UPDATE: The contest is now closed.

We're giving away 10 copies of The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, by John Muir Laws. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below, and be sure to include a viable email address (it won't show up on the page). The official rules are below. The contest ends at midnight, Friday, August 30, 2013. In the meantime, here’s the foreword from the book, written by the immensely talented David Sibley. Good luck!

I have been drawing birds for most of my life. I started almost as soon as I could hold a pencil, around five years old, and I kept at it. Birds have always been my favorite subject and have provided me with a lifetime of challenging and stimulating work.

My father is an ornithologist, so there was no shortage of technical information about birds in our house. Finding instruction on drawing birds was more of a challenge. I watched birds constantly, I studied museum specimens and worked in bird-banding stations where I could hold the birds in my hand, and I sketched them whenever I could. I studied the work of other artists. I took lessons and read books about drawing in general, and I had a short picture book written and illustrated by Lynn Bogue Hunt called How to Draw and Paint Birds (published by Walter Foster). That book was big on demonstrations—showing Ms. Hunt’s nicely styled sketches—but short on instruction. It didn’t offer much more than the self-evident “Try to draw something that looks like this.”

Slowly, over years of study and practice, I learned various tricks and details that made my drawings better. I learned about bird anatomy: how the feathers radiate from the base of the bill (page 22 in this book); how the tail pivots from a point far forward of where you would expect (page 37); how the feathers meet to form a crease down the center of the belly (page 24); how the feathers move as a bird “stretches” its neck (page 7). I learned about creating the illusion of form in two dimensions by making the darkest shadows away from the very edge of the bird (page 90), or merely suggesting the arrangement of feathers by outlining a few of them (page 35), and more.

People often ask me if my passion for drawing came first or my interest in watching birds. I have always done both. For me the two are intertwined and mutually supportive in ways that I can’t even begin to describe. Since drawing is one of the things I do, whenever I watch birds I am thinking about details of drawing them. I notice the line of the back, the way the bill opens, the interaction of colors and form.

Conversely, when I am drawing I look more closely and ask and answer questions that I would not have considered if I was just watching. In that sense, drawing becomes a way to interact with the birds, and drawing leads to understanding. The simple act of trying to draw something can change the way you look at the world. And that brings me to the underlying message of this book, and one of my favorite things about it: Drawing birds is about so much more than just drawing birds.

Drawing is often misunderstood. Non-artists tend to focus on the end result, and think that the primary purpose of drawing is to produce pretty pictures. For one thing, as this book points out, that’s a stress-inducing way to think about the practice of drawing, since by that measure most of your drawings will be failures. More importantly, it misses the deeper and longer-lasting rewards of drawing—the knowledge and understanding that come from the process.

This book is superficially about drawing and painting birds, but it’s really a guide to a more thoughtful and inquisitive study of birds, with drawing as the method. As John Muir Laws says in the introduction, “Every drawing is practice for the next one…make it your goal to learn to observe more closely and to remember what you have seen. With these goals, every drawing will be a success.”

I wish this book had been available to me when I was starting out, because it is filled with tips and tricks that took me decades to learn. It is detailed and thorough enough to be helpful to an experienced artist, but the explanations are so clear and intuitive, and the text so encouraging, that it should be truly empowering for beginners. Browse this book, try a few drawings, observe, browse some more. Don’t worry about how your drawings look; with this book as your guide I guarantee they will get better. Just enjoy the excitement that comes from engaging your curiosity about birds, and the satisfaction of learning.

David Allen Sibley

Concord, Massachusetts





1) Sponsor: Audubon Magazine, an operating unit of National Audubon Society, Inc., 225 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014 (“Audubon Magazine” or “Audubon”). 

2) No purchase necessary.

3) The “Laws Guide to Drawing Birds Giveaway” (“Contest”) is open from 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time (“ET”) on August 21, 2013 through 11:59 p.m. ET on August 30, 2013.

4) Eligible entrants must be at least 18 years old as of August 21, 2013 and a resident of the contiguous 48 United States.  Employees, officers, and directors of Sponsor and any and all entities directly associated with the Contest, including immediate family members and members of the same household, are not eligible to participate (collectively with Sponsor, the “Contest Entities”). Void where prohibited by law. Contest is governed by U.S. law and subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. By entering the Contest, entrants agree to accept and be bound by all the terms of these Official Rules and Regulations (“Official Rules”). 

5) To enter leave a comment by completing the “Your name”, “E-mail” and “Comment” fields (the Submission”) on the following article page of Audubon Magazine’s website: http://audubonmagazine.org/articles/living/win-copy-laws-guide-drawing-birds. The “Homepage” field on such article page is optional and will have no effect on your chances. Email addresses submitted with any Submission must be valid.  Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify and remove any Submission and/or entrant at any time in the event of any evidence of false or deceptive acts by an entrant, including, but not limited to, multiple Submissions or Submissions reasonably suspected to be generated by script, macro or other automatic means; any Submission determined to be offensive, inappropriate, not in keeping with Sponsor’s image or if it is otherwise determined that the entrant has not otherwise complied with any portion of these Official Rules. 

6) Only one entry permitted per person.

7) Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received.

8) Five winners will each receive one copy of the book The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, by John Muir Laws, Heyday 2013 (value: $24.95) (Total value of all prizes: $249.50).

9) Winners will be selected by a random drawing conducted by Audubon Magazine on September 5, 2013 and notified by Audubon Magazine via email on or before September 13, 2013.  If within five (5) business days using Audubon Magazine’s reasonable effort, any winner does not respond to Audubon Magazine’s notification email, or otherwise cannot be contacted, or is found to be ineligible, an alternate winner may be selected.

10) Sponsor is not responsible for any incorrect or inaccurate entry information, viruses, bugs, malfunctions, or other any other errors, human or otherwise, regardless of the cause (collectively, an “Error”).  In the event of any Error, Sponsor reserves the right, in their sole discretion to discontinue, suspend, cancel, or modify the Contest.   In the event of cancellation, Sponsor reserves the right to judge all eligible, non-suspect entries received prior to the Error requiring such cancellation using the selection procedure outlined above.   Prize is subject to availability.  No substitution or transfer of prizes or cash redemptions permitted, except at Sponsor’s sole discretion. Sponsor reserves the right to substitute for any reason whatsoever a prize (or portion thereof) of comparable or greater value, at their sole discretion.  Sponsor does not have, nor shall have in the future, any duty or liability, direct or indirect, vicarious, contributory, or otherwise, with respect to the infringement or protection of any copyright in and to entrant’s Submission.  Winners are responsible for the reporting and payment of all taxes as well as any other costs and expenses associated with acceptance and use of their prize not specified herein as being awarded.

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12) Entrants may be required to execute any documents necessary to perfect such rights in the Sponsor.  By entering this Contest and/or accepting the prize, entrant and/or winner agrees to, and hereby does, release the Contest Entities from any and all liability, loss or damage arising from or in connection with participation or attempt to participate in the Contest and/or the awarding, receipt, use or misuse of the prize or participation in any prize related activities, and claims based on publicity rights, defamation or invasion of privacy. The Contest Entities and their parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates and divisions, and their respective directors, officers, employees, attorneys, representatives and agents make no warranties, and hereby disclaim all warranties, express or implied, concerning any prize furnished or awarded in connection with the Contest, including, but not limited to, any winner’s ability to claim a prize awarded in the Contest for reasons of the prize provider’s bankruptcy, insolvency or failure to continue its business.  WITHOUT LIMITING THE GENERALITY OF THE FOREGOING, SUCH PRIZES ARE PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, AND THE CONTEST ENTITIES HEREBY DISCLAIM ALL SUCH WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND/OR NONINFRINGEMENT.

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