Christmas presents

My sister and I bought each other the same present – little metal birds* – and my niece bought me a set of Faber-Castell coloured pencils, so today I put them to use. Or at least I put the black pencil to use.



These are lovely little sculptures/models and, as I have bird feeders outside the window and a web cam on one of them, I can honestly say they feel authentically ‘bird’. As drawing models, they’re wonderfully still and these are in three different poses so I reckon I can get some valuable shape and form practice out of drawing them from different angles. I recently came across Henry Moore’s sketchbook of sheep and I love the way he uses form lines to just ‘make’ the sheep rather than drawing an outline and kind of filling it in. This is much as Karl Gnass recommends in his video tutorials although he does seem to draw a few outlines for the shapes.


The more I draw these, the simpler the shapes become. Or maybe the ones that are there become more apparent and push themselves forward. Either way, I’m seeing blocks of shape rather than detail to be somehow herded or corralled into a shape. The magenta pencil is maybe counter-intuitive so there’s less pressure to ‘make’ the bird. Dusk is also falling and the lighting is changing which affects what’s available to be seen.

And now a cat has just walked through and rearranged the tableaux – metal birds do move around!


I like this one better than the first. Somehow – and how obvious is this? – less feels like more. Doesn’t apply to ‘more’ drawing though. I want to see where this goes with different media.

Black conte crayon. For some reason this invites more marks and I like the coarseness of it. I’m still very much in Moore’s sheep mode here – I think it resonates with my own preference for style in the sense of being less diagrammatic, less precise about detail but overall indisputably essence de sheep.


In a conversation about these birds with fellow OCA traveller, Marija, [on instagram as magic_lines_and_dots], it dawned on me that my perseverance with them – still and lifeless as they are compared to the likes of fruit – is because I can identify with the life they came from and the movement of them. I think I find it easier to see ‘bird’ because they shout life to me in a way bananas and chopped peppers don’t. Marija thinks my dislike of fruit and feelings of incompetence when confronted with such items is my brain telling me I need to do more of that and she’s right. When I look at her blog, I see a real capacity for reflection and a tangible delight at every aspect of discovery she’s making on this course. I’m hoping some of that will rub off on me.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered a non-animal based gesso so one page of my larger sketchbook is in prep and should be ready for some experimentation tomorrow.


*To be fair, she bought me three, I’d bought her just one. There’ll be a reckoning.

Henry Moore’s Sheep Sketchbook is published by Thames & Hudson. The 1998 version contains text by Henry Moore, the 1980 edition has additional text by Kenneth Clark. The book, reprinted in 2017, is available by permission of Mary Moore and the Henry Moore Foundation.


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