The 12 Days of… Zooly?

There is something to be said for the old-fashioned observance of the 12 Days of Christmas, or Twelvetide. It has a fascinating history, which I won’t go into here, because you can look it up yourself and go on your own internet rabbit-hole adventure — but in practical modern terms, it makes a lot of sense. The run-up to the season is often frantic and exhausting, whether it’s a normal year or 2020 (though for us this year, staying cozy and quiet at home was a blessing and maybe a template for future years).

So when Solstice comes, with its psychological feeling of relief from the dark days, followed by all the mixed feelings of Christmas Day itself, it seems like the world has gone over some kind of steep hill, paused, and now we’re coasting onwards. It’s a gift of time to catch our breath, physically and mentally, and to reflect on what’s next. New Year’s falls in the middle of Twelvetide, with just enough time to recover a bit from Christmas, and then a few more days to recover from that (and learn to write a new year on transactions); it’s perfect timing to get us going back to our lives with a forward-looking attitude.

What on earth does all this mental meandering have to do with art? Well, I am admin of a Facebook group called the Zooly Weekly Art Challenge, an offshoot of the Zooly Art Challenge, a daily challenge held during the month of July for artists who love to draw/paint/sculpt animals. Usually we take the end of the year off, and a few days into January, but this year many people have more time on their hands, so we decided to do a 12 Days of Zooly challenge, starting on Christmas. I drew up a list, using the famous song as a template, and substituted animals for the ones that had people in them (and found in my research that historical versions often had more animals than we have in the common current version!).

We are now a few days into it, so I thought I’d post my first four animals — I’m working in my sketchbook, trying to finish it up for this year so I can start a new one for 2021, and the paper is not the best for working with wet media, but for some reason I decided I had to do watercolour for this project. Oh well, it’s been a wonky year all around!

A partridge, but no pear tree because partridges are actually ground-dwelling birds! Wikipedia says: “Since partridges are unlikely to be seen in pear-trees it has been suggested that the text “a pear tree” is a corruption of the French “une perdrix”.” — Which translates as “partridge”! A bit redundant, but they had to make it scan somehow.
This one actually took me 3 days to finish because I really bit off more than I could chew. I found this gorgeous image of a perched bird on the internet (I haven’t been able to identify the original photographer) and was entranced by the way the wings form a heart shape. But there were sure a lot of feathers… I threw in a sweetheart in the background to make it two, and give another view.
I decided that I really needed to back off on the detail (these birds had even more feathers) and whipped off these Favorolles hens in much better time! Apparently, “cotcotcodet” is what “cluck” translates to in French.
Well, looks like I need some practice drawing Collie puppies. And dogs in general. They were so pretty, I don’t feel like I did them justice, and will come back to them at some point. I changed the traditional “collie” or “colly” birds in the song to balance out the preponderance of birds in the song. Fun fact: The word “colly” means black, as in coal, so the birds in the song were blackbirds. People forgot the term, and changed it to “calling birds” — which still fits, as blackbirds are renowned for their songs, as well as some species being mimics.

I’ll post the rest on (or shortly thereafter) the 12th day — in the meantime, I want to get busy on the year’s roundup of art. Seems like I’ve done a lot of it this year!

2 responses to “The 12 Days of… Zooly?

  1. Pingback: The Rest of the 12 Days | Karen Gillmore Art·

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