June 21, 2017

Behind The Scenes Of The Tree Swallow Drawing

by Corrina Thurston


I’m currently working on a string of commissioned drawings, which is part of why I haven’t posted about new drawings much on social media lately. However, this weekend I decided to have a little fun with a quick drawing of my own since I had a couple days before I could start my next commission.

This was the result!

My Tree Swallow colored pencil drawing on wood. No official title yet.

Planning The Piece

This drawing started because I knew I had a couple days in between commissioned drawings and I wanted to make a drawing for myself. This meant it would have to be a quick one! So when I came across a photo of this cute little Tree Swallow by Mary Villazon, I knew I had my project.

With Mary’s permission I used her photo as a reference and decided to draw this piece on one of my wood plaques, hoping the final result would look like the bird is popping out of the wood.


Starting The Drawing

I started the drawing by using a stencil to create a circle where I was going to draw. Then I sanded that circle because I wanted the wood there to be smooth for use as a drawing surface, where the wood on the rest of the plaque could stay rough.

You can see the difference between the sanded circle and the rest of the wood.

After the sanding, the line drawing was done to map out the basic shape of the bird. Then I finally took my colored pencils out and started with the eyes and beak of the bird. At this point, it looked pretty creepy.

This shows the line drawing and how I started with the eyes and beak in colored pencil.


Adding The Layers Of Colored Pencil

After working on the eyes and beak, I moved to the chest and belly of the bird with my white and yellow pencils.

Starting to add layers of colored pencil.

To add depth, I added some gray and browns to the edging of the belly and sides, creating shadows and starting the sense of 3D.

At this point I also started adding layers of color around the eyes, making sure to make my strokes short to look like the little feathers on the bird.

Then, keeping those small strokes and working them in the direction of the feathers, I added the first few layers to the head and back of the bird, working from light to dark.

Layers being added to the rest of the bird, and the black hole being started.


Creating The 3D Effect

The whole idea of this piece was to make it look like this bird was really sitting in a hole in this piece of wood, so the next steps were to keep adding layers to the feathers, and make that circle look like a hole.

More layers to the bird and the black of the hole blending into the feathers as a gradient, creating shadow.

I had to make sure to leave the correct areas for the wings and feet when I added the black of the hole. I also had to add the black as a gradient on top of the feathers to make it look like a realistic shadow instead of colorful feathers and then suddenly the black background.

The black background is mostly done, leaving room for the wings and legs.


Finishing The Drawing

Finally, it was time to draw the wings and the legs, making sure there were plenty of shadows where appropriate to make the bird look like he’s popping out. I made the top of the wings come out over the circle and made part of the feet come out over the circle and added shadows beneath each of them to give depth.

I then drew a couple circles around the black background to make it look like an actual opening in a piece of wood, like a birdhouse. With a little bit of shadow added with a light brown to the very edge of the inner circle, it looked rounded and 3D.

My Tree Swallow colored pencil drawing on wood. No official title yet.


Now all that’s left to do is varnish, urethane, sign it, and attach a hanger!


If you’re interested in purchasing this piece or a print of it, contact me! It will be available soon. OR, have suggestions for a title? Let me know in the comments! 

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