Monday, 31 January 2011

Fun with Nature Sketching and Origami

By Gloria Seow, Education Group Chairperson

The scenic granite backdrop of Bukit Batok Nature Park formed the perfect outdoor setting for nature art.

The Education Group, together with Cicada Tree Eco Place, orchestrated a joint nature sketching cum origami workshop for kids and their caregivers. This took place at the Bukit Batok Nature Park on 3 October 2010. Nature artist and birding maestro Uncle Ding Li not only conducted the drawing session, but also complemented it with a fascinating commentary on Singapore’s ecology.

We started off with a stroll along a leafy path where we had delightful encounters with a small flock of White-crested Laughing Thrushes. These charismatic introduced birds were foraging at eye level, occasionally hopping along the forest floor or landing in low bushes. Everyone enjoyed good views even without binoculars. We also saw a lone Laced Woodpecker high up in the trees and heard the sparkling song of the globally-threatened Straw-headed Bulbul.

Kids working hard on their woodpecker masterpieces.

Auntie Vilma laid out a huge groundsheet facing the jagged granite outcrop of the pond area. This pretty setting suited the creation of dainty art pieces. Auntie Yue Yun, Auntie Lena and Uncle Timothy handed out recycled paper and sharpened pencils as drawing material. The kids were asked to recall the appearance of the White-crested Laughing Thrush. Uncle Ding then broke down the bird’s body structure into basic geometrical forms such as ovals (body), circles (head), triangles (beak) and rectangles (tail). Using these basic shapes, the children also drew their own birdies. Uncle Ding went on to erase off unnecessary lines to obtain a simple drawing of a perched bird. Just to prove that nature sketching could be done in a jiffy so as to capture the fresh memory of a recently-encountered bird, Uncle Ding went on draw a life-like laughing thrush in under three minutes!

Uncle Ding Li used basic shapes like ovals, circles, triangles and rectangles to sketch a bird, with the kids eagerly following suit.

Following this, Auntie Gloria handed out several articles related to nature sketching published in ‘Suara Enggang’, the birding bulletin of the Malaysian Nature Society. These articles explained the usefulness of nature sketching as a tool for observers to quickly note the key features of newly-encountered wildlife. Arrows with description can be added, denoting diagnostic features such as colour and even behaviour. These observations can be penned in a notebook carried along during field trips. Even those with long lenses could do with a pocketbook to record sightings and sketch those creatures that had evaded camera capture. Such field sketches, along with additional information such as date, time, place and weather condition, are frequently used as evidence to support rare sightings, thereby growing the body of scientific knowledge.

Uncle Ding Li drew this woodpecker in record time.

Uncle Ding led the kids further in a step-by-step sketch of the White-bellied Woodpecker and a butterfly. He explained that the White-bellied Woodpecker is feared to be extinct in Singapore with the last sighting occurring many moons ago. The children finished off their masterpieces by colouring them with magic pen. To round up the session, Auntie Yue Yun taught us how to fold a bird with movable body parts starting from a square piece of recycled magazine. Uncle Tim even ‘magnified’ the origami steps by demonstrating on a bigger sheet of paper. Soon enough, our paper birds were flapping merrily, much to the delight of the young ones.

Playing with an origami bird made of recycled magazine.