BLUE HILL –Blue Hill Public Library’s lawn buzzed with benefit sales of baked goods and plants, but through the brick building’s white doors and upstairs, the Howard Room was teeming with eager children waiting to meet and draw live owls.
East Blue Hill art educator and children’s book illustrator Rebekah Raye joined Birdsacre President and owl handler Grayson Richmond to create a learning experience full of creativity on Saturday.
Birdsacre is a tribute to Cordelia J. Stanwood, a self-taught ornithologist and photographer. The 200-acre sanctuary acts as home to wild and rehabilitated birds. The center cares for those that are injured to be released, and becomes a permanent residence for those that cannot return to the wild.
Richmond began the two-hour session featuring Birdsacre residents “The Little Gentleman” and “Achilles.” The first to make his debut was The Little Gentleman, a one-eyed, 8-inch-tall saw-whet owl. Richmond unlatched the door to a small wooden box, reached his hand in, and removed the small animal from inside.
After a wave of “oos” and “ahs” from enamored onlookers, Richmond dove into the behaviors and biology of owls.
Richmond told the children that their parents can help keep wild birds safe by reducing car speed on highways and refraining from throwing food out of car windows. Food on the road attracts mice, which in turn, attract other wildlife. These simple precautions can reduce the likelihood of owls injured by cars, he said.
The Little Gentleman eats mice like spaghetti, slurping in the tail like it was the last noodle, Birdsacre president said.
Owls’ hearing is like having two satellites, the owl handler said. He told the children to mimic an owl’s hearing by cupping their hands and placing them around the back of their ears, facing forward.
Then Rebekah Raye took the reins. Using a large drawing pad at the front of the room, Raye began her workshop.
Raye has taught art for over 35 years, focusing primarily on animals and children. She illustrated six children’s books, including “The Secret Bay” and “Bear-ly There.”
She always enjoys working with Richmond because of the educational component, as well as the appreciation he teaches to children, she said.
Richmond had already introduced Achilles, a great-horned owl, to model for the class. First, children were tasked with drawing an outline of an owl looking only at their model. Children looked down at their creations, some in glee and others in dismay, after they completed the outline without looking at their cardboard drawing pads.
The next step was to draw the owl completely from memory, meaning all eyes must be closed. When it came time to open their eyes, the children were astonished at the results without having looked. The last part of the workshop meant that children got to look at their drawings and apply paint for color.
Raye encouraged the children to use letters O, C, U and V to draw the owls, saying the beak was a diamond shape. However, that was “Rebekah Raye style,” she said.
“Everybody will have their own style,” Raye said. She compared each person’s artistic style to each person’s voice, which is unique to every individual, she said.
After the workshop, almost every child made sure to show Raye his or her drawing. Raye’s face lit up upon seeing each and every one. She is so inspired by what the children create, as they try things that she’d never think of, she said.