Children have amazing imaginations and notice everything, especially when it comes to drawing. I recently visited an art camp where kids put their observation skills to work using unlikely models as their muse. The class I visited at Oil and Cotton Studios in Oak Cliff was a life-drawing class. The students were between the ages 4 to 9. Their models work for chicken feed.
“Drawing Spring Chickens” is the name of the class. I asked Oil and Cotton teacher Shannon Driscoll how it came about. “We thought it would be a lot of fun for the kids—actually it was my partner Kayli’s idea. It was sort of a combination of a petting zoo and an opportunity for the kids to learn about the anatomy of a chicken.”
I was introduced to the models for today’s class by 5-year-old Grey Mecca.
“It’s G-R-E-Y, not G-R-A-Y. G-R-E-Y,” he pointed out. “Little is the littlest of the chickens, Red is the, you know, sort of reddish, but I don’t know how Henry got his name. Okay?”
Grey and his friends got a very close up look at what makes a chicken, well, a chicken.
“We think it’s really important to look and draw what you see. We love drawing from our imaginations, as well, but to actually look at the world around us and draw that is a really wonderful learning tool for kids,” says Driscoll.
Driscoll announces to the kids that during the class they’ll be learning and looking at all the different parts of the chicken. 5 year-old Giada Palmer quickly observed, “These chickens—they kinda have stripes on their toes!”
After everyone got a look at the girls, it was time to bring out the construction paper, colored pencils and glue and begin work on their masterpieces. Lucky for the artists, the subjects don’t mind posing in the nude.
“Growing up, pets are really important to us and sometimes they’re our first true friends. So all of the kids were really excited that we were going to have some barnyard animals today,” says Driscoll
Jesse Bartlett supplied the chickens for the class. The birds have never modeled before. Normally, they live in Bartlett’s back yard in Oak Cliff. When she’s not wrangling chickens, Bartlett also teaches at Oil and Cotton. She holds the birds, so one by one the kids can pet them. 5 year-old Madeline Campbell thinks the feathers feel like soft snow, while Luke Stewart who’s 8 has a new appreciation for the birds. “I think chickens are a cool creature because they’re delicate and they are very good human animal.”
At the end of the class kids get to take home a collage, a rubbing and a line drawing of their feathered friends. And of course, you can’t spend that much time with chickens without addressing another important topic: Chicken jokes.
Grey had one fitting for the day,”Why did the chicken cross the playground? To get to the other SLIDE! Get it? To get to the other SIDE!”