Last month on April 8, we celebrated the official holiday of “Draw-a-Bird Day“. Maybe you already know the story behind it; if not, I encourage you to click the link and learn about Dorie Cooper and the joy she brought to others.
For our online community, “draw-a-bird” day has become a monthly event, so as you browse around today, you’ll find lots of birds — very realistic birds, watercolor birds, acrylic birds, bird photos, colorful birds, and probably a few fun birds… like this little chicken or duck or whatever it is.
I really don’t know what it is, so I’m just calling it “Quacker”. What do you think it is?
Actually, this is what Alexandra Gabor calls a character. She was one of the presenters in the recent Sketchbook Revival event, and I followed along with her demonstration on how to create playful critters, or “creatures” as she called them.
Quacker is only one of many creatures I made. Here are a few others, all created from little “blobs” and “scribbles”.
Here is my menagerie:
Some, I think, are recognizable. Quacker is definitely a bird of some sort, the little dog resembles a Scots Terrier, and who could mistake my green turtle with his shell? You might also be able to pick out the pink bunny, and maybe you’d even see my lizard. And then there’s something that looks a little like a butterfly, and two simply weird critters that are pure nonsense characters.
These creatures were fun to make, and I look forward to sharing them with our young grandsons. I’ll give them a chance to make a few critters of their own.
Want to try it yourself? Great. Just grab paper and mark-making tools. If you want to use watercolor — I used my gansai — you’ll probably want to do this with watercolor paper. I didn’t. I simply used the regular drawing paper in my hand-made sketchbook.
The idea is to start with playful scribbles. Put your pen, pencil, or other marker on the page, and without thinking too much about it move it around five times, just be sure to “connect” the scribbles. It’s easier to show examples than to explain, so here’s a look at “how to” and “how not to” do this exercise.
The first “scribble” forms an enclosed, organic shape. That’s what you want. The second loose scribble is just… loose. Unless you add more marks to enclose it, it wouldn’t be suitable for one of these fanciful creatures.
The second step is to fill in the shapes you’ve created. You’ll want to start with six or eight different scribbles.
In the workshop, Ms. Gabor used a black watercolor ink. I chose instead to simply color my shapes using my little gansai set. At this point, you’ll want to use a bit of imagination. Can you see the start of any playful critters in your shapes? If necessary, add a few lines.
With Miss Fou-Fou, a blue fox I created, you’ll see that I added her legs. When I looked at my original scribble, I could clearly see that lovely fox-tail, so I went with that. In the end, she looked a bit “snooty” with her nose stuck up in the air. Don’t you agree?
After adding additional lines and shapes, the real fun starts. Add eyes, noses, ears, tongues or whatever else is needed to bring your critters to life. Be playful, have fun, and go right ahead and create critters that don’t exist anywhere but in your imagination.
And just for fun, I played with my weird “example” shape, adding a bit more to it. By the way, I did this digitally — that was a new experience for me. I thought at first it resembled a bat, but then it evolved into a purely mythical thing.
I don’t know what it is, but it’s funny-looking. It would probably make a child laugh. Maybe it’s making you laugh, too. That’s fine. That’s what these critters are all about.
One thing I’ve learned through my journeys through the art world is that art serves many purposes. Some art is beautiful. Some art is expressive. Some art is practical. And some art is simply fun. So, have fun scribbling!