Turkeys in back yard

Turkeys in back yard, pastel on paper, 22inx5ft., originally uploaded by ahtravis.

Turkeys; sketches to painting

I’m in Massachusetts.  A flock of 20 or more wild turkeys roam the yard and neighborhood.  We hear them gobbling before daylight.  They are seldom visible as the dawn is breaking but when the sun is fully on the yard and house, about mid morning, they are there, slowly, jerkily wading through the 6 inches of snow that covers the ground.

Several weeks ago, while taking a nighttime walk, we noticed that they were roosting high in the trees that overhang the street, in the back yard and the woods up the hill.  One to each tree, and higher than I have ever seen them fly.  As we walked underneath their hulking shapes they craned their necks to peer down at us.

On first impression wild turkeys are dark and colorless.  I know this is not so because on our Ohio farm I used to collect their dropped feathers and could see that they have a colorful iridescence.  When a student at The Cleveland Institute of Art I did a report on “iridescence” using their feathers as an example.  The other day I was walking in the sun and met about 10 of the birds slowing picking their way across the lawns lining the street.  The sun was shining brightly and as they moved I could see green and red glinting from the feathers.  I suddenly understood why the cartoon illustrations of Thanksgiving turkeys always show them in brilliant color.

I have been sketching them from our windows and I used a turkey sketch in my “Madonna, horrified” as well as in the pastel of a group above.

Such interesting shapes.  It is a challenge to capture their movements and attitudes.  Many sketches produce only several good ones.  I sketch in pen and ink; I prefer Uniball micro pens because they slide so effortlessly across the page of my small sketch book.  In most of the sketches I am not concerned with detail.  A few sketches of particulars can always be used to flesh out a basic bird.

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2 Responses to Turkeys in back yard

  1. lesliepaints says:

    This is totally full of movement and shape and I love it! totally awesome pastel.

  2. Rachel says:


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