A Fun Afternoon with the Chickens

August 11, 2014

140713_02_ChickensLeft: Second page of gesture sketches on the day. On moist Hahnemühle Nostalgie paper (about 9 x 11 inches). All the images in today's post are in order of execution, but because of "repetitiveness" I didn't scan the first page and pages 4 through 8, which were all more gesture sketches. I did so many gesture sketches on this day because I was still thinking of a plan and wondering if it would hit me. Finally it just seemed that if I were going to get any sketches actually done I'd better just jump in.

140713_03_ChickensLeft: Another page of gesture sketches with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.

In July MetroSketchers had their annual outing to visit some Urban Chickens (owned by a good friend of group founders Liz Carlson and Tim Jennen). I wasn't able to attend last year, and the previous year it was very, very hot, which made things interesting. (You can see my warm ups from the 2012 Chicken Sketch here.)

I think this event is always a great time to observe chickens close up but also to experiment. I say that because it's one event where I can actually bring a chair, not lug it around all day, and use it. Which means I can get out the fresh paints and the real brushes, set out my gear and have fun without worrying about moving everything to a new site. You can see my Chicken Sketch experiments from 2012 here.

140713_09_ChickenLeft: After many gestures with the PPBP I switched over to the Faber-Castell Pitt Calligraphy Pen and started to get a feel for it (gestures in the background). After a moment a chicken stood in front of me so I started a new sketch and drew its head and body. But, as it always true with live chickens, in a moment she was off. Instead of following her around I looked at the nearest chicken and used her for color references as I painted. So this is a composite chicken. When I was through painting I got out my blue Montana Marker with the 15 mm tip and put in the background color to miimize the distraction from the other gestures.

140713_10_Chicken_GypsyLeft: This chicken actually stayed close enough to me that I could work on her for a bit. The smooth surface of the paper was altered by the soaking it had received earlier. I think it aided me when it came to softening the dry-brushstrokes.

So much in my life is "by the seat of my pants" right now that I didn't arrive at the chicken coop with a fully developed plan. I only knew I wanted to warm up on Nostalgie and then move to a watercolor paper. Imagine my surprise when I opened the back end of my Subaru Forester and discovered that my large waterbottle had leaked (more like gushed) all over and all of my watercolor paper was completely soaked (it was on the bottom of the bag as it lay horizontally). The Nostalgie paper was soaked at the bottom half and then gradually was a little drier as you moved up, but it was all still moist. Since I'm not currently carrying a journal because of shoulder problems (I have a small notebook for quick sketches, no wet media, in my purse) it meant I had no extra paper to turn to. Since Nostalgie stays pretty stable even when wet I went boldly on, set up my chair, and got to work. The moisture in the paper did some interesting things if you look closely at the ink lines. 

140713_11_ChickenLeft: After my Gyspy sketch I did this quick contour, falsely believing the chicken might stay close by. I am very fond of its simplicity after all the fussing with paint. So I included it here.

140713_13_ChickensRight: I followed up with some more gestures and a pose I decided I didn't want to paint.

140713_14_ChickenLeft: I went stylized next, just to get away from fussy.

I was fortunate to sit between Ken and Roberta Avidor. They were both creating wonderful art works and chatting away. It made for a very pleasant afternoon. I don't know what the count on attendance was but I have to believe there were over 30 people there, spread over a Minneapolis backyard (i.e., small) and paying close attention to the chickens wandering comfortably about. (And of course paying attention to Carmen, the wonderful Dachshund.)

140713_15_ChickenLeft: Time was running down and I wanted to do something a little looser so I played around with wiping away my first light layers of color (something I always love doing on this paper) and then going in with other layers. It was interesting to try this on paper that was already moist because the moisture kept coming up through the paper and softening my paint edges. Ken shouted me a fancy bar paper towel (since my entire roll of paper towels back in the car had proved that Bounty was indeed "the quicker picker upper"). (All my pages from this day were numbered in red ink as is visible here, and put into my single-sheet, unbound journal box that I keep for "journal pages" 9 x 12 inches or smaller. Look at the "Unbound Journal" Category for more info.)

As usual I started with gesture sketches of chickens as they moved about. Gradually when I felt some of the paper had dried a little more and I felt like diving in I began to work on studies. I was using gouache and also Montana Markers. 

140713_16_ChickenLeft: I thought, while working on sketch 15 that it would take me to the end of the day. But it was clear I was going to have too much time left over so I did this quick sketch (which may be the most "chicken-like" of the day) in a couple minutes and then started wandering around talking to folks before the wrap-up meeting. I'm a big proponent of "Always do one more sketch even if you're: tired, don't have time, think you can't for any reason." I think it usually pays off.

Unlike 2012, when a chicken walked away this year I didn't get up and follow it about. I sat and waited, and worked on something I could work on from memory. I hate working that way, but I was too comfortable in my chair.

It was a fun day and I enjoyed the opportunity to sit with other sketchers and examine chickens closely. I like working with a plan or goal in mind, but sometimes when things happen either to keep you from making a plan, or to keep you from following through on a plan, you're still left with the drawing time. That's what matters, we just have to draw! (And I learned some interesting things about Nostalgie when it gets really wet!)

That offending waterbottle? Well it got tossed into the bin on the way from my car into the house. It had seen its useful days.

    • Alison A
    • August 20, 2014

    Great chickens! We are chicken-sitting for our neighbours for two weeks starting tonight, so hoping to get chance to capture them… will take inspiration from your posts!

  1. Reply

    Chickens Rock Alison, have great fun chicken-sitting!!!! Lucky you! Sketch a lot.

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