Monday, April 18, 2016

Rapt About the Raptors

A drawing friend called me on this rare, sunny, winter day in western Michigan and said "let's go draw outside!"  How can one refuse an invitation like that?

So we headed to the local 
Outdoor Discovery Center, Bird of Prey Education Pavilion, where there are a dozen or so raptors who are injured, and can't live in the wild.

I took minimal supplies:  the trusty Strathmore 500 mm journal, fineliner, Pitt calligraphy pen, two colors of watercolor, and a blue Liquitex acrylic marker (used after I returned home).

The cages they live in have huge, strong, metal bars for walls, sort of like you'd see in a cartoon of a prison.   So you really have to peer between them to see the birds well.  I found this a huge challenge each time I looked from page to bird and back again.  I had to get my eyes to focus past the bars, onto the bird.  I got used to it after a few minutes.

We were the only two there (the advantage of going on a Saturday-no busloads full of school kids).

I chose to start scribbling a female red tailed hawk with a permanently injured right wing.  She was very interested in me, and hopped around for a bit, but by the time I picked up the pen to start gestures, she had mostly settled down.

The gestures (page 1) were a good start--I had a really hard time getting my hand to do what I was seeing.   I just kept drawing over and over the shapes until they started to modify.  Then I focused on the eye, the head, the feet.  Then I felt like I could do something a little more slow (page 2).  I used the fineliner for the contour shapes and inner markings, then used watercolor.  That was a challenge in the cold, sun and high wind.  They dried up almost instantly.  It was good practice.

When I finished, I still had about 15 minutes left (we had agreed to a one hour drawing time), so I started the Great Horned Owl.  She watched me for about 5 minutes, then went to sleep.   I didn't want to paint her, but I wanted to experiment with some color, so I used the Roz Stendahl method of acrylic marker in the background.  I like the effect.  I really want to paint her eyes the golden that they were....

Once again, I love the power of scribbling!  When when I couldn't get the hawk right, the gestures--over and over--did help me get it. Interestingly, the owl came out very well, with no gestures, just the initial drawing.  That scribbling warms me up for a session, helps me settle down, see what's in the world, process it, get it out of my hand... amazing.

This post comes from work I did in a class with Roz Stendahl, Drawing Practice:  Drawing Live Subjects in Public.  I recommend it!

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