Project 5 Exercise 3 Live animals – using line and tone

The aim

Using both line and tone can create a sense of volume and movement through space, Work in any combination of media you like. Work on large paper so that you can explore tonal values freely. Remember to vary the pressure and speed of your lines to create a sense of dynamism or stillness, enhancing the stance, gestural posture and strength of the animal.

The process

We have a large colony of jackdaws in the village that have just finished nesting in surrounding chimney pots and trees. When nesting we mostly we hear them rather than get close views of them, but recently the fledglings have been appearing so much more activity happens on the ground. I love the sleek look of these (usually rather unpopular) birds. I have a very early memory of an old lady keeping one as pet and to my child-eyes this was both fascinating and scary at the same time, with stories of witches familiars in my head. I decided to draw jackdaws searching for insects amongst the grass. My sketches were not very good!

However I finally struck upon a pose I liked with proportions that looked jackdaw-ish. I had been sketching in a drawing pen. I decided that I wanted my drawing to be fairly loose so decided to work this one up using ink, a quill and conte crayon on its side to add tone. I tried conte crayon in this fashion over my original sketch.

Using A3 cartridge paper I drew a rough pencil sketch of the key areas then layered ink from a quill over the top of this (I didn’t trust myself to go straight to the ink). I tried to keep the lines loose and flowing and not too ‘outline-ish’ I think layered on black, grey and white conte crayon in sweeping strokes to try to build up the tones. I left parts of the paper white for highlights and had to darken areas considerably by layering on more black.

Jackdaw in ink and conte crayon
Jackdaw in ink and conte crayon


I am pleased with how the head turned out – it makes it a jackdaw. However I found the ink line too thick along the back of the bird and on the line of the wing.The legs also have not come out as I would have hoped. I was aiming for a rough sketch but the two legs have become a little too merged making it look as if the jackdaw has one thick leg! The feathers of the furthest wing are also too black, making them come forward in the drawing and appear attached in some strange way to the tail. I like the use of tone around the wing area, but towards the tip of the wing and the tail, the area has become overworked and has flattened somewhat. I am pleased that I set out to do a quick drawing and this didn’t take very long, even allowing for the initial pencil sketch. I would however if I have time at some point to re visit this one and try again as I feel there is potential for this bird to have a lot of character.

Project 5 Exercise 3 Live animals – using line and tone

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