In the midst of the 2020 pandemic, Rockefeller the Saw-whet owl came on the scene and brightened an otherwise dull reality. Her story was truly more incredible than fiction. She huddled within the branches of the 75-foot Norway spruce intended for Rockefeller Center in New York City. The trip covered 170 miles from upstate New York to Manhattan. When “Rocky” was found, she hadn’t any food or water in days, but began to recover after getting fluids and food. She recovered at the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center and took flight again.
Seeing the picture of Rockefeller taken by the wildlife facility compelled me to do the drawing of her. I was teaching a class on "Drawing Animals in the News," and along with Major Biden, the President's adopted dog, Rocky made a great subject. Mostly, I like to draw from life or my own photographs, but that's not always possible. Is drawing from photographs art? Yes, I think so, because the challenge with photographs is interpreting the myriad of details present in the photographic record into patterns of value and translations of texture. The idea is not to make a photocopy, but something beyond the photograph.
As I draw, I acquire an appreciation for creation, for life, and for the uniqueness of every living thing and object on earth. It is like as meditation to me, a sacred study. “Rockefeller” was drawn using Staedtler Mars Lumograph graphite pencils on multi-media paper. My technique includes layering the pencil by using a kneaded eraser to push in the graphite into the paper's texture and going over it with a new layer. This process is time consuming, but the results are satisfying. I also use a Factis BM2 eraser to pull out the highlights, refining them further with pencil.