I included this exercise in my Friday drawing classes to illustrate how to draw/paint an adult and a baby as some learners find showing age of animals/birds a challenge.

The differences: shape of head, shape of eye, length of beak. Then of course the downy texture of a baby animal as opposed to the smoother look of adult feathers.

Make a line drawing of the mother and baby. The baby head is very round whereas the mother has a more elongated shape to the head. Working on what is considered as a “white” subject offers great opportunities to use a variety of colour which is reflected or absorbed from the surroundings, direction of the light from above and indeed on the animal itself: white animals are usually quite colourful in a subtle way.

I used mixed media to paint my swans: graphite, watercolour, acrylic and some watercolour pencils. The colours on the swan: beak, orange mixed with burnt sienna, the top of head, a light wash of that mix, side of neck, a weak wash of a chromatic black, the rear feathers a very weak wash of an acrylic ultramarine mixed with an acrylic white.

The baby swan palette: a payne’s grey for the beak, working light to dark. For the downy effect: used a rubber tipped pencil and some graphite pencil shavings. Tap the rubber into the shavings and then apply the rubber to the surface of the head and parts of body: works extremely well as a quick way of representing soft down.

The background I painted in pure black to create a colour contrast.