Drawing Cows with Children


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, May, 2007

cowsI’M BACK AT MY OLD SCHOOL, Clifton Infants in Horbury, to do a day of drawing with the older children as part of the school's environment week.

The set-up here is ideal for a drawing workshop as the school overlooks the pastures of Sowood Farm. The cows (and bullocks) are creatures of habit and every morning they amble sedately into the field adjacent to the playground. We put benches and chairs alongside the fence and I get the children to do observational drawings – no easy task because the cows are constantly on the move and, even if you start drawing one that has settled and is lying down to chew the cud, it seems that another will always walk in front of it.

cowsI’m trying to get the children to draw what they see rather than fall back on the conventions that they’d normally use in a drawing. One boy gives his cow ears like a rabbit’s. Many of them draw the legs as straight pillars so I ask them to focus on individual details such as the ears, the nose and back legs; what appear to be knees on the back legs are actually ankles, I tell them.

After about half an hour drawing the cattle, I take the class for a walk around the school grounds and get them bring back twigs, leaves or rocks to draw in the classroom. To finish the session they draw a tree from the classroom.

On the windowsills are rows of pots the children have planted with flower and vegetable seeds. I would have loved all this art and natural history when I was a pupil here.

I wish I could show you some of the drawings the children did today; there was some lively artwork and some sensitive well-observed studies.