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With such a brief online tutorial I can't help you much with the actual drawing part of the Celtic animals. There are some things after you get the general shape of your animal done that you can do to turn your animal Celtic though, which we'll cover here. If you're enjoying these tutorials, don't forget that you can get a collected workbook edition in both an instant PDF downloable eBook edition, as well as a coil bound print edition! These working copies have much more information than these online versions do, more explanations, examples, exercises to work through... become a Celtic art master!

For deeper instruction on Animals, please visit my Aon Apprenticeship page, where you'll see both in-depth programs I offer to learn all about Celtic Zoomorphics... including Dragons and the Celtic Tree of Life!


To start, I usually draw a blob version of my animal, to block out where the shapes will be, where the head will bend around to, where the body lies, and where the legs will end up. I usually leave the drawing of the ears, tongues, tails and feathers until the main body is finished, and then I use the various extra bits to fill in the gaps, depending on what type of animal it is. The following information is intended to give you an idea of what to do with your Celtic Bird when you have the general shape blocked in, and how they are most commonly seen in manuscripts, etc. There are many different ways to treat your Celtic Bird though, so this information is meant to be more of a guide than a rule book. You should feel free to put your own personal swing on your Celtic animals, and to personalize them!

The Body

Celtic Birds were usually peacocks, doves, or eagles. I think the peacocks were the most common, and it seems to explain the decorative tails and bright colors and designs on them.

The body is drawn with the edge or border as shown above. This border usually ends on the legs at about the elbow/knee point and the neck, where it is shown either as a blunt or rounded end.

The wing has a band with a nub on the end where it connects to the rest of the body, at about the shoulder point. This band can either be bordered like the body or left solid.

The feathers on the wing can either cover the entire wing, or just a band on it as shown above. The feathers themselves can either be decorated as the first row are in my wing here, or can be plain like the rest of the ones in the wing band.

Feathers come out of the bottom of the wing as well, and these usually have little disks drawn on the ends of them. These feathers usually come in threes, but I have also seen them in twos too. Three is probably better, if you have the room, because of the reverence the ancient Celts (and most cultures) had for the number three.

The neck is usually separated from the body as shown.

The Head

The head is usually looking back over the body, although facing forward or backwards in acceptable. I find that when he is facing backwards it's easier to fit it into a shaped area, as in the rectangular shape I made him fit here. If the image is free form on the page then he can face either way.

The Bird can either have "ears" or not, and if you have the room to knot it up then it is nice to add it if you can.

More information on drawing the head/face can be found below.

The Legs

The legs on the Bird usually have only the knee and hip joint in them, and them the toes branch off at the end.

The toes can come in either twos or threes, and they can bent back on themselves in alot of ways without apparent injury to the Bird. ;-) Usually two toes are shown going towards the front of the bird, and then the third one is bent back. The bent back one can either be on the horizontal like the front two, or even bent up at a 90 degree angle if it has to, whatever you need to make it fit in the area.

Either one or two legs are usually shown, there is no law here. Draw two if they fit, or only one if they don't. The leg that is furthest from the viewer is always forward of the other leg. If a leg needs to be extended back behind the animal, it is always the leg that is closest to the viewer. The legs are not usually decorated.

Extended Bits

The parts that are extended and knotted in the case of the Bird are the ears. The neck is often elongated as well, and so are the toes, but usually not to the complex extent as the ear. The Bird can also be drawn biting something, like his ear, or another animal.

The extended bits on the Bird should follow the same pattern as a regular knot, going over and under his legs, body, toes and other extended bits. A few liberties can be taken when doing this, for example, you always want his face to be seen, so you can ignore the over and under rule when you go past his head, if you have to. Usually you shown the ear as passing over his chin, and then under the rest of his face.

The Face

To draw the head of the Bird, first start with an oval shape, with a little tail on the bottom of one corner. It should look almost like a talk balloon in a comic.

Next you want to add your beak shape, which should come off the oval nearly level with the top. The beak tapers at the end, and hooks down slightly like an eagles beak. The beak piece attaches to the point of the oval part of the head, and not to the neck.

Add the eye, and the nostril hole to the beak. The eye can be either drawn with the "deer in the headlights" look as shown here, or else can be shown looking forward as shown in the Hound Panel. The mouth is added in the beak area.

Attach the neck to the oval shape, near the top. Shown here, is how the head would look if you weren't going to make an ear to extend and knot around the drawing. If you wanted to have the ear, you'd make the scoop part shown here separate from the body's border, and then let it extend out to be knotted up, as in the very first bird example on this page. The border markings are added to the neck, where they would continue down through the body.

All tutorials copyright Cari Buziak, 1995-current