Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sketching at the Fair

I spent some time sketching at
a county fair this week.

The Fulton County Fair is
 one of the largest county fairs in Ohio.
With all the traditional arts and crafts exhibits,
animal barns, several ride and food midways,
and big name entertainment, it usually has 
excellent attendance.  'Styx' was playing
at the grandstand the night we were there.

I spent an hour of my visit sketching
a few of the animal exhibits, as inspired
by Roz Stendahl of Roz Wound Up.  I
can't make it to the Minnesota State Fair,
but got a good taste of 'sketching 
in public,' with minimal preparation and
not too much anxiety!

I think the 'dairy cow,' above, is
the best one of the four that I did.
Not sure if the head is large enough in
proportion to the body, but felt that I
did ok with it over all.

Roz sent me a lovely little sketchbook (pages
about 5"x6")  that she made and
 it was a good size to sketch in while
standing up. I used a Sharpie pen and 
watercolor pencils for these drawings. The
plumage on this little rooster was so beautiful,
but he simply moved around so much that I
had difficulty capturing him. He had those 
great tufts of feathers on his feet (there's 
probably a proper term for that but I don't know it)
and marvelous black and white feathers.
In retrospect, I wish that I had drawn just
a single feather detail to show how
one feather looked. Next year...

I first focused on the pen sketch, then added
bits of colored pencil in areas where I
wanted to add color or shading. I don't 
own a 'water brush' so I thought this
would be an acceptable alternative.
I was able to place the little sketchbook
on top of the metal watercolor pencil box
as a drawing surface. I used water on the 
pencil sketches when I got back to
a table and a glass of water.

Some challenges and things I learned:

* Animals MOVE. A challenge in itself.  Even if you choose
a sleeping animal to sketch, fair goers may come along
and pet the animal and cause them to move.
I do not ever try to touch animals I don't know, 
unless the owner is nearby and says it's ok.
Even 'little bunnies' can give you a serious 
bite or painful scratch! Fair goers don't always
keep this in mind.

Sketching a moving subject can be a bit difficult for me.
Although, when the animal moves, you can sometimes
change your vantage point to compensate.
The cow was the least inclined to move, the rooster
the most active. (and he had a loud crow for a little guy!)
It was amusing though, that the animals were quite
aware that I was standing there longer than most.
The goats came looking for a 'snack' or a scratch
on the head. The cow turned its head and gave me
a questioning look like "what are you up to?"

*People may want to look at what you've drawn.  One 
older couple told me the dairy cow was "pretty close."
I'll take that as a compliment. It's not always easy
to ignore interested passersby, or reply to their
comments. As an artist, it's easier for me to show
finished work rather than 'work in progress,' so that
was a thing out of my comfort zone. Though 
attendance was good the day I was at
 the fair, it wasn't so crowded as to 
have people bump into me. That would have been
another challenge, but as long as I kept the drawing
'loose' it wouldn't be a huge problem for me.

*Drawing while standing is not a problem. Not having
a table or area to lay my tools was a learning experience.
Roz's suggestion is a Fanny Pack or lots of pockets.
I can see how cargo pants would be terrific to sketch in.
But I don't own cargo pants or a Fanny Pack. I do
own a back pack, but having to get it down off my
shoulder to get stuff out was awkward.  I found myself
sticking the watercolor pencils in my mouth while
sketching in pen. Probably not the best idea. I know.
But it served. Next time, I'll choose
 clothes with more pockets.

The hand made book from Roz, above, a gift for 

participating in her 'Fake Journal' challenge.
 The Strathmore 500 mixed media paper was 
a wonderful paper to work on. The black cover has a 
bit of sparkle with copper metallic paint brush strokes.

*The smaller sized sketchbook was easier to handle
than my larger spiral bound journals would have been.
A larger book would have been too heavy, and
difficult to hold in one hand while sketching
with the other hand.

*I'm allergic to most animals. And hay. And dust.
So I did wear jeans, steel toed boots and socks.
From experience, I know my ankles will break out
from the dust and animal dander, and this year was 
no exception. Benadryl cream is helpful. I'll live.
I don't go visit the horse barn, though. Horses are quite
beautiful, but asthma is very unpleasant. I did take a 
quick peak at the miniature horses getting lined up
in preparation for their show in the arena, but I didn't
stay long, or try to draw them.

I enjoyed my sketching experience. I only
sketched for about an hour.  With more time I could
have drawn pigs or flowers or people. There is a 
wealth of subject matter at the fair!


  1. Impressive! A wealth of information that many of us would never consider. OK, someone like me, who couldn't draw a shape even if I were paid to do so. I had no idea you were asthmatic. I'm sure that is uncomfortable, to say the least.

    Although it would take away from the Plein Air concept, you might consider photographing the animals and drawing them in a less hostile environment. There are always lots of other subjects. Of course, if the animal barn was near the grandstands and Styx was on stage, I can see why you would stick around (grin).

  2. Hey Diane, I love your county fair sketches. You sure were productive in an hour! Were you using that small Strathmore 500 Mixed Media paper book? I hope you liked the paper. Kudos for you braving the barns with your severe allergies. While I have allergies and asthma it's pretty much contained by a little bit of medication and I never break out. But you are wise not to touch any of the animals (even with permission). I found out one year from a goat owner that there are a somethings people can pick up from goats, some parasites. I'm glad you got out and had this adventure! Roz

  3. Your sketches are wonderful! I can't imagine being able to do that...esp with animals...or small children. They definitely don't stay still. Even if they did I don't think I have the skills for any living creature.

  4. Wow. This is so interesting! Your sketches are fabulous. And I love Roz Stendahl. I wish she had classes closer to me. I think she's fabbo.

    I have not been brave enough yet to do any sketching in public. But I've really been wanting to. I keep waiting to have more time, but seriously... you have to just do it!!

    Great work!

  5. We don't have our fair till later, but I can't wait. It's so fun to try to capture the animals. I'd never done this tili I read Roz's blog - she's so inspiring AND instructional. All her advice paid off. I found that a fanny pack helped a lot. Good for you not being put off by people's comments. I love your sketches and that you pressed through even though you knew your skin would react. So good to see your work!


I really appreciate your comments. Leave me a note and Thanks for visiting!