Pet Stores and Sketching

May 30, 2012

See the post for complete details.

120510PetStoreBirdsLeft: Pet Store birds, sketched on Nideggen paper (6 x 9 inch page approx.) Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy pen.

When I was young I had a Budgie. (I can still rattle off a whole lot of budgie facts, and probably would if we were talking right now.) I have always loved birds. So when things aren't going right—whether it's the entire day, a painting, or simply a vague sense of uneasiness—I go to the pet store and sketch. 

Nobody has ever told me to move along, but if they were to do that I would. I don't want to disrupt their business. I only use pen and don't splash water around. I move out of the way when customers who are seeking their next pet want to get close. All that seems like common sense. So maybe that's why I'm tolerated.

I also take photos when I'm done. Reference shots to fill in the color details if I want to make a painting later—or if I want to sketch later when the store is closed.

Sometimes I am asked to refrain from taking photos. I can understand that. They might wonder if I'm collecting information on poor living conditions and such.

Maybe I'm not asked to leave because the ninja cloak of invisibility still actually works and isn't out of commission as I first thought after the conk on the head.

Doesn't matter. Even if I were asked to leave immediately, after only the briefest of glimpses of the birds I'd be restored. Birds do that for me.

Walking in urban areas one can usually find a pigeon. They do the same thing for me. They also often have a jester quality about them (not all pigeons, just some pigeon jokesters).

What brightens your mood? What lifts you up? Find it. Observe it closely. Draw it often. It makes the serious stuff of life easier to deal with.

Take a step outside yourself. Sketching can do that for you.

Hint: If you have a dog or cat, look down at your feet. Your model is already waiting for you. 

    • Frank Bettendorf
    • May 30, 2012

    Very nice both the sketches and the narrative, filled with good common sense. We have lots of birds around our house and love to observe them. Currently the blackest crows are my favorites because they wobble from side to side when they walk. Which they do like they’ve very sore feet. They have klaxons instead of voices and warn us before they dive bomb. It’s wonderful.
    Frank B

  1. Reply

    Thanks Frank. I love crows too. They top my list. And they are all over our neighborhood as they roost near the Mississippi river (we’re a couple blocks away). But they don’t like to hang around and let you watch them like the pigeons do. Klaxons—a very nice descriptor indeed! I hope you get some sketches done.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • June 1, 2012

    My feeders are scattered around the garden, giant pheasant gets well fed. Woodpeckers scare everything away from the feeder for a little while, lots of tits and thrushes, but todays first for birds was a starling feeding a cuckoo from the feeder, with the cuckoo sitting on the roof demanding food. And with a rare moments serindipity I was sitting where I could see it, cleaning my camera from a few days in the North of Scotland, so a few ok pictures through the window. Telephoto went to Orkney for the Puffins. Orney Puffin Population 62,000 , how many did I see? One!! I’ve seen more Scottish Pandas.

  2. Reply

    Leslie, I wish I had feeders. Since we are now a hawk habitat and have always had the neighborhood cats coming through the yard I feel odd about putting up food to attract birds that will just feed someone else on the food chain. I so love going to friend’s where they have hummingbird feeders—but I know I would fall down on the “keeping them filled” regime.

    I’m so sorry to hear you only saw one PUFFIN!!! EEEEEK. Did you see other birds? Keith Brockie is one of my favorite bird painters and he has done a lot of sketching in your country!

    So did you get the cuckoo photo??? Sounds like you did.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • June 2, 2012

    I got the cuckoo pictures. Orkney was fairly empty of bird life, but it was the “Round the islands” tour. The “See the sea birds” tour starts in a week or so, when the puffins are all on the island where they mostly roost. As for feeders, I’ve hawks, buzzards , lots of owls and a few local cats. Even the crows and magpies take smaller birds, so I know some are eaten, but at least more are fed. Plus a garden of small birds helps eat all the beasties so havn’t used much in the way of toxins in years on the garden

  3. Reply

    Leslie, can you return for the “see the sea birds” tour? It seems that like the time to go! If I ever get to Scotland I will be sure to check in on Puffin times with you!

    I see your point about feeding more than what becomes the feed. I don’t put anything on the garden in the way of toxins, however, partly because I don’t care about Lawn the way many in the US do, and more importantly because I don’t want to be exposed and didn’t want the girls to be exposed.

    When I gardened for vegetables I got “frozen” lady bugs to release when the aphids came around. Now we have too much shade.

    I’m so glad you got the cuckoo photos!

    • Leslie Schramm
    • June 2, 2012

    I’ve 1/2 an acre of grass, as long as it’s green I don’t care what’s green. The moss gets machined out once a year, it rots down into a wonderful compost. Daisies, Auberoides, many a geum, and the like comes up in my lawn, many a small bird eats tiny flowerheads and the like. Aphids are easy to shift; 2 drops of washing up liquid in a US quart, and spray it on the aphids. It’s just enough surfactant to suffocate the aphids without damaging the plants or injuring anything that eats them. This year I have at least a dozen bats, currently whizzing around eating midgies, and enough pigeons to eat the caterpillars. As for puffin spotting, the puffin spotting boat costs $30 a day per person, so it’s a cheap day out. So just the other 61,999 to go see.

  4. Reply

    I don’t know what Auberoides are so I’ll have to look those up. It sounds like a lovely bit of nature. Especially the pigeons!!!

    I like the puffin spotting boat only costing $30!

    I bet I’ll get seasick though. Can you go some way so that you are on dry land?????

    My opthalmologist went to the Galapagos Islands and said I would love it. They went on hikes and you were right near the birds and they just sat there and let you be close. I think I would pass out from sheer joy.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • June 3, 2012

    It’s 40 miles over the sea once you get to Orkney, to get to the island with puffins, the sea is usually pretty “bouncy” Oranges taste the same coming up as going down,but there’s so much to see you can “ignore” the seasickness. They land you on the Island a leave you there, so plenty sketching time, esp. as June has a good 22 hours daylight.

    Ferry to Orkney is about 45 minutes, so there’s a lot of sea involved. Shetland’s even further away, takes 12 hours by ferry from Aberdeen.

    Ok, I went out and read the label, “Arabis Aubrietoides” I had guessed at the word. I have a clump from seed I bought, and once it flowered discovered it’s a “weed” in the fields around the house. So some in different colours got transplanted into the “Scottish Natives” garden ( Who said WEEDS!!!; not me, Lol) have fun planning bird spotting ; and go find a sound file of a Puffin; Bet you say “Aberdeen Angus”

  5. Reply

    Leslie, thanks for the link. I loved the little video on that page. The explosive elimination makes the kids at the zoo go crazy! The puffins are different from the ones I get to see at the zoo here so it will be great to see another type (I’ve seen these in person before, but they aren’t my regular species).

    I so have to do this!!!!!!

    I don’t know about the water trip though. I’ll have to get a patch or something for motionsickness.

    And stay on Orkney so that I can recover and have fun.

    I don’t know what “Aberdeen Angus” is.

    If you mean like the steaks, which is what my mind goes to when I hear Angus, then I say “Black Angus” which supposedly is the best beef. But please inform.


    • Leslie Schramm
    • June 4, 2012

    Ok the sound of an Orkney Puffin is def that of a mooing cow. So an Aberdeen Angus cow was the first thought of everyone who heard it. No idea what’s the cost of staying on Orkney, but we stayed in Thurso, good public pool, decent up/down landscape for running around, a very odd art shop, Everything pretty much closed by 8:30pm though. An ok Indian eatery and a few pubs. And the centrally located Bed and Breakfast was $45 per person per night. Landlady lived elsewhwere, so own front door key and very peaceful. Very good breakfast, and made for when ever you wanted. 6am wasn’t a problem.

  6. Reply

    Leslie, now I get it!!!! I don’t know what noise the Puffins we have make because they are behind very thick glass and you can’t hear them. (And I think they can’t really hear us.)

    The details you keep sending just get better and better. After a very hard day today I told Dick I just might be “going to France for 3 months and never coming back”—at which he laughed and said, “well which is it? 3 months or never coming back?” Perhaps I’ll have to go and see the Puffins instead.

    Indian food is my favorite. If I could only eat one style/type of food for the rest of my life it would be Indian. I love the flavors and they use both wheat (for their flat breads) and rice. YUM.

    Yep, this just gets better and better. Though I take it I’ve missed the season for this year????? June is the time to go? I need to plan ahead.

    Thanks for all the inspiring info Leslie.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • June 6, 2012

    Well just to egg the pudding, I’d guess at there being 150~200 Indian eateries, 4 of which have won the British best of the year. I’ve been in Minnesota, it’s not easy to find a selection of Indian munch. If you fancy art galleries I know a lady at the repository in Glasgow so we can get you into the deep store and they’lll pull anything you want to see; with a bit of notice. Glasgow has an astonishing number of Whisters, and his painting gear; those 3 and 4 foot long brushes are something to see. And the Kelvingrove collection of Glasgow boys school of watercolour/goache/oils, is astonishing. The last planned exhibit had a million more visitors than the Van Goch one managed, with staff arranging open nights to cope with the numbers; queueing out the door, down the street, and past a lot of very happy vendors selling drinks and icecreams. If you do ever pass though, I’ve a plan for a statue and a blindfold, that’lll have you in hysterics. Enjoy the dreams.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • June 6, 2012

    Sorry, I meant eateries within 10-12 miles of my front door, not in Thurso,lol.

  7. Reply

    Leslie, I don’t know the last time you were in Minnesota, but the selection of Indian eateries continues to grow, especially in outlying areas where larger populations of Indians are growing around technical job locations.

    Of course if you like to stay in the main part of the cities as I do it’s a bit inconvenient.

    There’s a great Tibetan restaurant on Grand Ave. You might try the next time you visit.

    The best we had disappeared when the couple who ran it went back to India in the 1990s. I was unconsolable for weeks.

    But those 4 best of Britain sound very promising near you!

    I will definitely give you a heads up if I get to Scotland, both so that lady can pull Whistlers out of deep storage and so we can have some Indian food!

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