With the high temperature reaching a chilly 3 degrees Fahrenheit, 14 young birders along with their parents and grandparents were excited to spend the morning indoors learning how to sketch birds as part of our first ever Sketching Workshop on January 16, 2016 in Iowa City! What’s even better? We were able to enjoy displays of birds from all over the world at the University Of Iowa Museum Of Natural History!
We started the morning exploring the fascinating displays at the Museum, including the one-of-a-kind cyclorama of Laysan Island. Laysan is a small island in a chain of islands north and west of the main Hawaiian Islands and is home to several neat birds, including the well-known Laysan Albatross. Excitement was high after seeing specimens of favorite birds from all over the world! Next, we gathered by a display of songbirds to learn about describing birds based on anatomy, such as a “rusty cap” or “spotted breast”. We also talked about differences in size and shape of many birds. After all, sketching is not only fun, but is also a very useful field tool for documenting birds and identifying them later.
We were very lucky to have guest artist and educator Kate Kostenbader join us to share some of her tips on sketching birds. Kate first talked about observing bird behavior and posture, such as what the bird is doing and how it is perched. For example, an American Crow perches on a branch much differently than a Downy Woodpecker perches on the side of the tree, and that will impact how you begin sketching the bird. Kate also shared that a good starting point for sketching birds is to draw an oval as the body, since most bird bodies are oval in shape. Then, you can start to add other parts such as the head, feet, and tail. After learning a few more tricks from Kate, young birders gathered their sketching kits provided by Iowa Young Birders and headed out to sketch some birds in the museum.
This was the fun part! The young birders spread out in the entire bird hall and started sketching. Great-horned Owl, Black-billed Magpie, Horned Puffin, Whooping Crane, Baltimore Oriole, Wood Duck, birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors coming to life on paper. Once young birders were finished sketching their birds of choice, we gathered together again and young birders shared with the group the different birds they sketched. Such artistic abilities displayed by all the young birders! We finished the morning by giving away copies of the “Sibley Guide to Birds, Eastern Region” to two lucky young birders, courtesy of a grant from the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union. We are very grateful to Kate Kostenbader for her instruction, leadership, and enthusiasm. We are also grateful to the University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums, who co-sponsored this workshop. And as always, many thanks to the young birders for their keen interest in birds and to the parents for allowing the young birders to join us!