Why draw chickens?

On Saturday I have my first Sketching Chickens in the Garden course, which I realise might seem like an odd course to offer. Here, I’d like to explain why it’s a fantastic way to start, rekindle, or improve your drawing skills, and also what the course entails.

Drawing – indeed any art – is a relaxing activity as we use a different part of our brain when we are engaged in creative pursuits. We have to “switch off” our logical thought processes so that we can draw what we actually see, not what we think we see. We engage fully with the observation and studying shapes and textures, and this is why making art is so good for us as human beings, especially in our screen-dominated world.

So, why chickens? Firstly, they are a really familiar shape. Secondly, they are always moving, but they have a small range of ‘poses’, and often stop to survey what’s around them. Thirdly, they have interesting plumage which neatly divides them in to sectional shapes which make them easy to draw:

A lot of people start by copying photographs rather than drawing from life, as it is easier, but the problem is that you are using a two-dimensional image to draw a three-dimensional object, and unsurprisingly, the resulting drawings tend to lack life and energy. Of course it is not possible to get an accurate detailed rendering of an animal as they are moving around, but you can get the essence and basic sense of movement and gesture which is the point of the exercise, and also – vitally – your own interpretation of what you are seeing. This is not possible when drawing from a photographic image.

It is also an opportunity to watch the chickens and get used to their proportions, and how they are weighted. How they distribute their weight, and portraying that sense of grounding with the drawing is often the difference between something looking correct or off – even if it is just a few lines.

If you are a more seasoned artist, the challenge of capturing the movement and perhaps focussing on a particular aspect of the bird such as the combs or legs, or drawing groups or preening activity is a brilliant way to loosen up and refresh your skills. I have pencils of different grades, charcoal, graphite sticks, or paint if people want to add colour or use a wet medium. All materials are included, and there is plenty of A3 paper and drawing boards so you can find a spot to watch the hens and draw.

We start with looking at how the bird is put together, looking for shapes and lines to create a drawing of a well-proportioned bird. Then, we go and watch the chickens and spend a bit of time becoming familiar with how they move and identify some typical stances. The roosters (I have 3) tend to strike a pose becomingly and are beautiful to look at with their plumage. This year I also have chicks of various ages, and the background is my cottage garden so there is plenty of inspiration. Reference photos can be taken if details want to be added back at home.

Of course, as with all my courses, there is tea, coffee, fresh mint tea, and home-made cake to keep the creative juices flowing. The most important thing is that it is relaxing and fun – there is absolutely no pressure to produce a masterpiece, and therefore is suitable for everyone.

***£30 per person, and only £10 extra for anyone else you’d like to bring along***

Please email me at waywardbeecourses@gmail.com for more info, and to book.

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