My husband and I recently attended a book event at the Bell Museum for The Sibley Guide of Birds, Second Edition. David Allen Sibley is a very humble and unassuming speaker.
I ended up taking notes in my handy sketchbook because this lecture was super informative. David Sibley's father was an ornithologist, so he grew up birding. What impressed me the most is that David is a self-taught artist, he has worked hard over the years to perfect his skills. He spoke about how sketching guides your study, it is a great way to remember and learn as much as you can. The challenge in sketching is finding the few marks on paper that represent the bird in it's simplest form. "Think of each sketch as practice." Through trial and error you figure out what is important and what is not. "You absolutely can't draw something that you don't understand." In the field, he sketches. In the studio he works from his sketches and photo references. Once his outline of the bird is correct, he layers on his paint and adds in the details (he uses gouache, btw!). His paintings show the impression of the bird that you would get in the field whilst looking through binoculars. The value of illustration is in simplicity, shape, and proportion; while a photograph is a record of time and everything in that experience. David Sibley has branched out (pun intended) into tree guides! Visit his website for all sorts of bird and tree goodness and be sure to pick up a copy of his new field guide!