups
These are the groups that I see. Getting these groups exactly right isn’t important. You are learning what this bird looks like – creating a hand-to brain communication. What your brain learns from this tracing, it will use to guide your hand later when you draw and paint.
I’ve also added in the head – beak, eye, comb, wattles, and ear.
The Direction and Type
Sorry – some of my drawing smeared in the scanner.
This tracing shows both the direction and the type of feathers in the groups.
When you look at the shape and type of feathers, some differences are subtle – fatter feathers or a slightly different direction. In others the difference is drastic. The neck is smooth, the tail feathers wild and curly.
After doing this step, I made another feather group drawing so that I’d have more detail. You might decide you want less.
I showed more of the feathers that were the same type – all the ones numbered 7, all the ones numbered 10, etc. They might not be the same group, but the shape, direction and colors are similar enough that I treated them the same.
The tail feathers are more confusing, because you have an outer group of feathers, but you can see some inner feathers too. The inner and outer feathers have different shapes and directions.
On the left, you can see what the inner feathers are doing. Those outer feathers on the right cover most of the them up and you just get a few peeks at the inner group.
You’ll learn more if you do a chart of your own, but feel free to use mine if you don’t have a reference photo, acetate or the time to make a chart.
Remember, the accuracy of your chart isn’t super important. The point is that you are creating a hand-to-brain-to-hand conversation that will pay off when you start drawing.
Okay – now your brain knows what it needs to do. Let’s do that drawing.
The Pencil Drawing
I followed the chart, drawing the heart shape first, making sure it fit on my postcard. Then I did the feather groups.
The Pen Drawing
In my pen drawing, I outlined, added detail and shadows.
I did have the reference photo on hand, but I used my chart more than the photo. If I felt confused, I looked up the area and studied it to help clarify what I wanted to do.
I start off with a Quill style brush. These are great brushes for washes, juicy, drippy effects and light color.
The first color I apply is a watery mix of Cadmium Yellow Primrose.
Then I apply a light wash of Transparent Pyrrole Orange.
I add a light touch of Quinacridone Rose to the comb and wattles, and Nickel Azo Yellow to the beak and feet.
Sap Green is used for the tail feathers, quickly follow by Phthalo Blue. I drop the blue into the wet green, letting the two colors blend together.
I continue with the Phthalo Blue, adding it everywhere I want shading, including the comb and wattles.
I use Nickel Azo Yellow for the grass, quickly followed by Sap Green dropped into the yellow.
Phthalo Blue is used for the sky.
I let the paint dry. The card curled a bit, but that’s easy to fix.
I just bend it – gently – in the opposite direction a couple of times.
Now it lies flat again. This will work with most papers, though a lot depends on how wet you get the paper and the quality of the paper.
Switching to a smaller, less thirsty brush, I start using creamy mixes. I darken by adding more color, leaving some areas light.
I add more orange.
Even more blue, deepening the shadows.
The last step is to add highlights. I could have used masking fluid or left white spaces, but both would have been difficult with so many at this postcard size. I could also have scraped the paper with palette knife – but that creates an effect more like sparkling water than shiny feathers. In the end, I decided to take the easiest route, and just added the highlights with a white gel pen.
How To Draw & Paint A Rooster – The Video
- Hahnemühle Cold-Pressed Watercolor Postcards
- Zebra Drafix Pencil
- Zebra Zensations Technical Pen
- Golden QoR Watercolor, Mini Half Pan Set of 12 Colors
- Princeton Artist Brush Neptune, Series 4750, Quill Synthetic Squirrel, Size 4
- Princeton Velvetouch, Mixed-Media Brushes Series 3950, 4-Piece Professional Set
- Uniball Signo Broad White Gel Pen
Creating a map/chart of objects isn’t just for when you are ready to draw or paint something. You can do it anytime, even if you are looking at something in real life rather than using a reference photo. The acetate isn’t necessary unless you want to trace. The point is to deepen that communication between hand and brain. Add in a little heart and soul, and you have art!
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