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Jan 17 13 10:48 AM

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Nearly eight weeks ago, we embarked on a collective effort to learn to sketch birds.  In the time since, there've been hundreds of sketches sketched and conversations conversed — sketches of all sorts of birds, backyard to tropical to comical; conversations ranging from tools to identification to technique to evolution to beanie babies and apple pie.  

To everyone who uploaded a sketch, your risk taking — whether perceived as big or small — to share a creative contribution with friends and strangers alike was appreciated.  Each sketch and thought shared has nurtured this community and its participants.

As we begin to wind down and upload our last contributions, I ask that you also consider sharing your thoughts about what this experience has meant to you.  Feel free to share whatever you like.  The facilitators have also thought up a few questions to think on, if you'd like a starting point.  Pick the one you like best to answer, or answer them all, or just tell us in your own words what your experience has been.

  • Will you continue to sketch? Why? Will you share them anywhere? How?
  • Have you learned something about yourself through this project? What?
  • What sketch were you most proud of? Why?

I'll write my own answer sometime over the next few days below. If you want to share your experience but don't feel comfortable doing so on the forum, you can email your thoughts to us at

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Posts: 723

#1 [url]

Jan 19 13 5:40 PM

Beck, Julia, Margaret, Elizabeth, fellow sketchers and forum members,

Thanks for all your input and thoughtful commentary.
Yes, I've got the sketching bug now, and some structure to follow for the future.
The four part/two week curriculum was was manageable, though challenging during Christmas week.
The books were helpful, too. The Zen of Seeing was in my local library and I read it the second week. Santa left the Laws book under the tree.

The ID of my rare visitor Pine Warbler began as a sketch with notes....I first spotted the bird in the late afternoon light when it was too dark to photograph,

More later, I'm not ready for this project to be over.....
Also, I enjoyed this on-line learning methodology.
Will there be any feedback available from the writer(s) of FeederSketch ?

Suburban yard with trees & shrubs, New Brunswick, Canada

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#2 [url]

Jan 21 13 1:52 PM

I'll second lyn's thanks for the great moderation on this project!  And I'm not ready for it to be over, either.

One of the most valuable things I've taken away from this is the gesture drawing.  I really enjoyed that when it was warm enough to clutch a pen outside--and I'm looking forward to doing it more religiously come spring.  This holds the most hope for me get quick drawings when in the field, I think.  And meanwhile, if I work on an understanding of the anatomy of the coverts, I'm hoping to get good at recording field marks on my gesture drawings. 

I think the next most valuable thing I've gotten out of this is being more comfortable with the pen.  Pencil sketching is a more familiar activity for me--I've been drawing (as a basis for painting) for a while, but I never had the confidence to just sketch with a pen.  Too afraid of messing up.  In fact, I've had this sketching pen for about 8 months and hadn't even filled it until I started with the PFW Sketch program. 

Now, I'm much more comfortable with the whole process of messing up--if you look on a lot of my pen sketches, you'll see amended lines, angles, and notes pointing out the things that gave me trouble so I can concentrate on those areas in the next sketch.  Very useful learning experience! 

West central WI in a large tract of county forest with a 20-acre woodland wetland just to the south. 
BOSS, sunflower hearts, nyjer, suet, dried meal worms (all year); nectar and grape jelly (spring thru fall).

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#3 [url]

Jan 21 13 2:26 PM

  • Will you continue to sketch? Why? Will you share them anywhere? How?
I will continue to draw since doing so is part of my artistic development.  I've shared and I will share my sketchbooks in classes that I teach occasionally.   I share my more finished drawings in the monthly neighborhood newspaper columns I write (, then select Bugle, and skim through past issues to find "View From The Bridge" (name of prior 10 years of columns) or "Drawing on Nature" (current and future columns).
  • Have you learned something about yourself through this project? What?
The project has motivated me to maintain a sketchbook as a means to recording my impressions.   The quick sketches completed these past weeks helped me in my plein air painting this past week in Catalina -- twelve 9"x12" panels partially or wholly completed within just three to seven hours time for each panel. 
  • What sketch were you most proud of? Why?
I'm most proud of my drawing of a photograph of a raven I took while on vacation to the Pacific Northwest (see Reproducing Bird Photos from Stage Three Activities for several reasons:  1) it reminded me of how near this bird allowed me to approach it; 2) the successful rendering of a entirely black bird.
Thanks to the administrators for organizing this program!

Greg; Mpls, MN
Urban back yard with red and white cedars, pagoda dogwoods

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#4 [url]

Jan 21 13 3:22 PM

Hi Girls,  i had a great time and moved from behind the camera into the world of sketching and drawing which i had not done since 1974.  I might even take a local class in the coming months.  The timing of christmas was a huge challenge but we did it.  Also it worked well with getting supplies as chirstmas gifts.  I never would have gone out and bought myself a sketch book and I got two as presents.  Then the color Pencils.  lost and found.  I would have just gone on admiring my daughters works and not attempted it my self if not presented with the idea from Feederwatch and you lovely girls who guided us so tenderly.  Made it easy for us to try and fall and land softly.  I enjoyed it very much and thank you all for the encouragement and support.  Will miss all of it.  ginny H.  P.S but will continue to sketch and color.  

Ocean Co. South NJ Walled patio 10 Crape Myrtle, Pine forest and bushes oak cherry lawn pond. one seed feeder, one suet, 4 hummingbird feeders, one sock.

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#5 [url]

Jan 23 13 7:09 PM

I got more than I expected out of PFW: Sketch and like many of you, I am not quite ready for it to be over. But before I go any further I would like to say "thank you" to all the participants of PFW: Sketch, this is such a wonderful community of intelligent, passionated, talented and supportive people. It has been a pleasure drawing and conversing with you over the past eight weeks. It could not have happened without your efforts, energy, and as Beck mentioned, your willingness to take a few risks. So thank you.

I realized what PFW: Sketch meant to me when I was on vacation in Costa Rica. Before leaving I challenged myself to draw unknown birds with the intention of having participants help me identify them when I returned. This assignment of observing and capturing the size, shape, proportion, angles, and colors of tropical birds made me feel like I had an important mission. I did not want to "fail" or "let the participants down" by not recording accurate or enough information to identify the birds I saw. When I posted the drawings on the forum, I was surprised to learn that no one who responded had much experience or expertise with Costa Rican birds either. Using a web resource hazelrunmama posted, along with my sketches, notes and memory, I identified some of the birds myself. My vacation in Costa Rica was a more meaningful experience because I was absorbed in finding birds to observe and capture with pencil and paper. 

The sketch of the Great Curassows is the one I am most proud of. When I saw them on the rainforest floor I felt a mix of awe, excitement and anxiety. They were so strange looking, so large, so distinct, and I was worried I would not be able to sketch them before they flew or ran away. As it turned out, they stayed long enough so that I felt pleased with the amount of information (both drawings and notes) I was able to gather before they departed. It was a wonderful experience and I was excited to share the drawing and story with PFW:Sketch participants. I can imagine this is similar to the way glecker felt when he photographed the Raven in the Pacific Northwest. 

Before this project I never would have said I had any real interest in birds and any desire to sketch on a regular basis. After PFW:Sketch I now see birds everywhere (they really are everywhere, you know!?) Also, drawing has  become something I now enjoy doing and like leinawea noted, a meditative way to pass time in meetings.

This summer phyllisiroot and I have already agreed to do drawings and watercolors of the wildflowers of Minnesota, somewhat similar to lyn's sketchbook project. I am looking forward to using drawing as a way to "really see wildflowers," with the enthusiasm and interest that I now have for birds. I hope you all keep drawing and sharing, too.

p.s. Hutchgigi and aallan, reading your posts made me smile on a regular basis. :)

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#6 [url]

Jan 24 13 12:13 AM

Margaret I love that you included us in your vacation and shared all those birds that most of us we will never see.  So glad to hear you will expand your world with birds and flowers.  Ginny H. 

Ocean Co. South NJ Walled patio 10 Crape Myrtle, Pine forest and bushes oak cherry lawn pond. one seed feeder, one suet, 4 hummingbird feeders, one sock.

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#7 [url]

Jan 24 13 6:31 PM

Other than the great experience of getting to talk to all the fabulous participants and facilitators about our sketches throughout the past two months, the thing I valued most about this project was that it pushed me to sketch more. I felt encouraged to go outside my comfort zone and share things even when I felt they weren't very good or complete. I also didn't feel afraid to "fail" in this project. Try, try again. For this reason, my second try at a negative space drawing, after Beck gave me some tips and encouragement, was my favorite. I hope to carry this habit and confidence beyond birds and into my work at the museum as well, to continue using the practice of sketching as a tool to share my ideas even while they're still in process. 

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#8 [url]

Jan 26 13 11:16 AM

Just wanted to say what I have gotten out of PFW Sketch, and the answer is, lots of things.
I am a writer, not a drawer, but the activities I did have been useful in writing as well.  Any time I can look at something in a new way, I learn something, and drawing birds made me see them in ways I never thought about before, such as all the different kinds of feathers, the way different birds balance on their legs, where their eyes are, how they move (woodpeckers seem to hold still a lot longer than chickadees, for instance, when they are at a feeder).  I loved learning how gorgeous turkeys can be and finding out that the feet of wading birds aren't webbed--and why they aren't.

For years I've been going to Scientific and Natural Areas to look at wildflowers, in part because they hold still while I try to identify them, unlike birds.  But now I will be looking at birds, too, because I have a better idea about how to tell them apart and how to really see them.  I also want to try sketching and painting the wildflowers, because I think that will also help me to see them differently.  This paying attention to small details is so important to drawing, to figuring out what I am looking at, and tor writing as well.  This has been a wonderful exercise in training the eye to see differently.  And it's been fun.  I never thought I would draw birds or be able to start to identify them.

Thank you!

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#9 [url]

Jan 30 13 3:53 PM

This project, and the preparation for it, has profoundly changed the way that I draw.  I have much more confidence in my ability to draw my observations, quickly and also slowly.  And I'm proud of myself for sharing drawings that weren't perfect with friends, colleagues and strangers over this forum. I'm proud of myself for exploring new tools: vellum, water color, colored pencil.

I also notice birds more, can identify several that I never knew before and now have near constant company with the feeder I hung outside my office window.  A real treat as I live on a busy urban street.

The sketch I was most proud of was the one I drew while watching the sunset in Canada.  I'm proud of it because it shows me what I saw in a new way and reminds me of a moment I shared with a bunch of birds as we watched the sun set together.

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