Quick Stop at Como Zoo

June 1, 2016


Above: Quick sketch of two ostriches on the verso page, then a more detailed head study on the recto page. One of the birds had wandered off to the edge of the paddock and we followed it. It was standing right at the fence peering over at the crowds so I was about 6 feet away from it when I did the head study. We did have to stand in the sun there, so I din't do a full paint version! Schmincke pan watercolors in a Shinola book that is about 8.25 x 9.5 inches  

Sunday things weren't going well for me. My shoulder was acting up and I was having difficulty holding a pen, however I really wanted to go to the zoo. It was sunny but not too hot. Of course it was Memorial Day Weekend and the place would be packed, but I needed to sketch some live subjects. Dick offered to drive me. (I don't drive when my shoulder is doing this as I don't want my attention distracted.)

I told him I only wanted to go for a hour. Since we are 12 minutes away we'd be back in no time and could both get back to work on other projects.

We got there in 12 minutes, but it took us an hour to work our way through the crush to find a DISTANT parking place!

I got busy, sketching warm ups of people and then the ostriches. My had was feeling OK after the ostriches because I was being careful of pressure (both on the paper and in how I was gripping the pen). We moved on to see the bison. I did several pages of loose gesture sketches using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. Then did the final color sketch below. I was pleased that I could have some fine control with the light fur lines, but I knew I was pushing the limits of my hand. We made our departure.

Below: Pentel Pocket Brush Sketches of the American Bison at Como Zoo.


Later that night, I sketched Dick in the Moleskine I was testing. I really wanted to finish that book—but I didn't want to finish it enough to take it to the zoo! I wanted to have fun at the zoo. The Shinola book allowed me to do that. I'll have a review about the Shinola book in the next few weeks.

It might seem impossible to get any sketching done when your energy level is low, or your pain level is high, or your attitude is in need of an adjustment. I'd like to remind you that THAT IS EXACTLY the time you want to go out and draw something.

You want to be out in the world and see people around you. You want to be near animal energy (because animals are so great to be around and remind us of all sorts of things we didn't even know we had forgotten). You want to move your pencil or pen or brush across the paper.

And yes, I was fortunate that Dick was home and willing to drive me to the zoo—but before he got home I was about to walk out the door and go find some neighborhood pigeons. You can get out, even if getting out means just getting to your window.

So breathe and get out and sketch. Because when you come back with sketches, they don't have to be the greatest sketches in the world, they just have to be your response to what you saw. And when you look at them you'll have that attitude adjustment!


Above: Dick with hat hair from after the zoo outing. This sketch is in the Moleskine I reviewed on Monday. I used an Indanthrone Blue Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer watercolor pencil (dry) to sketch him, and filled in the background with a Montana Marker.

    • Sharon
    • June 2, 2016

    Thank you for continuing to remind me that I CAN draw even when feeling very poorly or when very busy. I need to keep hearing this, because it seems drawing/painting is the first thing to get dropped when I’m hurting physically (which is, like, DAILY).

  1. Reply

    Sharon, keep telling yourself this. If you like to post notes for yourself you might put up a note that reminds you to “Draw first” or however you want to phrase it.

    I find that when my mind and body are pulled apart for whatever reason, that’s the time I need to draw most, to remind myself what is possible.

    I don’t believe in the “perfect day” unless it’s one we build by including some drawing.

    And I also find, in the time it would take to “argue” with myself about whether or not I can squeeze some drawing in, I could have already drawn something—so keep your sketchbook and drawing tools (a simple pen or pencil is fine) always at hand, and if you find yourself arguing about having time, or feeling well enough to sketch—SKETCH ANYWAY, right that moment. Over time it will be a habit. And you’ll sketch through pain, or anything else that is going on in your life.

    Here’s a link to a journal I filled when I had a cold one year—and I wasn’t going to let it stop me from getting paint and ink on paper. Are the sketches great? Nope, but I feel great about doing this journal. It’s that feeling that keeps me sketching, rediscovering that feeling over and over.

    We can get a lot of work done when we aren’t feeling up to snuff. And by working in all these situations we keep our hand in. Then when things are a little better we can really go to town with our work, because we’ve been practicing continuously!

    Keep going.

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