Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bull Encounter

I made this drawing on February 14, 1975 when I was sixteen. Back in those days I used to take a bottle of ink and a set of dip pens around with me in a canvas backpack. I didn’t have any art teachers and no one told me that sketching with dip pens was kind of a dumb idea.

Also, no one told me it’s a dumb idea to sit in a field and sketch bulls. This bull was OK at first, as long as he was surrounded by his cows. But my scratching pens annoyed his harem. One by one, they got up and headed off, leaving just me and the bull. He sat there, staring over at me and looking more and more irritated.

Then he struggled to his feet and started walking toward me.

I dropped my pen set and sidestepped slowly over to the middle of the field. I stood in a patch of high grass. For every step I took, the bull followed me.

“Nice bull,” I said. I yanked out a big wad of grass to offer him. He stared dully back at me.

I waved the grass back and forth a few times. He put his head down and started to trot toward me. I trotted backwards, but it was too far to the fence. I held out the grass so that he could really see it, and I tossed it to the side, figuring he would choose me or the grass.

At the very last second, he lurched to the side and bent down to eat the grass. I ran back to where I was sketching and picked all of my pen points out of a wet cow pie.


Tim Fitzgerald said...

My brother and I used to go to the creek to sketch and there was a pasture next to the water with a fence around it. The bull's paid us no mind until my brother had to pee. The fence was electrified John let out a blood curdling scream as he let go a spray of pee. Sketch pads pen's and assorted drawing materials went everywhere. After a few minutes of hopping around holding his injured privates we picked up our gear and pride went home. We still talk of our experience when we get together fifty years later.

Adam Paquette said...

Just curious Jim, why's the dip pen such a dumb idea? I do it myself and have found it my favourite sketching medium with the perfect combination of expressive marks and intuitive flow... just curious to know what I may be missing, as like you... I havn't had the benefit of art teachers :)

James Gurney said...

Adam, they're only dumb if you drop them or knock over the ink bottle (which I've also done). Otherwise dip pens are fine. I more often use fountain pens now, but most of them don't use India ink, which some people prefer because it's waterproof.

David Teter said...

I have enjoyed your blog this past year, yours is unique in it's human interest stories relating to the lives of artists, like this one, as well as how it invites the same from your readers.

Keep up the great work, Happy New Year!

My Pen Name said...

noodler's ink is waterproof, in fact it's one of the most forge proof inks around the goulet pen company (google it) sells it and cheap fountain pens that work with noodler's ink. I have also used a waterman successfully with noodler's ink.

I loved writing with a fountain pen ,but the ink normally used with them is prone to fading.

Anonymous said...

Close call! I would've made a wet pie in my pants.

Great sketches, especially at 16!

Unknown said...

I got chased by my uncle's old bull once, had to hide out in the barn for several hours till he finally forgot about me.
I bought your new book as a Christmas present for myself,and stayed up till 3am reading it... It is surely going to be one of my most-used references.
The only problem is now I'm obsessed with observing color in a more educated way. Took a hike in the snow today with my husband, and showed him how the shadow and reflected light in the snow changed from warm to cool... don't think he was too interested.

Don Cox said...

Joe Pennell used to draw on the spot with dipping pens. If an audience gathered behind him, he would "accidentally" flick some ink backward.

His big autobiography is a stunning piece of book production.

Erik Bongers said...

Finally bought my refillable brush pen last Friday. No dumb sketching for me no more!
Great sketches, regardless the age of 16 or net.

Erik Bongers said...

I meant 'not'.
And the brush pen came with very clear Japanese.

bella said...

those look like pretty good sketches for being a bad idea. ;)

Heidi Hellstern said...

Well, you should be lucky he didn't attack you! :O