I'm going to say something about the image above, but first an explanation: Monday a friend met me at Dodge Nature Center for a little tour. She's on the board and her children went to the preschool there, and she thought I should see the place. We were able to go into the barn and see the animals—normally you'd have to be on a tour. And of course we took a little time to sketch.
I don't know that much about the center. She explained a lot of the background but I'll just refer you to their site in case I got it garbled while I was looking around at the beautiful land. There are ponds and nature trails. Of course the most amazing thing for me was the pigeon coup and we didn't even stop to draw the pigeons. Just knowing they had some made me very happy! Oh, and they have a burro! As you can tell I was in overwhelm. They even had raptor care area where 4 non-releasable birds were being tended for life.
There is a preschool that is attached to the center and now an elementary school (again I didn't get all the details, I should have been taking notes) that focuses on "green" approaches. People in the area might want to look into getting their kids into those schools. The preschool not only has BUDGIES (I love budgies!) but the classrooms have pet roosters. That is enlightened living. I wish I had gone to a preschool like that. All in the most delightful building. And there was a wall of little Wellingtons all waiting for the kids to slip on when they go on their nature walks!
It seems like a great center and something local people should look into to support. There are lots of programs there throughout the year.
That said, what about this drawing above?
I am amused at how excited I get when drawing sometimes that I draw all over the page. That is not a chicken sitting on a sheep's rump. I actually started with the sheep (a different breed) on the recto page, the one that's painted. Then she moved and I did the small black and white one that merges into the first sheep. I was working on that page because it was cold (37, but we were in a barn so it wasn't that cold) and I had the book clasped to my chest more than usual. It was just more comfortable. But when the first sheep moved I did the second sheep on that page and then decided I'd better fill the other page.
There was a sheep standing in the door and I drew her for awhile, until she moved (sheep on the verso page). Then I happened to look down and there was this lovely little hen looking up at me with her bead black eye, calm, inquisitive, watchful. Of course I had to draw her. But because I am short, and the gates were high, I had to hold my book even closer to my chest to lean over and see her, and that of course meant she ended up on the rump of the sheep. The result for me is a happy reminder of the 40 minutes we had to sketch on this cold, but sunny and beautiful fall afternoon in Minnesota.
(I was working with a Staedtler Piment Liner and a Niji waterbrush and Daniel Smith watercolors, in an 8-inch square book I made using some Fabriano Uno Soft Press paper that I found lanquishing in the bottom of the flat file—Uno was merged into the Artistico Line around 2001.)
I wish there were more places like Dodge Nature Center, and I wish they were artist accessible. Maybe it's as simple as talking to the people in charge and setting up memberships for artists to come and sketch. Maybe it's a complex issue I can't grasp (having artists constantly around would annoy the animals perhaps; I'd probably be perturbed if people just showed up while I was working and started sketching me). But I still think it's important to seek out these types of places and see them for ourselves. See if such things are available in your area, and if they aren't just maybe you can find people interested in starting one.
I think it's very important for society, not that artists have animals to draw (sure that would be great) but that kids get exposed to nature, as well as farm animals. The more we get to see animals close up and understand what is involved in their care and their quality of life the more I think kids actually learn to be better people, more empathetic with their own kind as well. There doesn't seem to be a downside. OK, maybe a little bit of manure on your shoes, but you can wipe that off. Or wear Wellingtons. Kids need to get dirty too.