Saturday, September 13, 2014

Drawing in the Middle of Sheep

First, the bad boy ram!  (Jacob and I had gone the old white barn on campus to see what we could see.  The farm manager had graciously agreed to our going inside to photograph and draw on late Friday afternoon as well as Saturday morning. ) It was cloudy and rumbly outside at 5:00, and when we pushed open the chunky door to the lower level of the barn, some spitting rain was just starting.  The first thing that we saw in the gloom was that the sheep had been gathered in for the night, and a couple of rams were just inside the door in a pen under a sign that said "Be careful of the Ram".  A couple of students arrived to do a chore shortly after we had settled in, and they unlocked the upper level for us.  But they told us they could only stay for a few minutes, and we couldn't be there without them.  So we did some quick sketching and photographing, and agreed to return in the morning. The ram was grumbling and slamming around in his pen, but I was able to make two quick drawings of him.

This morning we arrived just as a larger group of students was getting ready to inoculate and weigh and tag the whole flock.  Exciting!  Jacob disappeared up in the dark, cathedral-ceilinged attic level, and I sat midway up on the narrow wooden stairs that led to the attic and watched the sheep.  On this page a few sheep are eating straw from a bale enclosed in a wire fence-like container.  From the other side of the room came maaa-aaa-aaa-ing as the students worked with the sheep.
Within minutes a large crowd gathered at the food, including the watch-donkey.  The big mama sheep in the middle  stayed in her prime eating position the entire time, about an hour, that I sat on the stairs.
The donkey was tethered by a rope while a student cleaned her hoofs and brushed her coat.  Meanwhile the sheep continued eating and milling around.  This was very much as action drawing!
The rest of the drawings are studies of individual sheep.  I grew to love their shapes and gestures.  I noticed they have seamed upper lips and very knobby heads.  The babies have longer coats than the mothers, probably have never been sheared.  I am happy to report that these sheep are being grown for their coats and not for food.
One enormously pregnant sheep with udders so full they poked out like a double balloon, one nipple pointing east and one west. 
By the time I drew this page some of the sheep were settling down, having eaten their fill.  I was able to do a textured and value drawing of one of them.  I really like the contour drawing on the left, almost best of all.
On our way home we stopped by the old tuberculosis hospital so Jacob could take a few outside shots, and I drew a nice arrangement of large cardboard boxes behind one of the buildings.  Very relaxing after chasing sheep!

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