Small Works of Art

Last week’s post An Extraordinary Collection generated a number of questions about bird eggs. I thought I’d answer them with another egg page and a bit of background.

How eggs are made: It all begins with a female reproductive cell called an ovum. As it travels through the bird’s oviduct, layers of albumen (the egg “white”) and shell membranes are added. When the egg reaches the shell gland, more albumen is added, along with a calcium rich shell. The hard outer shell takes about 20 hours to complete and the whole process takes a day. The egg is then expelled from the bird’s body, and Voila! there it is.

  1. It is illegal to collect bird eggs, so working from museum collections or photos are your best options. Looks for Victorian-era collections in natural history museums. I’ve also seen them in libraries and historical societies.
  2. Practice getting the curve of the egg with just one or two lines. You may want to rotate your paper to help you make the curve. The cleaner the edge, the better.
  3. Some eggs are glossy, and others dull; regardless, leave a highlighted area on the egg to help give it dimension.
  4. Work like a bird. Build up color on the egg in several layers. Start with the “ground” or base color. Then add darker tones and shadows, followed by surface markings.
  5. Build up surface colors and patterns in layers, working from light to dark. A rigger brush is excellent for scrolls, while a spatter brush is most effective for creating random spots.

13 thoughts on “Small Works of Art

  1. What a neat post with the diagram of the development process! Thank you also for discussing the legalities of collecting eggs where to find and draw eggs. Beautiful art work!

    • Thanks Laurie- Glad this is helpful. I made a similar diagram several years ago, but I often can’t remember the details. It was helpful to do it again. I occasionally teach workshops on painting eggs and nests and this will be a useful reference.

      • Also amazing: only one ovary & tube develops, and in non-breeding season it shrinks considerably. Great weight-reducing strategy for flying birds! The male gland shrinks & grows seasonally too.

  2. So interesting and your illustrations were so helpful in understanding the text. 71 years old and I’d never given much thought to the process of chicken egg creation! Thank you

  3. Work like a bird, I love it! Your “how eggs are made” drawing and text are great – who knew? I hope all’s well with you, and you’re enjoying some signs of Spring.

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