The Humble Pigeon

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How hard it is to draw birds! Well, to make them look like the species you’re aiming for anyway! Earlier this year I read the book Homing, which has a lot to do with pigeons – mainly the homing variety used for sport. Interestingly, pigeon racing was the largest participatory sport in Britain during the 1950s and although its popularity has declined there are still enthusiasts to be found all over the country. In recent years we have had a huge increase in our garden of the common wood pigeon – and yes, they can be messy – but on the whole I welcome these birds into our garden. In particular I like the sounds they make but I also admire their colours – an ‘oceanic palette’ as Jon Day calls it.

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So I set about making some printing blocks of pigeons, using my go-to option of funky foam. This is a very unsophisticated way of making a print block but I find that it works well enough for the standard of print I’m aiming for and is a quick and cheap technique too. First I drew the pigeons roughly on the funky foam in felt pen and cut around them. I then cut two pieces of mount board – separately – and covered them in double sided sticky tape. Turning the pigeons over I applied them to the sticky mount block and then added all the feather details with a cheap biro.

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I dusted the sticky areas around the pigeons with talcum powder and then added a handle on the back with folded masking tape and was then ready to experiment with printing. Firstly I used koh-i-nor inks onto paper and liked the watery effect. The pigeon at the top, next to the book, is an example.  I like this one as it has a realistic eye – so many of my others ended up with a ‘cartoon eye’ – not sure I like whimsical animals or birds! As you can see I used a fine liner pen to add detail.

Then I used some acrylic paints and this is where my pigeons began to morph into other birds! This guy still looks 100% pigeon, although rather sad! See what I mean about the cartoon eye!

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I printed with the acrylic onto some calico and curtain lining. This print has been quickly machined to give a little detail – if you ask me, it looks like a little bantam hen! Or a baby pheasant – but I have a yen to do something with a pheasant at some point so maybe that doesn’t matter.

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This is the same print, hopefully to be sewn by hand, with some relevant colour threads already selected to push me into stitching it.

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And what happened to the other pigeon? Well, he’s turned into a starling – or a thin blackbird, but definitely not a pigeon. More bird drawing practise needed!

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