Sunday, August 8, 2021

Working for Peanuts

8/4/21 Steller's jay

Feeding peanuts to Steller’s jays in the backyard while we feed ourselves on the deck has become our regular mealtime entertainment. I put a handful of nuts out on a tray, and within minutes, the pair that lives nearby takes turns grabbing them. They linger for only a second or two at a time, so sketching is hard work. With each grab-and-go, I manage to make a line or two to refine or correct various gestures that I work on simultaneously. Fortunately, the two birds look nearly identical (I think they are a mated pair, but I can’t tell the male from the female), so I sketch them interchangeably as I add more marks to the same sketches.

When I finally got the proportions right on one, I decided to focus on that one to finish. After I got the drawing done in graphite, I went inside to add a bit of blue to the tail and wings while the details were fresh in my memory. I regretted it later because the color obscures some of the form. So I’m also showing here the graphite-only drawing (at right).

Maybe this winter I’ll use one of Greg’s photos of these lovely birds to make a full-color drawing. Or not. Drawing from life is so much more fun (and certainly more challenging). 

It took about 40 peanuts to make these sketches. Now I know what it means to work for peanuts.

Grab and go!


  1. LOl Working for peanuts...that made me laugh. What a wonderful color their feathers are!!! I don't think I could be fast enough to sketch them...or see enough of them unless they were right next to me. Good sketching!

    1. Oh, that iridescent blue on their wings is so gorgeous! I would love to try to capture that someday.

  2. Wish I could put out peanuts like this. If I did, however, the squirrels would have the whole thing turned upside down in a matter of minutes :-)

    1. A squirrel lives near our yard. While the jays were busily grabbing nuts, the squirrel was nearby but must be really stupid because he didn't even notice what the jays were eating!


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