The Art of Wildlife Sketching (2 part series)

Live from Iowa, United States

Summer is approaching and the wonderful outdoors is calling us to adventure! We're excited to host a 2-part series to develop skills in observation, drawing and journaling birds and animals in nature. This series is hosted by VAWAA artist Neil – a naturalist, bird researcher, wildlife and landscape painter, and sculptor who travels frequently to observe birds and other wildlife on location for his practice – sometimes near his home and sometimes far.

Sunday May 23rd 1:30pm EST: we'll learn how to anticipate species most likely to be seen in the wild. Then we'll learn essential methods and materials to develop an understanding of bird and animal body proportions through simple diagrams.

Saturday May 29th 1:30pm EST: we will have the opportunity to join Neil on location (virtually) and be inspired to draw along with him. Neil will be observing and drawing birds or mammals live in motion. He'll demonstrate how the understanding of proportions creates the opportunity for even a novice draftsperson to render a successful drawing.

Many of us have had to spend a lot of time indoors on screens. This series will help us to reconnect with the outside world through the awe-inspiring, meditative, and restorative practice of drawing from wildlife.

All levels are welcome and there is no prior experience required. There will be plenty of time to share, get feedback, and meet other participants from around the world. 

If you are not in EST time zone, be sure to convert the time.

What you'll need

  • Proportional dividers

  • Plumb line (black, light-weight string/thread about 16” long with nut, screw or other small weight tied to the end)

  • Drawing pad - 11x14, 14x17 or 12x18. Or Mixed Media paper

  • Charcoal - soft vine charcoal or soft and medium charcoal pencils

  • Pencil sharpener or skill knife

  • Kneaded eraser

  • Fixative (Krylon workable fixative or similar)

  • Transparent ruler

  • Printed images for Session 1 drawing exercise (these will be emailed to you before the session)

  • A simple photo of a bird, plant or animal - these can be digital or printed


  • Drawing pencils - different hardness graphite (6B, 2B, HB)

  • Newsprint pad - 9x12

How to join

We'll be hosting this VAWAA Online on Zoom. You will receive the link and details to join via email 1 day and again 30 mins before it begins.

About Neil

Neil is a naturalist, bird researcher, wildlife and landscape painter, printmaker, and sculptor. As a natural history illustrator and ornithological researcher, he has traveled all over the world, from the Arctic to the rain forests. He has been a professional visual artist for more than 25 years, and you can find his work in the permanent collection of the United States Library of Congress. He says his art springs directly from encounters with the natural world, and he believes the purpose of art is to transcend medium, subject and artist, and reveal the spirit. As an avid bird watcher, you'll find him constantly out in nature surveying and sketching his next muse.

Visit his artist page to learn more about his in-person VAWAA.

Sessions are ticketed to support artists, makers and our small team. If you’re experiencing financial hardship, please reach out. We may have a generous participant who has paid it forward. We would ask that you pay the love forward by sharing online sessions with friends.