Drawing Connections: I Love Turtles

published6 months ago
6 min read

Drawing Connections

"I Love Turtles"
Vol. 1, No. 4, April 2021

Hi Friend:

I hope you are doing well.

We had snow a couple of days ago. Here I was thinking that spring was here :-)

Things are warming up and the frogs and other animals are all coming out to celebrate this time of year. In this edition, I am going to talk about one of my favourite animals.


Stories Behind the Art

There is no doubt in my mind that I love turtles. Whether it is snapping, painted, loggerhead or blandings, it doesn’t really matter. I just find them fascinating and beautiful. Many turtles can live for a well over a century when not impacted by humans.

The subject of my latest work is a common snapping turtle which can be found throughout most of the US and Canada. They have such character with a definite prehistoric edge.

"Freshwater Queen" - 9" by 12", Graphite, 2021

This turtle is drawn on 9” by 12” smooth Bristol paper using a combination of my trusty Pentel Graphgear 1000 .3 mm with 2B lead. I did try some Staedtler Lumograph pencils on this one as well. I also used graphite powder (from my pencil sharpener) and a small brush to achieve the sun rays. I think they turned out ok but I will take a different approach next time. I added some additional animals to the scene to create interest. I used the tadpoles to add depth with some close and some further away. I also added shadows below them to help accentuate the light and confirm the light direction for the viewer.

This particular turtle was something I discovered by accident.

We were camping a few years ago at Black Donald lake which is just west of Calabogie, Ontario. The lake was formed when a dam was created and the local town was flooded. The land where we camped was provided to the owner’s as compensation for the flooding years ago. Also, it just so happens that I explored the ruins as part of a SCUBA dive I did 25 years ago.

So, my daughter and I are at the end of a dock and I have my trusty GoPro Hero camera on the end of a stick. We were trying to see if they were any interesting fish under the dock. As I was recording with the camera pointed under the dock, I looked up and saw this large black object moving towards us. It didn’t take long for me to realize it was a snapping turtle. I turned the camera around to capture this photogenic visitor. I was concerned about it destroying the camera so I kept a safe distance. The turtle approached and decided we weren’t food or a threat and retreated back into the water.

Here’s a video of the experience.

It was quite large with a carapace (shell) measuring around 18” long which probably puts it around 70 or 80 years old. This means this turtle was around well before the 8,500 acres were flooded in ’60s for the lake. Amazing!

Baby painted turtles in our pond - April 2021

This biggest challenge for snapping turtles is they tend to lay their eggs in gravel which makes roads and highways of interest to them. If I ever see one on a highway I will pull over (if it is safe to do so) and help it along. At minimum, I will ensure vehicles are aware and allow the turtle to cross at it’s own pace. I will also move a turtle but only in the direction it was going. Smaller turtles like painted and blandings turtles can be carried across the road. However, snapping turtles can be more challenging and moving them is can be done but at your own risk.

Snapping turtles have a super long neck and surprise many people when they reach out to bite and with the distance they can cover. To move a snapper, I have used a stick and once it grabs hold, pull it across. The other method is to grab the back of the shell on either side of its tail and pull it backwards. I have not tried the second method as of yet. I do carry a pair of kevlar gloves in my vehicle just for moving turtles. They will not protect against the jaws of a snapping turtle but offer some protection against sharp claws.

So, when you are on the roads, please keep an eye out for the turtles.

Prints of this piece will be coming soon to my shop in a new larger 8” by 10” format.

Inside The Toolbox

One of my most important tools in my drawing kit is a tool that has no lead but I use it to draw all the time. I consider it my secret weapon. This tool does not look like a pencil and typically I keep it in my left hand so it is warm and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Yes, it’s my Blu Tack. Blu Tack is very similar in feel to Silly Putty or Play-Doh and is intended for use in mounting light posters and such to dry surfaces. However, many graphite artists could not live without this material or a kneaded eraser. I know many artists use kneaded erasers which are used for the same purpose but I prefer the feel of Blu Tack. All these “erasers” are used as drawing tool by subtracting graphite from the paper to expose or highlight your art.

Blu Tack to left and pencils to the right. Drawing tools in balance.

Blu Tack is used to lift graphite off the paper without damaging the tooth of the paper. You can simply apply pressure to a drawing with the material and the graphite will stick to the surface and lift off the paper. You can target this process by shaping the Blu Tack. Need to lift off some graphite on an eye to expose a highlight? Roll a corner or the Blu Tack into the shape of an apple stem and simply dab the area. Need to pull off some material on the top of an ear? Create a larger tab and touch or drag across that area. You can also expose hairs by creating the equivalent of a small knife edge to lift off graphite in a line.

Never use an eraser when you can lift off with a Blu Tack or a kneaded eraser.

Blu Tack is available through Amazon and other online retailers.

Recent Drawing Inspiration Episodes

Here are a couple of the most recent “Drawing Inspiration” podcast episodes. The podcast is available wherever you listen to music.

Did you know that you can now ask Amazon Alexa to “Play the Drawing Inspiration podcast”?

50: Combining Digital Visual Journalism and Activism with Cartoonist Liza Donnelly

Liza Donnelly joins me on this episode to talk about her creative journey in becoming a cartoonist for the New Yorker, Medium, Cosmopolitan, and so many other publications. She talks about her mindset, tools and what it takes to become a successful cartoonist by sharing her stories and experiences along the way. Liza’s drive to make people happy which started when she was quite young is still what drives her today. We discuss the role of cartoons in modern society, live draws, thoughtful reactions to news events and her role in promoting women’s rights and freedom of speech.

51: Art Education, Creating Pigments and the Clubhouse App with Sunaina Buckshey

I talk about UFOs and share some thoughts on my current art pieces. Sunaina Buckshey makes a visit to talk about her creative journey. As a recent graduate of the London School of Arts with an MFA, Sunaina shares her thoughts on art degrees. She then talks about her exploration of pigments and how 28,000-year-old cave paintings have inspired her to create her own paints. We then talk about the new Clubhouse app in how it works as well as the impact on creatives.

Are you enjoying the podcast? If so, you can support it through Patreon. Your financial support goes directly to the costs associated with recording, hosting, and running the show. I also have some great benefits through all three tiers. You can also support the show by leaving a review within your podcast player as well as sharing the podcast with others.


What I'm Watching

I am going mix it up this week and including two movies. The first is Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. The story of Beth Harmon who is an orphaned chess prodigy facing challenges through life while trying to get to the top of the chess world. Anya Taylor-Joy does a wonderful job as Beth as she appears in most every scene carrying this series to a very satisfying ending.

The second movie is a must for any creative and that is Kiki’s Delivery Service on Netflix. It’s initial release in Japan was 1989 and then in US/Canada in 1998. I had first seen this movie years ago and wanted to watch it again. It’s an beautiful coming of age movie about a young witch. The movie is produced and directed by Hayao Miyakazi and animated by Studio Ghibli. The animation is so feast for the eyes. This movie is a great watch for the whole family.

The Bookshelf

If you are at all interested in drawing with ink then you must read the book “Rendering in Pen and Ink” by Arthur L. Guptill. This could be considered the master reference for ink work. Originally published in the ‘70s, It covers materials, techniques, and process with examples from many artists. It is not a book to be read at a sitting but rather a companion for your journey into improving your ink work.

Online shop and current discount code

Visit the my shop at shop.mikehendley.com and
use the code ILOVETURTLES for a 15% discount on any order.

Discount code valid until May 31, 2021

Stay safe, take care and keep drawing.


Vol. 1, No. 4, April 2021

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