Northern Lapwing


Northern Lapwing:
Mike Wood shows how to carve a stunning countryside beauty.

Mike Wood shows how to carve a stunning countryside beauty

In this article I show you how to carve and paint a Northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus). The bird measures up to 130mm long and has a wingspan of up to 870mm. It is a migratory bird that has a distribution throughout Eurasia and migrates further east as far as China and Japan.
It is a wading bird and nests on arable pastures, grasslands, uplands and similar situations. A ground-nesting bird, it lays well-camouflaged eggs and the parents guard their nests fiercely. One trick they use is to act as though they have a broken wing to lure predators away from the eggs and chicks.
The Northern lapwing’s common name is the peewit, which is close to the sound of the call of the bird. Changes in habitat and usage of its nesting grounds has resulted in a population decline and there are now in place monetary grants for landowners to re-establish the pastures for them and other birds to breed on. When carving this or any other bird or subject matter, you need to do your research. Watch video clips, sketch and draw items when you see them, make note of the features that define them from other birds. With the Northern lapwing the crest and the colouring are of particular note. The iridescent colours are available in good craft and art stores and also online, so you will not have a problem with finding them – but note the subtle blending and the location of the colouring. This really is a beautiful bird and it’s well worth carving one.

Also known as the peewit in imitation of its display calls, its proper name describes its wavering flight. Its black and white appearance and round-winged shape in flight make it distinctive, even without its splendid crest. This familiar farmland bird has suffered significant declines recently and is now a Red List species.

Did you know
Early in Egypt’s history, the lapwing was a symbol of the people of Egypt under the king’s rule. On the Scorpion Macehead (c. 3000 BC), the lapwing is a symbol of the rule of the Upper Egyptian king over the Lower Egyptian people. The bird was an obvious choice to represent the Lower Egyptian people due to its habit of wintering in the Delta.

Things you will need
• Rotary carving unit
• Handpiece to hold various cutters and sanding units
• Drum sander and abrasives to fit hand unit
• Coarse and medium grit tapered rotary cutter
• Medium grit ball cutter
• Fine grit small ball burr
• Fine grit flame diamond burr
• Diamond point burr
• Bullnose stone burr
• Fine grade flame/tapered diamond burr
• Medium-sized fine grade ball-ended burr
• Airbrush/brushes as appropriate
• Pyrography unit with scalpel/chisel-edge tip
• Legs/feet
• Eyes
• Two-part epoxy putty or similar to bond the eyes
• PPE  – facemask/goggles, dust mask and extraction
• Pyrography unit and shading and incising/scalpel-type tips
• Selections of acrylic colours shown in the palette, plus black
• Plastic wood
• Airbrush and/or brushes to apply the colours
• PVA or similar adhesive
• Cyanoacrylate adhesive
• Jelutong (Dyera costulata) Body: 220mm long x 90mm wide x 90mm high. Head: 50mm high x 70mm long x 30mm wide
• Driftwood or piece of softwood for the stand
• Three pieces of wood for the eggs

Drawings and how to resize them
To enlarge or reduce the size of drawings right click on the image to download it and then go HERE to watch a video on how to use paper with a grid to do exactly that.

1. First cut out the bird body shape following the template supplied. A bandsaw, coping saw or similar will help but you can just carve your blanks to shape if you want to. Note the drawing. It shows the beak and head in line with the body. This is to give you the scale and look. The head and body are cut in two parts and joined together. Please look at the main opening image. I have positioned the head twisted round and looking slightly down to give the bird a more natural look. Glue the head to the body with whatever head alignment you choose. Now rough-shape the lapwing using either hand tools or power carving tools. I choose to use rotary power carving tools, creating all the main shaped sections

2. Once rough-shaped, sand it all over, mark the main large features on the bird and then rough-cut the shape of the body and head – be careful of the crest feather area, refine this later on – to represent the main profile lines of the bird and the main body, wings and tail sections as best you can. When your profile looks as you want it to, draw in the wing feather positions. They need to look right, in respect of texture, the number, the size and the lay of them too

3. With a high-speed rotary carver handpiece and a small diamond flame burr carve in all the wing and tail feathers, getting the depths right, and start profiling them. Then sand them

4. Drill two holes where you want to position the feet. You can make your own or buy feet. Now use a diamond point to carve in breast feathers and neck feathers

5. Use a bullnose stone to create some texture and soften some of the harsh aspects on the underside of the bird. Mark and cut the eye sockets. Now you need to create the surround for the eyes and fix them in place. To do this, create a bed of two-part epoxy putty and press the glass eyes into the putty. You will end up creating a ring of epoxy putty around the eye which you can shape to behind it in the surrounding area

6. Now draw in all feathers on the head. Once the feathers are drawn in, use a small ruby point to carve in all head feathers,taking note of how they flow from the beak to the back of the head. Now you have two options to carve the crest feathers. They can be carved in place from the solid timber. The extended feathers are fragile but if you snap off a section don’t panic, you can always insert a new piece and carve that. Or, carve the crest feathers individually and insert them in the main head section. After the carving is done, use a pyrography unit to burn in the feather detail, starting with the shafts. Then move on to the finer feather detail using lighter burning to create the layered effect

7. Work all over the body parts that need the main burnt detail before…

8. … creating the finer burnt detail

9. Note that the chest feather detail is different to those of the back and wing feathers

10. That applies too to the feathers on the rear of the wing tips and tail feathers

11. Fix the feet in place and create your base from eroded driftwood, or take a section of softwood and rough-shape it as you want it, take it outside in your garden and, on a concrete slab, burn it heavily with a blowtorch. Then use a soft wire brush to remove the carbon and you will end up with a rippled, undulating surface. You can, of course, carve the base and create the shape and design of your choosing. Here you can see the bird temporarily positioned on the base and all the feathers burnt in. Now it is ready for painting. I use an airbrush, but of course you can use a brush. If you do use a brush be very mindful to apply light, delicate coats to build up the colour

12. All dark feathers on the bird are undercoated using black and white gesso as required. Iridescent green is applied in thin washes on the relevant areas. In this case the iridescent green is placed on the back and the wing sections and partway up the neck

13. Here is a view from the side showing the blackened head and the white underside. Do check your reference material. You need can always backtrack if you get something wrong, so don’t panic

14. Use a very thin wash of black to highlight the burnt areas on the iridescent green areas. Now edge the feathers with white gesso

15. The feathers on the front of the wings are airbrushed using iridescent paint colours dark blue and fuchsia, then finished with a very thin wash of Paynes gray

16. The underparts of the bird need colouring now. The inner end of the tail feathers have a triangular black area. The end of the main body is coated with orange. The main underside feathers are edged, or rather streaked, in light grey

17. The legs are painted the red colour, then all the feathers are edged with white and everything is very thinly washed with white

18. The underneath body feathers now need to have barring created on the feathers to give them a realistic look. Use a light grey to edge the feathers to create the desired look. An airbrush will work, but you will need to use cutout templates to help contain the spray if you are new to using an airbrush. A small detail brush will work well for this without an airbrush. This is detailed work so take your time

19. Now it’s time to refine the colours on the head area. Paint the crest feathers and top of the head black. There needs to be a white section surrounding the eyes, which narrows to a point just shy of the rear of the neck/head and has a wedge-shape widening from the beak down either side to the rear section just above the back section of the bird. But note the black feathers around the eye. The beak is black but with white detail right up to its base. Now, coat the rear of the neck orange and then apply interspersed black highlights and a few black bars, all the while checking your reference material for how the feathers look and lay on the bird. It is not just a case of applying colour and a few highlights. From the moment you carved in the feather positions and then used a pyrpgraphy machine to define the feathers you have been building up to this. The colour just brings everything to life, but all of the other aspects define the visual appearance

20. Before finally fixing the bird to the base you can add a few more elements on the base to create those extra little visual elements to your composition to create something a bit different. I chose to add a layer of grit to the eroded wood. The bits were stuck in place with PVA and then coated with a light wash of brown paint. Now you have the option of creating a few eggs to go on the base along with a little bit of straw/grass for the nesting material. Check the colouring required for the eggs. I chose a buff colour and, using an airbrush, sprayed on some blurred spots of soft grey. You should now have a stunning, colourful bird


Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.