Bird Study: Observational Drawings

Year Levels: 6 – 7


with Emma Hewett-Smiles

Observational Bird Drawings 800x281

Click Here to download Lesson Plan


This activity is centered around building skills in observational drawing with a focus on shape and proportion.



Look at the reference images of birds provided here; or find images of birds in books or online.

4 Reference Images Birds 800x161

Discuss shape and proportion.
What is shape? What is proportion? How can these elements affect our drawings?

Demonstrate a successful observational drawing:
(1) Take time to firstly observe shapes of object and how this will work on your page.
(2) Press lightly to create basic shapes – no erasing! (Mistakes help us get it right, erasing means we’re back to square one)
(3) Refine the shapes: Go over correct lines, and now we can erase the lines we don’t need.
(4) Apply tone to create form.
(5) Apply detail and texture. (It is important that this is done last! We cannot put in windows and carpet when the walls aren’t up yet, can we?)


Art Elements & Principles

Shape, Tone


Cross-Curriculum / Capabilities Links



Learning Objectives

Students will:



  • Make drawings from observation to create realistic shape and tone
  • Define:Tone
        (an art element that refers to the light and dark shades of a colour)


        (an art element that describes the surface of an object)


      (an art principle that refers to the relative size of parts of a whole)




Create Artwork

Observational Bird Drawing Step 1 3 800x337
Step 1: Students begin by dividing one page in their visual diary or paper into four equal sections using a ruler and greylead pencil.

Step 2: In each section, students are to draw a different bird using the photos to observe shape and proportion.

Step 3: Students draw their four different birds from observation using the reference images of birds. You may find it easier to print the bird photos if possible, or draw directly from a computer/device screen.



Take it a step further…

Choose your most successful bird drawing to complete again, this time adding colour using oil pastels.


Discussion / Reflection



  • How can the technique of drawing from observation support art creation?
  • How can the art elements and principles be manipulated to enhance artworks?
  • Reflective thinking exercise: Students reflect and write notes under / next to each drawing in dot-point; What techniques did they use? Describe how you used shape? Describe how you used tone? How did you make the work (describe the process)? How could each drawing be improved?
    Discuss the importance of reflecting on work in order to improve.
  • Revisit key words and learning intention. Did we meet our learning intention?



Materials & Equipment

  • Paper / Visual Diary
  • Greylead Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Eraser
  • Reference Images
  • Oil Pastels (optional for Extension activity)

Don’t have these materials at home?
Click Here to view recommended materials



Related Artwork, Links & Sources


Share Your Outcomes!

How did you go!? We’d love you to share your artwork with us on Facebook or Instagram!


Facebook Logo Instagram Logo