Observation journal: 100 Ugly Pigeons, and drawing things together

At this point the observation journal reaches both the first week of tutorials and (possibly) the last restaurant visit before… everything.

On the left-hand page: recursive images in a restaurant, and an impressive reverse-park.

Double page of observation journal, densely handwritten. On the left, 5 things seen, heard, and done that day. On the right, ROYGBIV exercise and pigeon drawings.

On the right-hand page: I completed this page in the tutorial for the creativity class (which was the initial excuse for this whole observation journal project).

But doing these two exercises with other people was a very different (and very enjoyable) experience to working alone.

Handwritten page of ROYGBIV exercise and pigeon drawings.

I outlined the ROYGBIV activity earlier in the post Observation Exercises:

  • Essentially you are trying to find a certain number of examples of each colour in the spectrum.
  • It’s a great way to observe for both writing and art (and other things), but it’s also just a nice framework for approaching your surroundings. (See also Observation Journal: The Emma heist and concert strategies.)
  • I enjoy this exercise as a spoken activity anyway — it’s a pleasant way to encounter a view with friends, or extract a view from less picturesque situations. In a group, it becomes a delightfully non-athletic collaborative scavenger hunt.

I don’t think I posted about the 100 Ugly Pigeons before. The example above is abbreviated because I was walking around the classroom, but a full earlier example is below.

  • The task for this one is simple: draw 100 ugly pigeons. They do not have to be well drawn — they’re meant to be ugly. The aim is to get 100 of them.
  • Then, once you have your 100 pigeons, make a few notes on how you got them. Where did it start to seem a lot? How did you try to game the activity?
  • It was also a good heavy-duty limbering-up exercise. There’s nothing to get wrong, but there’s a lot to make — and at the end, you have a significant piece of work, in its way. (See also: Making little things.)
  • Although this was a solo activity in class, we had a small art show at the end, and seeing the sheer variety of ways people address it, and define ugly, and try to speed up or cheat the process, is inspiring and fascinating. It reminded me of the early days of Australian Masterchef, and how interesting and inspiring and cautionary it was watching 50 people get Beef Wellington wrong in 50 different ways.
Handwritten page with drawings of 100 ugly pigeons

In the (purple-framed) example above, I got up to about ten pigeons before I wanted to climb the walls — I realised I needed a narrative to keep me moving forward (a common theme for me), and so pigeon 11 starts telling a story to pigeons 12-13, and it rolls forward from there. It’s a fairy tale, of course (can you pick which?). My observations are written around the edges of the page, and touch both on that narrative drive, and the decisions required to manage imagery in stories with strong numerical repetitions.

Incidentally, the antagonist-pigeon is 100% based on this tweet:

Tweet from @sketchesbyboze with two photos of a dramatic pigeon and the words "no, officer, I haven't seen my husband in weeks. yes, I'm terribly worried"

Finally: sushi. And indeed, for some time the final sushi.

Pen drawing of girl taking a photo of sushi going past
A drawing of a girl taking a photo of sushi in motion

3 thoughts on “Observation journal: 100 Ugly Pigeons, and drawing things together

  1. Pingback: Observation journal: improbable inventions | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: September post round-up | Kathleen Jennings

  3. Pingback: Observation Journal — a tremor in the web | Kathleen Jennings

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