To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Raptor Workshop

Last month I did a rather unusual workshop on sketching raptors (birds of prey) in conjunction with an ornithologist, Dr. Frank Lang, from Southern Oregon University, with whom I used to teach Biological Illustration. The workshop was sponsored by the Siskiyou Field Institute.

It was unique because it was mainly a drawing class for birders, who had spent the previous two days in the field with binoculars and Frank, watching and admiring hawks, falcons, eagles, owls and ospreys. Normally my workshops attract artists, and I focus on the right-brain processes involved in improving drawing skills in a studio setting. For this workshop of birders I was asked to start out with raptor anatomy, then move on to drawing actual birds.

As a naturalist, I know quite a lot about birds, but ANATOMY???? After a week of cramming, I was ready for the anatomy part. With my new knowledge, I made a heavily illustrated 8-page book I titled "Raptor Anatomy for the Artistic Bird Watcher," which covered bird parts, construction, and function. I added a page of sketching techniques for raptors. I have a little comb binder in my studio, so I ran these off on my laser printer and bound them with covers. They look nice, if I do say so myself {grin}.

Using that book, plus skulls and feathers, and an actual foot from an owl, I taught my nine students about raptor parts, then I handed out a workbook book I had made, "Sketching Raptors," and each person tackled some basic drawing techniques right on the workbook's pages. I love this technique, since students can take the workbook home with their drawings next to instructions for later reference (as in, "how the heck did I do THAT?"). [Later: Due to several requests, I have bound the Raptor Anatomy and the Sketching Raptors workbooks together under the Raptor Anatomy cover and I'm offering these for sale for $7.95 on my Nature Works Press website (you can get there from the links bar at right).

The workshop met at Wildlife Images, a wildlife rehab center with a terrific outreach program. A handler stayed with us all day to make sure the birds stayed happy and calm and to answer our questions. After an introductory drawing session, a red-tailed hawk was brought in, which they all sketched as I moved about the room advising and suggesting ways to capture its shape. Over the course of the day we sketched a red-tailed hawk, a great horned owl, a Swainson's hawk, and finally, a spotted owl. I did some quickie demo drawings of the great horned owl to show techniques and how to get the general shape.

I kept the workshop really loose and casual since I figured the people were mostly there for love of the birds, not to learn how to draw perfectly. Only one person had signed up specifically because of the drawing session, and he apparently was satisfied, according to his evaluation. I always hand out evaluations at the end of class, to help me meet expectations and improve future workshops.

Our critiques, one after every bird, were fun -- this very supportive group gave kudos for every speck of improvement anyone showed over the course of the day. I always ask groups to keep their comments positive, and this was a MOST positive bunch.

In addition to discovering their sketching talents, these dedicated birders got the bonus of being close to the raptors for a long, quiet time. One older student was weary by mid-afternoon and spent the last hour or so simply gazing raptly at the spotted owl we were drawing. It WAS magnificent....

In my next entry, I'll write about last Sunday's Wildflower Sketching trip to the top of Upper Table Rock, a local landmark visible from all over the Rogue Valley. Talk about gorgeous....!


Anonymous said...

Do you have the book for sale? Or would you consider posting on line? I'd love to have information on bird anatomy for artists. Judy

Irene Brady said...

Hi Judy,
I'm thinking about putting it up on my website for sale, $5 -- may get to it this week. I can contact you when it is up so that you can purchase it if you'll go to my Nature Works website (it's in the links on the right side of the page) and leave me your email address.
If you don't want to do that, just check the website now and then and it will likely show up for sale on the ORDER page.

Omar Cruz said...
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