Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp (Part 3)

Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp

This post is a continuation of a little series which may become part of a book about Amelia’s trip to the moon and back. If you are not a regular reader, you may want to read the most recent post about Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp first. It will help explain the ending to this post.

Emily had been enjoying her chalks and pastels for long enough to cover the front of my refrigerator with artwork. It seemed like a perfect day to try something new.

“Would you like this little travel-size watercolor set?” I asked.

“What does it do?”

“Well, I thought you might like to try making some pictures with it, paintings really.”

“Are paintings better than drawings?”

“That is a question people still haven’t figured out yet. But if you ask me, a painting is a lot like a drawing except it is wet at first. But some drawings, like ink drawings, start out wet too. The best thing about painting is you can make a big colorful shape all at once.”

“Don’t I have to travel to use it? I don’t think I can fly and carry that all at the same time even though it is small.”

“It’s only called that name because when artists travel away from home sometimes they like to take a little set of paints and a brush with them. But they can use it at home too.”

“Those colors are pretty and brighter than chalk. Do I pick them up like chalk?”

“They have pigment in them like the chalk, and a very weak kind of glue. You add some water with the paintbrush to loosen up the pigment and glue, and then you have paint.”

Emily couldn’t quite imagine how this would all work. She looked as if she was going to tell me she’d rather just stay with her chalk drawings, but I wanted her to at least try.

“By the way, Emily, did you know that many years ago some artists started using the clear part inside eggs as a stronger kind of glue when they mixed their paint colors. The clear part of the egg made the paint last a really long time and kept the colors extra beautiful.”

“You are serious about that?”

“Absolutely serious. It’s called egg tempera, and some artists still use it. The paintings are small because they take so much time to make, but they are worth it because they are small and as beautiful as jewels, just like you.”

Emily had exhausted all of the questions she could come up with, and so there was nothing left to do except make a decision. Chickens can be hesitant about trying new things, even new food.

“I want to see how this paint works. I will give it a try.”

“I’m so glad.”

“But I’m not giving up any eggs for this.”

“And I wouldn’t ask you to either. You will just need a dish of water. It wouldn’t be good to use everyone’s drinking dish. Nobody wants funny-colored water to drink.”

I was eager to see how her watercolor painting would turn out. The travel-sized box had a shorter paintbrush that fit nicely in her beak. I showed her how to use it to get water and turn the cakes of pigment into paint. In no time, she was ready to start.

From the very beginning, Emily developed her own painting style. She enjoyed being able to use her whole body, especially her wings, when she painted.

Flying and painting worked well together for her. She would load her brush with paint and then touch straight down to make round yellow shapes for flower centers. She would touch at an angle to make white oblong shapes for flower petals. She would touch down then drag and lift up to make green shapes with two pointed ends for flower leaves.

None of her shapes were exactly the same which made every flower unique, just as in nature. A few times drops of paint went where they weren’t supposed to go, but she was able to turn the drips into more flowers. All in all, her first watercolor painting was quite a success.

When she was finished she put down her brush and looked up at me. She was delighted to see the approval on my face.

“Nicely done,” I said. “And I know what you are going to say next.” It was why she had asked if painting was better than drawing.

“I want to paint Amelia.”

“Then we will work on that tomorrow. You will need even bigger shapes than what you made today. Let me show you, and then you can imagine how you will do it for tomorrow’s lesson.”

I opened the paint box all of the way so that the lid laid flat. Emily had been so eager to start, she hadn’t noticed this. She liked how the two sections there could be used to make a larger amount of paint.

Emily watched carefully as I mixed a special color and outlined a large round shape with watercolor and then filled it in with more paint.

Then once that was dry, I mixed another special color and added more smaller round shapes on top of the larger round shape.

“That is the moon! That is where Amelia is going!”

“That’s right.”

“So is painting like drawing?”

“What do you mean, Emily?”

“Does it also let you do things you would never be able to do any other way?”

“We will find out tomorrow, won’t we?”

“Yes. Yes, we will.”

My Life With Gracie taught me you never know what you can do until you try.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp (Part 1)

Emily's Summer Drawing Camp

This story may become part of the book I hope to write about Amelia’s journey to find out if she can be lost but not afraid. It is a “fast forward” from the last part I shared here with you. Writing from a first person point of view as I do, I can’t go on the trip with her. This leaves Emily and me here at home. But it also provides a chance for Emily to explore and grow without leaving home.

Amelia had been gone for some time, longer than expected. Early spring had turned to early summer.

It was a lazy kind of Sunday afternoon, and I had decided to clean out part of the garage. I had asked Emily if she wanted to come and watch, but she didn’t seem interested. She still missed Amelia very much.

Eventually Emily wandered in and flew up to the highest thing stacked on my workbench. It was a safe spot out of the way where she would have a chance to see all that was there. And there was a lot there.

“What is that?” Emily asked. “It know that smell, but not that shape.”

“I’m not sure what you mean. There’s a lot of stuff on this workbench.”

She hopped down from her perching spot and pecked to point at a yellow and red box.

“Oh, that’s chalk. You use it to make marks on things.”

“Chickens are very good at making marks. Can I look at it? I won’t mess it up. I promise.”

“Sure, and even if you do mess it up, it’s okay because I don’t need it any more.”

Emily pulled out a piece of chalk. It was just a little short stub of a piece. She looked worried.

“It’s okay, You didn’t mess it up. And even if you did, it breaks really easily anyway.”

“This tastes like oyster shells. Just like you put in our dry food.”

“Yes, chalk is made out of seashells too. Do you know why I put oyster shells in your dry food?”

“No. Why?”

“It’s so you’ll have enough calcium when you make your eggs. The same thing that’s on the outside of the eggs you lay is in the oyster shells and in the chalk.”


“Yes. Your little body is amazing, isn’t it?”

“The chalk is white, and the oyster shell is white. But my eggs are brown. Why is that?”

“Well they are only brown on the outside. Underneath the brown, they are white.”

“So how does that brown get there on the outside?”

I looked around the garage and found an old can of spray paint. When I shook it up, the little ball inside rattled. Emily was fascinated with this.

“Is that thing rattling around in there something to eat?”

“No. And it wouldn’t taste very good either if you tried.”

“Does it make that sound because it has an egg inside?”

“Not exactly. It’s a little ball.”

“You aren’t going to shake me up are you?” she asked in a silly kind of way, knowing that would never happen.

I found a scrap of wood. “Let’s go outside. We don’t want to use this inside.”

I sprayed the wood with the paint. “Sort of like this. See.” Where the wood had been a pale sandy color, it was now brown.

She examined it closely and shook her head because the paint fumes smelled strange, even outside.

“I don’t like that. I don’t have one of those cans in me. Do I?”

“No, Sweetie, you don’t. You just have something in you that paints pretty brown pigment on your eggs before you lay them. It just sort of works like the can with the ball inside.”

“Pig mint? Like a plant pigs eat?”

“Emily, you are so much fun. ‘Pig mint’ is two words. ‘Pigment’ is one word. It means tiny little pieces of color.”

“I see. Can I have it? The chalk I mean, not the smelly can of pigment. If you don’t want it?”

“Of course you can. And I will find some paper for you to draw on too.”

She looked far away into the sky and then up into my eyes. “Will you draw with me?”

I could clean the garage another day. I could make phone calls and read books and do plenty of other things another day. But how many days does a person get to draw with a chicken, especially a chicken as special as Emily?

I found some colorful paper stored in a portfolio up in the loft part of the garage. Then Emily and I sat down on the cool concrete of the garage floor, and we drew.

It was great fun watching her draw. She held the chalk in her beak and would make a set of side-to-side marks in one spot with the chalk. Then she would hop up and turn in another direction and make another set of side-to-side marks in a different spot.

I copied the kinds of marks she was making on different parts of the paper. The only difference was I didn’t hop up and turn in another direction the way Emily did. I just turned the paper.

We stopped when we had filled the paper. Chickens are very thorough like that.

We propped our drawing up against the workbench so we could step back and look at it.

“Those white chalk marks on the blue paper sort of look like clouds, don’t they, Emily?”

“They do. They really do!”

She was very pleased with the drawing, and she was more pleased that we had made it together.

“I want to draw Amelia,” she said.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) made me rethink my priorities. Today there is someone who would rather do something with you more than anything else.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!