David Sibley’s sketch of an Atlantic Puffin.

I sat down at my dining room table, its wooden surface covered by a wrinkled white tablecloth scattered with work-from-home items; my laptops, notebooks, a speaker, various dishes and coffee mugs.  Clearing a space, I retrieved my field notebook – untouched since April of 2018 – and flipped to a brand new page. Taking pen-in-hand, I navigated to Audubon’s website and pulled up a short video tutorial: drawing a Great Blue Heron with David Sibley himself.

Sibley – author of the famed Sibley Guides that sat on my bookshelf and essentially taught me how to identify birds – is collaborating with Audubon for a series of how-to drawing guides. Though I found the videos featured on their children’s resources page, trust me when I say they are as much for adults as they are for kids.

My sketches following the guidance of David Sibley.

Starting simply, I followed his soothing instructions as I sketched an oval for the head and body, connecting them pen stroke by pen stroke, then starting in on the shading. The video was barely longer than six minutes, but my attention was totally focused. I see Great Blue Herons nearly every day, but for the first time I considered their knobby “knees,” the way their head plumes arched back from their eyes. As soon as the video ended, I started another, this time for Atlantic Puffins.

I am not a sketch artist, but anyone can follow his simple instructions. I paused the video a few times and went back, working out an additional detail or seeing where I went wrong. The sketches would have been a bit better if I had used a bigger piece of paper or a pencil instead of a pen, but who cares? I hadn’t sketched in years, and it was fun. Moreover, when I return to my field notebook someday, I have a better sense of how to capture unfamiliar species on the page to compare to my field guide back at home.

To see the complete #SketchWithSibley series, click here. I’m going to go through them all!

Note: Erika is the Communications Director of Audubon Florida.

Written by Erika Zambello
Erika Zambello is a National Geographic Young Explorer who grew up in Maine, inspiring a deep interest in nature at an early age. She fell in love with birding after receiving a Sibley field guide for Christmas during her senior year in college, and has birded across the eastern seaboard and internationally ever since. To inspire others to protect birds and the environment, she has blogged for the Conservation Fund, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Triangle Land Conservancy, and Duke University, and is writing a birding guide to Northern New England for Wilderness Adventures Press. She has founded OneWorldTwoFeet.com, and is currently living along the Emerald Coast in Florida's Panhandle. You can check out her exploration site or follow her on Instragram.