Friday, May 11, 2018


5/6/18 male flicker (photo reference)

I finally got around to finishing a project I’d been thinking about for months. Back in January a pair of feisty flickers began trying to use our feeder, which is designed for much smaller birds. Although they managed to get some seeds, it was not without odd contortions and acrobatics. They’re too large to stand on the perches, so they would cling to the side of the feeder instead and bend over to peck the seeds. They were comical and entertaining, and their persistence gave me a chance to sketch them several times.

Over the course of several days in January and February, each time I saw the same male flicker I continue adding more and more detail to the same sketch.

Meanwhile, Greg was shooting photos of most of our avian diners, including the flicker, which gave me an idea. I thought it would be fun to do as many sketches as possible from life first and then eventually do a more finished drawing from a photo. As you know from my frequent complaints while I was taking classes in colored and graphite pencil drawing last year, I’m not a fan of drawing from photos. I do, however, understand the value of learning by using this method, and I know I have benefitted from working this way. Since I had done several sketches from life first, I felt that drawing from a photo would teach me more about the bird without taking away the freshness of life drawing. So that’s what I did: I used one of Greg’s photos of the same flicker I’d sketched as my reference.

1/7 and 1/28/18 (in progress; from life)
1/29/18 (in progress; from life)

2/2/18 (from life)

Indeed, the experience was as I’d hoped. Of course, I enjoyed sketching from life much more; I’m so much more engaged when my model is endlessly moving and, well, alive. But drawing from the photo taught me more about the flicker’s proportions, form and details, and my understanding will probably inform my sketches the next time I see it.

3/15/18 (from life)
2/2/18 (from life)

The last few weeks as the temperatures have warmed, we’ve seen fewer and fewer birds at our feeders as the grub gets tastier and more available from natural sources. We’ve enjoyed endless entertainment all winter and spring, but it’s time to take the feeders down until autumn. I’ll look forward to giving the flickers a shot again – from life, of course. Heck, we might even buy a feeder that will accommodate them better!

Female flicker
Male flicker (Photos by Greg Mullin)

Male flicker


  1. What a great set of flicker sketches. I'm with you about sketching from photos; I just can't get my brain engaged with photos. So much harder than drawing from the real thing.

    1. Thanks! I really miss the birds. . . already looking forward to fall when we put the feeders back up.

  2. Good post and sketches.

    Hmm. Seasonal feeders. I never thought of that.


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