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How To Draw A Turkey

Updated on November 4, 2012

How To Draw A Turkey

Unison Pastels on Fisher 400 Paper
Unison Pastels on Fisher 400 Paper | Source

Choose A Turkey

First, choose your turkey. Just recently I was asked whether I had any paintings of a turkey or chicken that a client could buy to give as a gift. To be honest, I'd never thought of chickens and turkeys as particularly popular subjects, but I always tell myself that if something crops (no pun intended) up more than once, then it's something I should pay attention to. And, as I had to turn the client away, losing a commission also made me prick up my ears.

I guess I should have realised that, living in such a rural area, of course livestock pictures would be popular gifts. So, I figured I would write another 'how to pastel hub' about drawing a chicken and a turkey. You may have guessed, this is the turkey version.

As ever, when choosing an image to work from, make sure it's yours to use. I'm fortunate that the farm on Shute lane (we call it up Shute creek withut a paddle) has a good variety of hens, roosters and turkeys milling about, that I can photograph and sketch. This is a journey I have to make alone, because Archie, the dog is absolutely terrified of the turkeys and roosters, especially the noise the turkey makes. If you aren't so lucky as to have a handy turkey wandering about, check with the source of your photo that it's OK to use.

Photo Enlarged Using Tracing Method

Enlarge Your Photo

It's unlikely that the image you choose will be the size you wish to draw, so you'll need to enlarge it, then find some way to transfer this image to your chosen support. If you're a skilled artist you'll be able to draw the turkey directly, if not, then here are a couple of methods you can use to enlarge your photo and get it down on paper.

I squared up one of my sketches to make the final painting and transferred it on to Fisher 400 paper (my Rolls Royce of papers).

First Steps in Pastel Painting

The first step in creating your turkey painting is to choose a colour palette. Steer clear of black as a dark colour, because it can deaden your work if you're not skilled at using it. For very darks, you could choose deep blue for areas in shade and maybe a deep brown for less shaded areas. Pale blue makes a good, cool shady white and very pale yellow a warm white. Save bright white for highlights only, as again it is a very flat colour.


I used fairly pale pigments for the background of this painting, chosen from my Landscape Pastel set. I stuck to pale yellows and yellow greens, but added some pale pink in the foreground. Keeping the background pale means that the turkey will stand out. I didn't put any detail into the foreground until the turkey itself was complete. If you leave the foreground to last, you can add in some complementary colours and tones that are going to enhance your finished bird.

Once you have your colour palette, start with pastel sticks ( I use my favourite, Unison pastels) and block in some colour, smudging the pigment into the paper with your fingers. You can leave areas of the support showing through, if you want to show the paper in the final work.

Next put in the detailed feathers. you don't need to put in every single one, but rather suggest the texture fo feathers using the side of a pastel stick. Try to keep your colours clear and bright. Once you're happy with this stage, switch to pastel pencils (I use Faber-Castel Pitt Pencils) and put in a few suggestions of really fine detal, such as eyes, claws, the odd bit of feather or straw.

And voila, you have your turkey painting. Who'd have thought anyone would want a turkey as a gift, but here he is.

I have used fixative on my painting, as he's going into my Etsy store for sale, and I don't want him to smudge in transit. I use a natural milk casein fixative, which I find works well and doesn't destroy the colour pigments.


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    • Georgina_writes profile imageAUTHOR

      Georgina Crawford 

      5 years ago from Dartmoor

      Thank you torrilynn, I just enjoy teaching people how to do stuff!

    • torrilynn profile image


      5 years ago

      I really enjoyed your hub. Breaking down the steps to making something so simple such as a dog or turkey can really help anyone wanting to be an artist of sorts. Thanks and voted up.

    • johncuala profile image

      John Vincent 

      6 years ago from Mandaluyong City

      your welcome

    • Georgina_writes profile imageAUTHOR

      Georgina Crawford 

      6 years ago from Dartmoor

      Thanks johncuala

    • johncuala profile image

      John Vincent 

      6 years ago from Mandaluyong City

      oh beautiful nice

    • Georgina_writes profile imageAUTHOR

      Georgina Crawford 

      6 years ago from Dartmoor

      Thanks billybuc. I get students in my workshops who also struggle with stick figures and they always go home with something they're pleased with. Support is always very welcome!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm just here to lend my support because, quite frankly, I can't even draw a stick figure. :) Great instructional hub!


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