I felt myself applying the colour to this bird heavily and vigorously as it came to life. I grabbed and scrubbed with the most vibrant pencils I had at hand muttering “[expletive] Winter” while trying to drive warmth into the paper.
A lot of us are there right now. We understand and respect that Nature needs to do its thing sometimes but we’re wondering sometimes aloud, “Seriously, why does Nature have to be such a jerk?” The Earth has cooperated by easing into its springtime alignment and brightening our evenings and we are honestly thankful. But here we are still checking at least three weather websites seeking those glorious above freezing digits.
Find your own Imaginary Bird.
Birds portrayed in the “Drawing from Nature” series by Davin Risk are purely imaginary — any similarity to true species is entirely accidental.
January of 2011. I was not feeling the New Year vibe. I realized then that for the gardener, the New Year comes when we can once again dip our hands into the soft earth, and I made a resolution to make a big deal about spring when it arrived.
And I did. That spring, Davin and I made our own holiday cards and sent them out to friends. Each card included a packet of seeds and a piece of paper with simple instructions for growing them. I chose mesclun mix, an assortment of easy, quick-growing, cut-and-come-again leafy salad greens that are harvested early while the plants are young and tender. I felt confident that friends with a wide range of living spaces and varied gardening experience would be able to handle it.
I hope you enjoy this first writing prompt. Future prompts will range from simple to complicated and silly to serious. Some will be straight ahead and others will be surprising and unexpected. Please join the newsletter if you’d like to be notified when prompts are posted to this site.
In interviews, I am often asked to relate my “Genesis” story. “How did you get started gardening?.” It seems like such a simple question. You’d think I’d have a great response in the back of my pocket by now, given that I have been called upon to answer it countless times. Instead, my response is always the same: sheer panic.
“Uh. Well. You see. It’s sort of a long story to tell. Ummmmmmmmmmm… It’s, uh, complicated.” Fumble, fumble, stammer.
It’s not that I don’t know my own story, it’s that it is not a story with a single, definable beginning. The way I see it, there are many things in life that are like this. Sometimes there is no singular act that sets you off on a path, but several acts and experiences — some conscious and others unconscious, that lead you to a destination that you may not have been able to foresee.
After the initial fumbling, my response to this simple/big question is often to begin with my first plant. I’m not certain that it is the beginning of this thing that I do (growing things), but it is an important experience that I can recall with clarity. I was only five at the time and growing a plant was not an activity that I had a hand in choosing. However, my memory of it is telling and a reminder that the urge to connect to the natural world in some way was always there, even if it took me a while to put conscious thought and action to it.
So this is where I thought we’d begin. At the beginning. But not really.
Note: You can skip my explanation and go straight to the Grow Write Guild page to find out more.
Tell More Stories.
Back in December I declared that this was my goal moving forward. The more I know about gardening and the more I write about it, the more I see that it is all about the stories. As a professional garden writer I am supposed to identify myself as an expert and make sure to position myself in that way in order to rise above the herd and increase my value. “Citizens of the World, I have all of your gardening answers!” But the reality is that while I have learned a lot, there is far, far more that I do not know. Infinitely more. And other things that I forget. This is not a bad thing. It keeps me humble. It’s also a challenge to learn and a guarantee that I will never be bored — that I can carry this obsession with plants through the whole of my life and it will always be as vivid, dynamic, and alive as it is right now. Maybe even more-so.
Which leads me back to Tell More Stories. Read more…
I kept talking Gayla’s ear off about drawing in these hardcover engineering log books I remembered from highschool physics class. Something about drawing on top of those thin blue/green grids pulled at some aesthetic urge in me. This week she found the next best thing in a thrift store, an old bound Blueline ledger. Above you can see the first drawing I made in it yesterday on Arts & Crafts night.
If you would like a print, note card, or even an iPhone case of this budget-minded bird (or one of the previous birds) you are in luck! Check out our Society6 shop
This post is the third in the “Drawing from Nature” series by Davin Risk. All birds have sprung purely from the imagination and any similarity to true species is entirely accidental.