Duck! Cover! Run!
I obviously don’t say that because I have sketched a duck! You can see that I haven’t. What I did sketch is a magpie. My immediate reaction when I see them at certain times of year is to duck and cover my head if I can. They are vicious when protecting their nests in Spring! Don’t believe me? Watch this.
Lucky for me I wasn’t in a great deal of danger from the one I sketched.
For all of their periodic viciousness though, I love them. They sing a rich and melodic song that sounds for all the world like: dorgle dorgle dorgle! Which is why I call them dorgle birds instead of magpies, in much the same way as I call cockatoos jerk birds, because they are noisy, destructive jerks! (also, I can never tell if they are happy or cranky when they are making all that racket, especially when it starts to rain.)
It had been a while since I attended a Canberra Urban Sketchers meetup mostly because of the pandemic and partly because I seem to have become a hermit of late, but I could not resist jumping back in with this location at Garema Place. Lots of fresh air, lots of interesting people to watch and a broad selection of public artworks to check out. Thankfully there was also plenty of shade given the mid-Summer timing.
I chose to draw the big magpie sculpture called The Big Swoop, and framed it as a nature journal page, combining the two disciplines of urban sketching and nature journalling by adding some labels and information to the page.
I parked myself under a tree and leaned back against the smooth trunk while I eyeballed the big bird and thought about how to layout my page. As luck would have it there were some non-swoopy (wrong time of year) real life magpies around singing their hearts out as we sat and sketched. It was really really pleasant and relaxing. I found it easy to get into the flow.
I took a moment to look up who the artist was and some of the particulars of it’s size and weight and discovered that this was the second iteration of the sculpture since the first one had been destroyed by vandals. Why do they do that?? I am pleased the big fellow was given a second chance, and that he got a fresh chip to nibble. I popped these details around my page.
I have started using a non-photo blue pencil to scribble in my vague subject volumes, delineate the layout and to locate some details after watching John Muir Laws‘ nature journalling videos. There’s something less obtrusive about the pale blue lines over my usual graphite, and it does some weird magic to disappear when I take a photo of the page, though it still shows up when I scan the page, as you can see. I don’t mind that, it adds a bit of scrappiness and immediacy to the page that I like.
Other sketchers came and went around me as they moved to capture different angles, and we chatted as though it hadn’t been a couple of years since we saw each other last. Sketchers are such a friendly bunch!
I had a bit of time before we were due to come together again for the show and tell part of the sketchwalk, so I sketched two of my fellow artists that sat nearby and the magpie one more time for a little context since I was using my day to day sketchbook rather than my dedicated urban sketching one. I also captured the organisers setting up the end point for the protest march in support of the people imprisoned and in memory of those executed in Iran’s latest human rights atrocities. The main group of protesters moved noisily through the mall toward their destination with a hail of megaphone incitements and call-backs from the group just as we were taking our group photo by the big maggie. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stick around and sketch the crowd, I would like to do some reportage sketching at some point.
Fingers crossed next month’s sketchwalk is in a similarly airy spot so that I feel comfortable being out amongst the germs again 🙂