Managing Left Hemispheric Evaluations and a Bird Sketch

See below for tips on how to do a bird sketch.

When I experienced negative evaluations during the tomtit/kaka process, I would relax my jaw, shoulders and stomach, soften my eyes and breathe into my abdomen. I would reassure my helper, you know the one;

“This is a great challenge, there’s nothing easy about learning to paint feathers, but this is what I’m choosing now…”

Again and again my left hemisphere hounded me to stop, I’m not going in there again, that stupid bird is driving me crazy. Sometimes I heeded its discomfort, because sometimes that feels like a good thing to do and left my desk, allowed myself to feel anger, disappointment and humiliation.

“Hello anger, I feel you, right here in my belly, I feel you rising up into my throat and swelling up into my head…right now, here you are.”

If you name it and consciously feel it, it often disperses.


A wonderful woman taught me to say,

“I have space for you here anxiety, I embrace you in the spacious vessel of my being.”

This spacious vessel, I believe is available in the global focus of our right hemisphere. An ancient Buddhist teaching, it speaks of the sense of spaciousness one experiences during deep states of mindfulness and meditation… I began to practice mindfulness.

I also went for walks, had tea with friends, read magazines, perused Facebook, cooked dinner, knowing that I would return no matter what. I just kept going back to my desk and started again. Each unsuccessful painting assisted me to move on with new information about what not to do and about what to do…not fully…I couldn’t do a decent Kaka either…

Enough Kakaaaaas, so what now?



I remembered a little book I had bought years ago, by Geoff Moon and his wife with a photograph of a mesmerizing New Zealand falcon. One of my students did a splendid drawing of it… I must draw that, I have to draw that… and the impulse was archived in one of the notes running down my spine.

“Falcons, sometimes called bush hawks, are able to fly faster than any other bird in the world,” my heart is speeding up, “They are raptors,” raptors, what’s a raptor?? “or birds of prey,” ahaa, “and in New Zealand include three races…the birds fly in spectacular, high- diving swoops at 200 kilometres an hour, also flying at speed just above ground level.”

The bells in my spine are ringing. “They possess acute sight, being eight times greater than humans. Scientific name; Falco novaeseelandiae, Maori name; Karearea.”

Karearea; a verbal caress, curling in the mouth.



I always do a prep drawing and so take up my  6B Conte a Paris. My favourite graphite pencils; they have soft wood and are easily sharpened with a craft knife, to expose a long wedge of strong graphite, whittled to a pointed tip. Sharpening this way creates a flexible tool, which I can use on its side for laying down areas of tone and its tip for contours and dark accents.

I love eyeballing (not tracing but drawing by eye) so I will do a linear construction drawing, where I am sighting and measuring with horizontals and vertical lines to get accuracy. The second is a tonal drawing which I do on top.  This is an exploration into falcon territory.

  • I hold the pencil in a relaxed grip, about 4 – 5cms away from the tip. The grip is so relaxed at times, particularly in the light and mid-tones, I can pull it out of my fingers.
  • I rest the knuckle at the base of my pinky on the paper and apply pressure when I need to darken to a mid- tone. The pencil is almost horizontal and I am coming from my shoulder, not wrist.
  • In the dark areas, I use the writing grip, with fingers closer to the tip and the hold is firmer, static and more vertical.
  • It’s easy to contract the whole arm and shoulder when applying pressure to the dark accents, but it’s not necessary, you can remain physically relaxed throughout the drawing process, by merely tightening and loosening your grip on the pencil and applying pressure from the knuckle.


The finished drawing is somewhat loose i.e. I’m not trying to draw every feather faithfully and I’m going relatively fast. I want to get a sense of the whole thing, this is a prep drawing for a painting…a painting??? Yes dear left hemisphere we’re going to be painting feathers AGAIN…