Free bird drawing video: Loggerhead Shrike

A few years ago, wandering along the edge of an unmowed meadow, I found a strange display arranged along the top of an old metal fence. Enormous lubber grasshoppers — four inches long and glossy black — were neatly impaled in a row, upside down with their lifeless legs pointed at the sky. There were nine or 10 of them, each on top of a vertical metal post like a macabre architectural detail. What animal had done this? I wondered. Lubbers are toxic, so what was the reason to capture them and spike them on the fence?
I had discovered the pantry of a loggerhead shrike, a dapper bird whose small size belies his fierce reputation as a hunter. Blessed with a sharp, hooked beak but no talons, the shrike kills and impales his food because he cannot grasp it in his slender feet. Leftovers remain in place for a later meal.
Wisely, the shrike leaves the eastern lubber grasshopper on its spike for several days, waiting for the toxins to dissipate, and consumes them after that.
Today, we will use three tonal values in pencil to draw this beautiful bird. Watch the video and print the three attached pdf pages before you draw.
Click for video.

My best Flash Sale yet (for a good cause)

Jo Beagle – Studio Assistant

If you have taken online art courses with me, you may have heard some gentle snoring in the background of my instructional videos. That contented sound is made by my senior beagle, Jo, who naps under the drawing table. An enthusiastic sniffer of the great outdoors, she is a veteran camper and good company on sketching hikes. (She’s also great at preventing litter — she can detect tasty crumbs on a discarded food wrapper from 100 yards away.) With the passing years, Jo has developed some serious health issues and this week, in anticipation of a large vet bill, I decided to offer a special flash sale on classes.

From now through Saturday, ALL previously offered courses are $40. Two courses – Drawing Owls or 8 Flowers 8 Ways – are FREE with the purchase of any other course. The offer includes courses that provide you with antique postcards for painting projects, and I will happily send them anywhere in the world.

All courses are lifetime access.

Here’s the complete list:

  • Five Little Songbirds (painted on vintage postcards)
  • Birds and Words: A Joyful Course in Ink and Watercolor
  • Birds and Butterflies on Vintage Postcards
  • Drawn and Decorated Watercolor Lettering
  • Birds in Watercolor and Beyond
  • Birds in Colored Pencil
  • Draw Dogs and Cats
  • Draw Owls (FREE with any other course)
  • Draw Horses and Ponies
  • Drawing Children
  • 8 Flowers 8 Ways (FREE with any other course)
  • Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil
  • Botanical Sketchbook Painting
  • Gentle Garden: Carbon Pencil Botanicals
  • Draw and Paint Six Culinary Herbs
  • Fairies I: Draw and Paint Fairies in Nature
  • Fairies II: Draw and Paint the Enchanted World


Thanks from Jo (and me)!

A last-minute gift could be your best ever

A uniquely creative gift is as close as your email inbox — choose from 16 lifetime access online art courses, and I will email you a printable gift certificate ready to delight the artist in your life. GET A SECOND COURSE FREE to give or to use yourself.

The lessons within each course include full video demos and lots of beautifully illustrated printable pages. Classes include:

  • Birds and Words, a Joyful Course in Ink and Watercolor
  • Vintage Postcard Birds and Butterflies (antique postcards provided)
  • Drawn & Decorated Watercolor Lettering
  • Birds in Watercolor and Beyond
  • Birds in Colored Pencil
  • Draw Dogs and Cats
  • Draw Owls: Designed for the Dark
  • Draw Horses and Ponies
  • Drawing Children
  • Eight Flowers Eight Ways
  • The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil
  • Botanical Sketchbook Painting
  • Gentle Garden: Carbon Pencil Botanicals
  • Draw and Paint Six Culinary Herbs
  • Draw and Paint Fairies in Nature
  • Fairies II: Draw and Paint the Enchanted World


Drawing to see differences

Drawing a bird can help you see and understand it more deeply. This tutorial from Journey Through the Natural Year will show you how. 

The glossy-winged geniuses of the bird world, crows and ravens appear in folklore around the world: The clever raven is a trickster in northwestern Native American legends. Viking ships flew banners depicting ravens. Shakespeare used ravens as heralds of coming misfortune in his plays, the ancient Greek sun god had a raven messenger, crows were sacred in Celtic tradition, and the Mayans saw crows as bringers of lightning and thunder.

  Both crows and ravens are completely black (the only two species among more than 800 in North America who can make that claim) but there are many differences, too. Be careful not to draw them the same way… or to accidentally use the wrong bird as a reference image!  

In this tutorial, we’ll draw in a lively, loose style that fits well with our feathered subjects.  

Watch both videos all the way through and print the four attached pdf pages before you begin to draw.  

Here is the link to the first video. The password for both videos is   journey  

 Here is the link to the second video:

Click for printables:  

Download 7-12 Crow or Raven REF heads

Download 7-12 Differences

Download 7-12 REF Crow

Download 7-12 REF Raven

New course: 5 Little Songbirds

Wood Thrush

FIVE LITTLE SONGBIRDS: A simple painting technique
6 Video tutorials with illustrated printables
6 Vintage postcards included – Enrollment limited


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Using a simple four-step painting technique that mimics the effect of a woodcut, paint 5 beloved songbirds on vintage postcards (provided to you). I’ll also send along a sixth postcard for practice. Either gouache or acrylic work for this course — use the one you like best. Our colorful painted flock includes:

  • Wood Thrush
  • Summer Tanager
  • Oriole
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Yellow Warbler

The complete course, including all 5 birds and an introductory practice video, is posted on a password-protected website. Your site access is permanent and will never expire. International signups welcome — I will send postcards anywhere in the world.


Also, this is a “drawing optional” course for all levels of art experience (or no experience at all). How to sketch each songbird is included in their video tutorials, but if you prefer to focus on painting only, I will provide optional patterns that can be transferred to your postcards.

Use your 5 Little Songbirds as uplifting gifts for holiday giving, or let them roost in your own home. Either way, I hope you will join me!

New course! Birds and Words


Ballpoint and watercolor tint, one of four unusual techniques we’ll explore in my new course.

 Special offer – choose a second course FREE. Lifetime access – your courses will never expire.

Birds and Words: A Joyful Course in Ink and Watercolor – $65

In 12 videos and 20 illustrated printable pages, this course will change the way you think about combining watercolor and ink. We’ll paint swallows in the elegantly simple style of ancient Minoan nature artists; a tree filled with colorful songbirds in the style of Colonial folk painters; design and create a kindly Mother Goose in the style of Beatrix Potter and the golden age of children’s book illustration.  Finally, using a simple plastic ballpoint pen and a thin wash of watercolor, we’ll create a delicately tinted drawing with the look of a Victorian bird engraving. (You’ll receive three antique postcards upon which to draw your choice of birds.)

Each project consists of two parts: first, we’ll draw realistic pencil studies or ink sketches of our selected birds. Then, we’ll go outside the box to re-create them using our project techniques.

Also… Nearly every civilization has a legend featuring birds as divine messengers. So that YOUR birds can bring good tidings, each project includes a hand-lettered component.  Use them separately or incorporate them into your artwork.

This course is “lifetime access” and will never expire. Enrollment is limited. As a bonus for you, choose a second course free for yourself or someone else.

The supply list is simple. In fact, if you have taken a course from me before, you probably already have everything you need:


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Sketching Sarracenia


These oddly beautiful plants carpet the forest floor at Splinter Hill Bog, one of the nation’s largest remaining stands of old-growth longleaf pine. It’s a natural wonderland, a short drive from my house, a place rich with subjects to draw. I try to make a sketching excursion there every spring, when the sarracenia is blooming. This one is black and white charcoal on a watercolor background.

Draw Paint Letter is back!


Draw Paint Letter: the Artist-Naturalist’s Year   –   $30/month

Learn through the seasons. Keep the course forever. If you missed it in 2016, here is your chance to explore the natural year through drawing, painting, and creative hand-lettering. No experience necessary!

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How does it work?

Val Webb’s beautifully illustrated tutorials, tips and techniques will post to a private class website every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Fridays, you’ll also receive a link to a full-length video lesson. All video content will remain permanently online, available for you to practice and review whenever you like.

Draw Paint Letter started on March 23, 2020 and will run for one full year. Students may join the class at any time during the year and will have lifetime access to all material from their personal start date going forward. The cost is $30/month and is billed monthly through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account to make the payment using a credit or debit card.

(To stop receiving tutorials and video lessons, simply email Val and your enrollment will end at the close of your current 30-day period.)

4-2 victorian eggs

What subjects will we draw and paint?

Val is best-known for drawing the garden and the natural world, and much of our focus will be in those places. Spring season tutorials include:

  • A whimsical watercolor hand-lettering style inspired by the garden
  • Sketching soft fur and drawing baby animals
  • Using pencil over watercolor for beautiful textures on leaves and moth wings
  • Reverse painting spring blossoms

…and much more.

Drawing (pencil, charcoal, pen-and-ink, colored pencil) and painting (watercolor) subjects will include seasonal changes in animals wild and domestic, birds of all kinds including shorebirds and birds of prey, butterflies and moths, marine life, frog and turtles, botanical drawing techniques, wildflowers, heirloom vegetable varieties, tropical flowers and ferns, historic and medicinal plants, herbs, trees, the cottage garden setting, natural landscapes (forest, coastal, mountain and desert), creeks and rivers, open water, skies, and much more. Our subjects will reflect the changing seasons.


Drawing techniques covered will include traditional pen-and-ink, “splash and splatter” techniques for dramatic effects, ink-and-wash and ink-and-brush, realistic pencil drawing, field drawing and sketching from life, charcoal drawing, making and using toned paper, colored pencil drawing and color blending.

…And what about painting and lettering techniques?

Many of our projects will combine drawing, painting and lettering in the tradition of classic illustration, beautiful nature journals and field sketches.

Painting lessons will explore traditional watercolor, “fast and loose” floral watercolor, pen-and-ink with watercolor, watercolor with colored pencil, drybrush, reverse painting in watercolor, ink resist painting, and more. Lettering projects will feature a wide range of hand-lettering styles in pencil, ink and watercolor, plus page design and “fancy field notes.”

LL brush lettering

Who can take this class? Do I need to be able to draw?

Draw Paint Letter is open to all. Class material is appropriate for anyone, at any level of art experience. No previous art experience is required, and Val teaches in a spirit of warmth and gentle encouragement. Our students range from “never tried to draw before in my life” to seasoned professionals polishing their skills in a specific subject area. Don’t let a lack of drawing experience keep you away!

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Have a question? Email

reverse painting

Carbon pencil magic


All is Illusion – 12×16 carbon pencil on hot press watercolor paper

Exquisitely gentle shading, lush velvety black tones… I have completely fallen in love with carbon pencils. I’m working hard on a new online course, so I can share some carbon pencil magic with you.  Gentle Garden will begin October 1, and will focus on using this lovely drawing medium to create botanicals (and their pollinators – bees, butterflies and hummingbirds). The details will be available soon.