This rather silly-looking songbird came with an extra challenge. I met a friend for an impromptu lunchtime drawing session. We both wanted to paint the same reference, so I placed it upside down for me (right-side-up for her). Call me a show-off, but it solved the problem and we had a lovely time drawing and chatting. Thing is, I was working an upside-down bird upside down, Betty Edwards style.
This went fabulously well in high school art, when a teacher sprung it on us without a word of explanation. I walked into the room and there was an amorphous mass on the projector screen, all shades of gray. I didn’t like it.
“What the heck is this?” I asked. “Yes, you’re going to draw that!” he snapped, “Don’t turn your paper over!” I heaved my very best aggrieved sigh and set to work – an entire stupid class period drawing stupid shades of stupid gray, on stupid paper with a stupid pencil in my stupid high school art class.
49 minutes later, he turned on the room lights and told us to turn our papers over. There, before my now-very-surprised eyes, was the best portrait of Marilyn Monroe I’ll ever draw. It was an iconic black and white pic of her that I had not even recognized as a human face while it was upside down. Right side up, you wouldn’t have convinced me two hours before that my own hand could draw it so accurately. I later gave it to a family member who collects Marilyn memorabilia, and he was very pleased to have it.
Today, though, either I was a little too full of myself, or Betty didn’t have my back. The bird in the reference has his head thrown back in exultant song, as Common Yellowthroats do. I got that angle a little wrong, and it just looks like he’s yelling at someone, or totally startled. I went in without a pencil sketch for practice, direct to ink, so there was no correcting it. Ah well. Spending time with my friend was the real purpose for that hour, and now I have a silly-looking bird to commemorate it. Works for me!