Finally, after a long time away from the blog, I am here, alive and drawing. It is not so much that I haven't touched the brush/pen all these months, but, the weather has been far too cold to venture out, and all my other teaching work has taken the front seat.
What other way to kick off the 2016 blog thread, than with a trip to Chester Zoo? I have been thinking about going down there for a long time. The idea first rooted in my head when, during a skype conversation with Fig Taylor, who is a consultant at the Association of Ilustrators, said that the best way to learn to draw animals is to look at them moving. As an urban sketcher who thrives on watching moving traffic, people and street scenes, I couldn't have agreed more. It took me just over a year to put this into action, and a nice, chilly April day it had to be!
Mike and Fran, my regular sketching comrades from Bolton, have joined me and, aside from witnessing the elephants' mating ritual at the zoo, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Thank whoever invented short school holidays. We started off with a visit to the cleverly - may I say strategically - placed zoo shop, where I instantly set my eyes on a very life-like red panda. My cringey obsession with red pandas in another post.
From that moment, the quest began: we had to make our way right to the end of the zoo, to see the real thing! Hopefully, this time around they will not have been asleep. They tend to hang from the trees, in deep sleep, every time I happen to go and visit.
On our trail, we stopped at the elephants, the giraffes, the water hog, the tortoise/bird room, and some other small animal bits too. I particularly wanted to catch the personality of these with colour, and I think I only succeeded in doing so with the water hog (Butler). I used Carbothello pastel pencils on pastel paper, as I didn't want to faff around with watercolours, brushes, and other fiddly bits, all while my rear end was freezing off. April is no spring here in the North!
Aside from the obvious colour choice, I picked complementary colours, depending on what paper I was using. It may seem obvious, but an orange will pop far better on a blue background, than any other colour. Same goes with some of the other secondary and tertiary choices. I didn't want to stick to 2 colours, so I decided to experiment a bit. Pastels are highly blendable, so there was always the opportunity to work over the layers, and add extra dimension to the sketch.
As the key point of this outing was to catch the animals in movement, I am quite pleased I managed to get quite a few scribbles down. Although there are 7 or 8 sketches from the day, I thought I would post my favourite ones. The tortoise, a real jewel, was a pleasure to draw; him/her not moving much throughout the process must have had something to do with this.
Snap of sketching process by Mike.
The name Butler actually comes from a water hog that lives at Knowsley Safari park. You know that phenomenon when a name just sticks and you can't undo the process...That!
The geometry was mind-blowing!
A very judgmental - in my opinion at least - Caribbean flamingo. It had had too many Pink Panther pink wafers to eat, clearly.
Quick doodles of a tiny field shrew, the Sengi. The Sengi is actually more closely related to elephants than mice.
The Golden Mantela was probably the most plACID model of all.
The bum of the okapi. Enough said.
Me, posing with the faux Red Panda, Pandamomium. Note the panda bum in the background.. What's with all these rear end showcasers?!