When your goal is to illustrate children’s books you have a good excuse to read through lots of them. Back in November I read Bill Peet’s Fly Homer Fly and ended up with an insatiable urge to draw a few pigeons myself. I like the balance of details and goofiness in my first pigeon, a racing/homing pigeon, although I struggled with the tail placement in the first view and am still not sure if I’m entirely happy with it. I love the second view of him though. I’m pretty sure he’s up to something.
Not wanting to stop there, I eventually added a fantail pigeon to the sketchbook. Fantails are pretty elegant birds, so I wanted to go easy on the feathering details to give her a more delicate, rather than robust, look. Of course, since I was drawing cartoon pigeons, I didn’t want her to look too elegant, or all the fun and wonkiness would be lost, so I had to make her a little off balance and cross eyed in the second view.
Birds (and fish!) are great animals to play around with in a sketchbook because they have relatively stiff, unyielding facial features in reality, so it’s a fun challenge to give them lots of personality without losing the animal’s natural characteristics. Birds are also great subject matter for sketching because they are pretty much everywhere. Walk out your door and you are bound to see at least one. With the winter season in full swing, now is a good time of year to observe them interacting with each other as they gather around feeders or bundle together in shrubs, evergreens, barns, and other protected areas. Those of us fortunate to be living in warm climates at this time of year have the opportunity to observe migratory birds on the run from winter’s chill. I’m sure I’ll be adding a few more feathered friends to the sketchbook soon as I look forward to spring.