Learning how to draw a flamingo with its distinctive beak, long flexible neck and enormous spindly legs might appear to be a bit of a challenge, yet it's actually quite straightforward.
For all its apparent gawkiness, the flamingo's a bird that has much grace in the way it moves around.
As a matter of interest, what looks a knee joint half way down its leg that bends backwards, is actually its ankle. The real knee joint is just visible as the leg emerges from its body. Being a 'wader' - its natural habitat and food supply is found in shallow water - the legs are much longer than the rest of the body.
Just imagine trying to look graceful yourself walking on a pair of long stilts that were hinged half way down - and in a watery marshland to boot!
What we're trying to capture in this 'how to draw a flamingo' tutorial is this combination of quirky features that somehow produce a bird of such elegance and poise in its natural environment. Although these birds are found normally in tropical and sub-tropical climates, they can survive happily in colder climates.
I worked for a while at a Wildfowl and Wetlands Conservation Center called Martin Mere, a large area of marshlands not far from my home near Liverpool in England.
It's a bit less than a tropical climate I can promise you, but at Martin Mere flourishes a large collection of flamingos, as well as many other geese, swans and ducks from all corners of the planet.
Incidentally, it's a lovely, peaceful environment and well worth a visit if you're in this part of the world.
In the image below we can see that the overlaying of some basic shapes on the flamingo photo simplifies things considerably.
For instance, the head and the body are just ovals, whilst the neck is no more than a tall, thin oblong. For the legs, I've not even bothered to draw them separately at this point. I'm happy to draw two or three oblongs to give me the general outline of both legs together.
When considering how to draw a flamingo (or anything else for that matter) what you're aiming for in using these shapes is to get the overall proportions right. You'll be much more confident then when you come to put in the details. This point is well illustrated in the next stage of 'how to draw a flamingo'.
I've now taken the photo away and left the basic shapes. As simplistic as they are, they actually look like a flamingo.
Most importantly, the main features are all in proportion.
The horizontal line at the bottom of the picture is the point where the legs enter the water and the small oblong below that will remind me to show you a simple way how to draw a flamingo reflection without over-complicating your picture.
By the way, if you're going to learn to draw anything, then it's always best to copy directly from real life if you can, whether this is a landscape, still life, or in this case, a living creature.
This would be an 'observed drawing', as the art colleges and educationalists like to put it. It's an important stage in developing an eye for detail.
Certainly, if you can draw or paint from life, this is the best way to bring in all the sights, smells, sounds and other atmosphere that you'll recall every time you look at your picture.
However, animals and birds tend not to stay put, making life difficult for the budding artist.
Equally, not many of us have a flamingo in our back yard, or for that matter most of the other creatures you'll find in these tutorials. And for anyone who is housebound, they simply don't have the chance to get out and observe thing first hand, so photographs, videos, DVD's and so on, are an excellent substitute.
To continue your how to draw a flamingo sketch, use the photo at the top for reference to check details like the shape of the body, beak, tail feathers or whatever, working in and around your basic shapes.
But don't be a slave to them! In this illustration, I've made the basic shapes much lighter so you can see how I've started to sketch in some of the final outlines.
However, note how I've taken the top of the head outside the guidelines and bent the legs a bit more to add some extra character to the pose.
In this section, using the photo, I've put my own interpretation on the way the feathers lie and added some shadow areas to give the flamingo a solid, three-dimensional effect.
Now remember I mentioned earlier about reflections? See how I've just put in a couple of squiggles to represent the bottom of the legs...? By the way, notice how a reflection is always a mirror image of what is reflected.
So in this case, note how the left leg angles sharply downwards from left to right whilst the reflection runs from right to left.
Also, I've added a few, short horizontal lines to represent still water.
In this final section of how to draw a flamingo I've added a few more birds in the background.
Now, two things to note here...
First, flamingos tend to stick together in large groups, a bit like penguins. Probably for self preservation. So when thinking about how to draw a flamingo - or any creature for that matter, don't just think of the picture of the creature in isolation. Try to think how its natural habitat could be hinted at to add authenticity to your picture.
Second point. If you look closely at those 'flamingos' in the background, you'll see that they're actually a few rough squiggles that vaguely represent the outline of these birds.
However, the brain of the viewer, seeing the main picture, 'fills in' these squiggles as more flamingos. In fact if you spent time accurately drawing this supporting cast in detail, you'd find they became too prominent and started to compete with the main image.
You can use the same idea for any similar background 'crowd' scene, especially people. Try it!