Sketching Chickens

This was my third attempt at running this course as the weather was exceedingly unhelpful on previous occasions! Therein lies the problem with organising any outside event in the UK…

The reason I run these courses is that as well as a beekeeper, I am an artist, and run a life drawing class each Monday in Soho, London. People love to draw from life, and it’s infinitely better/different than copying a photograph. The chickens don’t, of course, stay still for more than a few seconds, but this is a brilliant way to loosen up your drawing and not feel under pressure to produce more than a few lines. And those lines, in the right place, can look unmistakably like a chicken.

The three attendees on this occasion were all familiar with drawing, but the course is suitable for complete beginners too. I provide all materials, and it’s a good opportunity to try some different media; none of the sketchers had used conté crayons before. Charcoal is good for hens as it’s such a gestural mark-maker, if a bit messy.

We started the session with a look at Bessie and Honey, the Buff Orpington and Rhode Island Red. The Orp is almost square in shape and very docile, so good to get used to the concept of drawing a living thing, and the RIR has plumage which makes seeing her component shapes quite obvious.

Of course the biggest problem with drawing is that we draw what we think we see, not what we actually see, and it’s important to ‘warm up’ with a few quick sketches without really looking at the paper to get one’s brain out of filling-in-the-info mode and in to drawing-exactly-what’s-there mode.

Having looked at the hens, the ducks were then on display. They obligingly sat down and kept still, which was very useful but meant we didn’t see their adorable little webbed feet.

We then stopped for tea and homemade cake – made with duck eggs – and discussed the morning so far.

Henry the magnificent Welsummer rooster and his two girls were next, then Robert and his 4 rather scruffy-looking wives who are at least all the same breed so look enough the same to draw a generic Light Sussex hen!

Here are some of the drawings:

As you can see, capturing the shape and movement of the birds is the main aim, and it doesn’t matter that they are not perfect, accurate renditions of the hens: they are still extremely proficient drawings.

All three students had been given the course as a gift through Craft Courses and all said how much they enjoyed doing something so different.

Please contact me if you’d like to attend. I run the courses to order, with a few random dates available too.

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