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  • Writer's pictureKaren Ruffles

Courting Crows - rooking about.

charcoal pencil drawing of a crow sitting on a branch by Drawing in Dark
Finished rook drawing - credit for reference photo to Davie Bicker

Quite a bit has happened over the last few months, as I've adapted my business to cope with recent goings on and develop some new income streams to hopefully add stability. Part of this process has involved expanding my print line to give me more stock and allow me to start wholesaling again - I've recently been accepted onto two platforms specifically geared towards the indie markets, matching artists like me and boutique shops. Which is all well and good but when working flat out already, it's hard to justify the time to actually produce new work to add to the range. Which is how we ended up here.

Many of you will be familiar with the little crows I've been selling for years and I often get asked for bigger versions, so this was one option I wanted to get going. However, while drawing crows might seem a fairly straightforward thing to do, there has been one big problem - photographing the sods. When I did my last batch, I had two populations of fairly tame birds that were used to being fed by neighbours. It still took me a straight week and a small fortune in fat balls etc to get enough images to work from - of whole crows anyway, plenty of tails and pictures that would have been amazing if only I'd been a fraction of a second quicker/six inches to the left.

partially completes crow drawing with black glasses and a charcoal pencil
Rook in progress

To get the nice clear close up shots that I'll need to do larger, more detailed drawings like the rook here, is going to take some serious stalking, possible bribery and a lot of waiting. The only way to make that feasible was to raise some funds first - so I decided launching Courting Crows on Kickstarter was the best option. By effectively pre selling drawings, I get the money when I need it so I can get out there (and oh gods won't that be nice after all this time indoors) and because I'm selling a series direct in one go, I'm able to offer an excellent package that includes some choice tidbits.

For starters, all of the crow drawings are one offs. With smaller pieces especially, I often reuse images and repeat drawings so I get the maximum out of the initial time spent, including doing things like product shots and setting up listings. It also gives me a base range I can quickly restock and items that resell tend to pop up higher on marketplaces. One off drawings are generally custom pieces or big, expensive things - either way, all those extra hours are reflected in the cost. For the next 3 weeks, people can buy unique originals at a good price and I've even thrown in shipping and some extras like video of the work being produced.

There's more to come too - I set the original target at £500 which was enough to cover one session with my camera and a run of prints. Each time I get enough pledges, I can do another session and thanks to the time/money saving wonder of doing things in batches, I can start adding extra mini prints to everyones orders for free, by way of a thank you. Not often you get that sort of thing from a Yorkshire lass like myself.

I'm also hoping that this whole project will result in more than a pile of pretty pictures, as lovely a thing as that is. I've spoken to a local bookshop who have agreed to host a pop up exhibition of all of the crows when the work is completed, which will be my first public show in two years. I'm really looking forward to being able to properly study the local wild crows too - I'm in my seventh summer here now and am familiar with the local rookery, the crows that like to do a spot of beachcombing and the wonderfully chatty jackdaws in the woods. But I'd like to really spend some serious time observing and learning about these amazingly intelligent, charismatic birds. Then cursing them as they pose so perfectly right up until the point I raise my camera and press...that...button...


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