TRY IT TUESDAY: Apparently “don’t have a cow” has been a catchphrase for “calm down” or “chill out” since the 1950s, although it gained steam in general usage in the ‘90s thanks to Bart Simpson. However, given the stress that seems to be part and parcel of our current state of social distancing/isolation, sometimes you really need to have a cow. Pennsylvania painter (and dairy farmer) Sadie Allen generously provides instructions on a productive (and fun!) way to do just that:
Step One: This is Sue, the model. If you don’t have live models like me, there are lots of cow pictures online or in publications. As long as you don’t sell your chalk drawings, copyright is not an issue.
For this project you will need some form of chalk and a surface to draw on. I am using sidewalk chalk on concrete, but chalk on construction paper or cardboard will work too. The cheapest way ever is to use rocks out of the driveway, a pointy one to draw with and one flat to draw on. Also get an old sock or a brush to smudge the chalk with.
Step Two: To make a mad cow, break it down into simple shapes. Pizza shaped head with large football shaped ears. Draw lightly when you are figuring out placement so that things can be adjusted and moved if necessary. Don’t freak out if its not perfect. Its okay for the drawing to have character. Place eyes up high on the head with lots of room around them. Notice I am using light chalk on a medium toned surface. The surface will act as your shadow. We are only drawing the lit places of the form.
Step Three: Decide where the pupils should go. Make them large to start with and shrink them down to your taste. Use a finger to rub the chalk into the surface to get nice smooth eyeballs. The chalk should be the most concentrated in the center of the eye no matter where the pupils are, and gently fading to the edges which will help give dimension to the eyes and make them pop out. In later pictures you will see I put white on top of my colored chalk in the very center of the eyes to further enhance the modeling.
Step Four: The nose is like an bubble letter “H”, but thinner on top and thicker on the bottom. You can use a slashing, stroking motion to fill in the ears that will create the effect of hair. The hairs hang down from the upper edge of the ear. I smudge the upper edge but do not smudge the hair. I also put dense strokes on the bridge of the nose to make it advance in space. And then some stroking around the eyes to both create the expression and simulate how the skull bone surrounds the eyes. Notice I let the concrete peek through and automatically act as shadow areas.
The top of the head is called the pole. Use that area to create a hairdo for your cow. That can be all different ways, wild, tame, short or long. Often it depends on age and genetics of the animal, but also its grooming partners. Some are good groomers and some are terrible.
Step Five: Fill in the nose and put a little smudging on the cheeks. The nose should have more chalk than the bridge and the cheeks should have less than the bridge. This will help with facial dimension.
Step Six: I have added some white on top of my most forward areas to bring them that much closer to the viewer. Also I have put some on the nose where I think highlights should go.
Decide the shape you want for horns if you want horns. I chose small curled one – they look like bugle corn chips. Fill in the horn sparingly and smudge to make smooth. Concentrate the chalk toward the middle in keeping with the shape. Use white to make a final shine on the horn following it shape. My horns curve, therefore my highlight marks curve.
Add a bottom jaw and square teeth. Cows only have bottom teeth in the front of the mouth so I only ever put some there and never on top. In the way back of the mouth they have uppers and lowers for cud chewing. You can do as you wish with your Mad Cow’s teeth.
Step Seven: Add another color in the places between shadow and light if you wish. I picked green just because we have started grazing and there will be grass-stained cows. Now you can laugh and share your creation with a friend. Hope you had fun. Sometimes I makes small herds of them. You can also give them names :)
Sadie’s work was featured in one of our 2019 exhibits and we still have her prints, jigsaw puzzles and cards available for sale in the Flick Gallery (along with some original work when she can get away from the farm for long enough to bring some up to us. Her whimsical art has proven very popular with our members and friends.
As the weather improves (we’re trusting that it will, indeed, improve) why not sketch out a signal of your mood on sidewalk or driveway – if friends and neighbors know you’re having a cow, maybe they’ll call and say “hay” just to brighten your day! Why not give it a try?