One of the easiest ways to learn how to draw is to doodle. I’ve always equated Doodling to essentially using a loose sketching technique called ‘gesture drawing’ to create the rough shape and mass of a subject.
One of my favorite subjects to use this approach on are trees. In Arizona I was introduced to the mesquite tree. They come in all shapes and sizes and are wonderfully twisted by the harsh desert environment. In spite of their struggle to remain upright, they retain a grace and fluidity that is fascinating to draw.
I’ve posted a quick gesture drawing below, done in ink without pencil layout. Ink drawings have always been a daunting task for me, so I’ve decided to practice them.
It amazes me to see the wildlife hidden in the seemingly lifeless dusty desert landscape behind my home. I can see two trees in this tract of land, about 20 feet apart, with nothing in between or to either side to offer shade. And yet there must be a dozen Round Tailed Ground Squirrels that inhabit this space.
Tucked below the desert in their burrows during the heat, 2 Mamas, each under their own tree, come out and stand at attention during the cooler beginning and end of each day. At some unseen signal, 2 to 4 babies bubble up out the ground and begin to play. They wrestle, play tag and chase each other through the branches of their home trees.
Round Tailed Ground Squirrels eat seeds, nuts and foliage. I’ve watched them reach up, stretch their little bodies and grasp the tip of a low hanging, thin green branch for newly-green mesquite leaves. The most endearing part of the show is watching the breeze blow them side-to-side, lifting their tiny back paws off the ground, before they scramble up into the tree for a veritable feast.
Last night I confirmed the survival of Mama Quail and her four remaining babies as she ran by our backyard fence. She seems to be doing the best she can to protect and raise her little brood. Showing immense distrust of humans, she keeps her charges a good 6 feet from our fence and certainly doesn’t dawdle. This makes it tough on those of us who might imperil her children just to get a closer look, but seems to make her feel much safer.
And I’m mourning the loss of one of my favorite illustrators, Maurice Sendak, who died last week. He was a favorite of mine long before he was famous, when I became familiar with his drawings for Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik, published in 1957. I still have my childhood copy (actually my sister’s; it has her name on the inside; I have no recollection of stealing it. Hmmm.)
So today I offer you an illustration of Mama Quail and her four children, executed in the mediums Maurice Sendak might have used, ink and watercolor.
Today I offer the following two observations.
This morning I noticed a disgusting twist on gummy worms when I spotted a grackle ecstatically breakfasting on what looked like a fat, green rubber band.
QUAIL FAMILY UPDATE
Two days ago a landscape crew came through quail family territory, trimming trees and shrubs and blowing leaves out of corners with a ferocious roar. Last night we also experienced a torrential downpour, thunder, lightening and ‘dustnados’ (no, I didn’t make that up.) No sign of the quail family.
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY
Upon further investigation I identified the poor bright green lizard as a seed pod (I think…) from a tree in my yard, with immense relief. I also saw Mama quail skitter by with 4 babies, possibly 5. I tell myself that just because I didn’t see Papa and the remaining babies doesn’t mean they weren’t there. After all, they were moving pretty fast. And you see how I assumed the grackle was feasting on my backyard, bug-eating lizard friends.
So I continue, along with Mama quail, to practice hope. Hope that the gummy lizard really was a seed pod, hope that the remainder of the quail family wasn’t frightened or blown half-way to Mexico, hope that the world can live happily ever after.
Congratulations are in order! Tim and I noticed a blur of movement just the other side of our backyard fence over the weekend. Mr. and Mrs. Quail (Gambel’s) were introducing their nine tiny new arrivals to the neighborhood market of seeds and sprouts.
Like their fellow inhabitant, Henri Hummer, the babies move so fast it’s almost impossible to see what they look like. At first all I could see was a blur of grey. With a lot of patience, I’ve been able to define shape, size and color. They seem to be so young that they look like tiny, furry dust balls with long necks and big feet. Size ranges from less than one inch when bunched in a frozen ball, to almost two inches long when running with necks streched out.
Mom and Dad have their hands full and try to keep their offspring corralled between the two of them. Immitating their parents, however, keep the little fur balls skittering after the larger birds like nine tiny echos. The babies run in the same posture as their parents; as a friend of mine once described each baby, “no bigger than a thumb,” running at the same angle with neck stretched and head tilted forward. Hilarious and adorable! Here are a few fast sketches (very fast!)
Today I’m celebrating. Every morning I get out of bed and the sun is bright, the birds are singing and chattering and I really shouldn’t have any complaints. The very first activity today has been a drawing session and I now feel fortified for the remainder of the day.
I deliberately chose a few of the smallest items in my studio as my drawing subjects because I felt the need to remind myself of all of the small miracles in my life.
As I stare at my monitor I’m becoming more than a little frustrated. Such is my despair at not finding a job. I’ve been surfing the web, carefully reading through job postings, analyzing descriptions and requirements until my eyes water, for hours, days, even weeks.
I will not lose hope. I believe that we vastly underutilize our right-brain, our ultimate source of imaginative thinking. And I, as an artist, have no excuses for not taking advantage of my creativity to find a job. So after spending four hours sitting in front of my computer without finding a likely position to apply for, I feel more than justified to take a break and spend a couple of hours drawing.
Below is the result of frustrated rationality bleeding into a creative endeavor. Not a lot of drawing was accomplished, but a ton of creative mess! Feeling much better.