In-Focus: Andrew Lyons on Bird Illustration

British illustrator Andrew Lyons is known for his distinctive editorial illustration, commissioned by the likes of The Wall Street Journal, GQ, American Airlines, Wired, New Scientist, Runner's World and Waitrose to name a few.

One of his first packaging jobs was a commission to illustrate a variety of wild birds for Strong, a new brand of nutrient supplements founded by Zana Morris, owner of the Library Gym in London. The brand’s visual identity was created and developed by Pearlfisher.

Here he talks through his design process and offers tips on how to create compelling bird illustration.

I think that a piece of illustration needs to be bold to communicate quickly and be striking. Not necessarily bold in colour choices, but in the shapes that it uses, in it’s composition. At least, that’s my goal when setting out to make an illustration. I like contrasts too, contrast of bold shapes with subtle textural details, that draw the eye into the work

Illustration can capture a bird, and it’s peculiarities in ways that a still photographic image is unable to do.

For the project, I was given the brief of creating an image with bold shapes, and lots of colour. I began by watching many videos of hummingbirds, as well and pouring through library books and Google image search for pictures of the bird. Almost immediately I realised that I wanted to illustrate the bird in flight, due to it’s way of flying being quite unique.

Essential to my work are the use of textures. I use many layers of paper and charcoal textures, and can spend hours tweaking the colours of my final piece, adding filters and gradients.


These bird illustrations were intended to be printed quite small on the sides of small bottles, so they needed to work at a reduced size.

Working with strong, bold shapes can prevent details from getting lost when printed small.

Spending a lot of time in the initial rough stage to become familiar with the animal you’re drawing is important – for example birds. I think this careful study to search for a pose that emphasises the bird’s unique features pays off.

Extracts from this feature appear in How to draw birds: 18 illustraion tips published on Digital Arts online Read the feature here.


Posted on Jan 12th, 16 by | Twitter: @lisahassell

Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.

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