Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sketching Backyard Chickens

Sunday afternoon I went on a sketch-out with the MetroSketchers group to a private residence in Minneapolis to sketch in the backyard.  The great thing about this particular backyard is that they have six chickens which is what we were all there to sketch.

Handmade journal with Nideggen paper
open spread 7x15 inches
Faber-Castel PITT pen size F
Funny thing about chickens  - they move - a lot.  This facet of their personality makes them quite a challenge to draw.  I started out with a handful of gesture sketches.  Seeing the page now I wish I had switched to my brush pen rather than the PITT pen I used to get a stronger line quality, but oh well.  The first two I did are the ones that try for more detail and are more awkward (they are on the left diagonally across the page).  Once I loosened up and let go of detail and aimed for just the shape my sketches got better and look more like chickens with less line.

Handmade journal with Nideggen paper
open spread 7x15 inches
Sketch with PITT pen size F
Watercolor and gouache

I was frustrated with the movement at this point and opted to sketch the chicken coop instead.  I was originally thinking that I would start with the coop on the right and add chickens in the yard after but as often happens, my sketch of the coop ended up a bit bigger than it should have and I did not quite get to the ground level.  I decided to add a chicken sketch to the left anyway, it was why we were there in the first place and I did not want to leave a blank page.  For this sketch I tried to stay patient about the chicken moving around and just continued to work even after the chicken had changed position.  I had also taken a quick reference shot with my cell phone as soon as I started the sketch so I had one still shot to look back at if I got stuck or if the chicken walked away across the yard.  I was lucky and Louise stayed nearby for most of my sketch and she only moved too far away to see as I was finishing up with my paint.
While I was there I also took a few extra shots with my camera to use as reference to draw from at home.
Handmade journal with Nideggen paper
open spread 7x15 inches
Sketch with PITT pen size C (right)
Watercolor and gouache (left)

I also had access to some preview chicken images before I went to sketch.  The color portrait of Louise was done from a preview image to practice a chicken, although a chicken from a photo is not really practice for chickens from life.  The line drawings were done after the sketch-out from images I took on my cell phone.  I used a pen with a heavier nib and drew quickly but not as fast as a gesture sketch from a moving chicken would require.
Sketching chickens was fun and challenging.  I recommend stretching your sketching skills and drawing from a moving subject sometime soon.  It causes you to make different decisions than you do while sketching from a stationary object and it forces you to use your visual memory while you draw.  Both good skills to work on especially since summer is full of moving subjects to choose from and the State Fair sketch-out is so close.

Monday, July 2, 2012

View from the Porch

Fabriano-Venzia sketchbook
12x18 inches, FaberCastell Pitt pen size F, 
Grumbacher and Daniel Smith watercolor
At the beginning of June, after the school year was finished, my husband and I went on a vacation with some dear friends to Madeline Island, Wisconsin.  We stayed in a house on the northern side of the island that overlooked Lake Superior 98 steps up above the lake.  This is the view from the screen porch as recorded in my sketchbook from our first morning.  It was an amazing and relaxing few days and I do believe that Madeline Island is a place that we will return to again.