Sketching Raptors Workshop

Drawing from a different perspective

Great horned owl at High Desert Museum 20January2018

Great horned owl

On January 20, visitors entered Classroom A at the High Desert Museum to find the room filled with lifelike mounts of raptors. One mount depicted a California quail being chased by a sharp-shinned hawk. Another was of a great horned owl perched on a branch. A golden eagle mount, with outstretched wings, dwarfed the other birds on display. Artist Ian Factor welcomed participants in the workshop and everyone got to work sketching the birds. Curator of Art and Community Engagement Andries Fourie also attended and offered help when needed.

Siobhan's Drawing Kit 20January2018

My fancy drawing kit

Various art supplies were available for our use. Many attendees brought their own supplies neatly tucked into special cases. Others, like me, had the bare essentials, so we were grateful more were provided.

Drawing from reference materials

A variety of reference materials were displayed. There was a collection of bird wings, talons, and skulls. An articulated bird skeleton stood on a tabletop. We learned the basic form of our subjects by looking at mounts prepared by American Kestrel study by Siobhan Sullivan © 2018taxidermists. Though not available at this workshop, study skins, or museum mounts, are often utilized for research and artistic purposes. Photographs can help when you’re doing wildlife art and participants were snapping a lot of pictures. Reference materials are helpful in getting the details right and in understanding the underlying anatomy.

This workshop, like most hosted by the Museum, was open to people of all skill levels. Some attending the event were beginners, while others were more advanced. The artists drew the birds with a variety of media.  Several sketched in black-and-white with pencils, graphite, or charcoal; other participants added color with pastels and colored pencils.

Drawing from life

Red-tailed hawk by Siobhan Sullivan 2018 ©Drawing from life can be much more challenging. When sketching in a natural setting, you have to work fast to capture the essence of the bird. In this workshop, we sketched a live red-tailed hawk and great horned owl from the Museum’s collection. The hawk was quiet and basically stayed in one position. The owl was vocal and active the whole time. It can frustrate you when your subject doesn’t cooperate, but you have to learn to be flexible.

Participants were told to draw large shapes first then “carve down” to the details. After getting the basics down, Ian Factor advised us to capture the character of the birds. Character in this case is related to their adaptations for a predatory lifestyle and their individual personality. Wildlife Specialist Laura McWhorter provided many interesting life history facts on both of the live bird models provided for this workshop.

Participants drawing great horned owl at High Desert Museum 20January2018

Participants drawing great horned owl

Ian pointed out things each participant did well and areas that might need improvements. He was especially helpful to those new to drawing. Participants were enthusiastic about this workshop. In fact, one even asked if we could have this class every weekend.

Red-tailed hawk at High Desert Museum 20January2018

Red-tailed hawk

Do you have any ideas for art workshops at the Museum? If so, please send them to Andries Fourie at afourie@highdesertmuseum.org.

Reprinted from the February 2018 issue of High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers working at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see issues of the newsletter, click here.