Sketchbook Thursday: on drawing dead things

After a few weeks’ hiatus, we are back at the sketchbook. It gives me such pleasure to do a bit of drawing every day, Gentle Reader, and I love to share my drawings with you, too. If drawing is something you like to do, I hope these posts have encouraged you to pull out your pencil and sketchbook and do a little sketching each day, too.

Today, we’re going to talk about sketching dead things. I first started collecting dead things to sketch after I read the book Dutch Treat by Rien Poortvliet. This is an amazing book, and an excellent example of how to use a sketchbook as a journal. The author wrote and illustrated many other books, including the famous Gnomes series. My own copy of Dutch Treat is well worn, as all my kiddos have pored over it. It’s irresistible: once you open it and start reading, you can’t put it down!

The author sketches and paints memories and daily occurrences, his dogs and family and friends, telling little stories throughout. He also records drawings and paintings of lots of dead things.

This excellent book appears to be out of print, but there are still plenty of used copies available on

The author wrote and illustrated scads of other books, including the famous Gnomes series.

You may recognize this book!

I’d really like to own this one below, if anybody wants to buy me a present: 😉

such beautiful drawings! Just click right here . . . . . it would make a dandy present . . .

Just picking up Dutch Treat again today has convinced me that I need to read it again. The author tells a hilarious story of how he obtained a good half of a lion, which had been dead for a week, from a well-meaning friend who knew how he liked to sketch dead things.

Get the book just so you can read this story!

Get the book just so you can read this story!

Okay, I need to go sit down and read now.

I feel a "reading day" coming up.

I feel a “reading day” coming up.

Oh, I just realized the error of my ways. Here I am, posting photos of Rien Poortvliet’s inspiring work, before I even touch on mine. Dumb, Amy. Very dumb.

Oh well. I’ll share a few of my dead things drawings anyway, but first I’ll answer the question that has got to be fomenting in some your heads: why draw dead things?

I have never heard from other artists about the why, but I know mine: Dead things don’t move.

Live squirrels scamper away. Live mice burrow and run. Live birds fly to the tops of trees, and so on. Dead things lie on your drawing desk, where you place them, carefully, on a paper towel so as not to get something invisible and crawly and possibly nasty on your furniture.

They lie there, that is, until the resident kitty discovers them, snatches them into her mouth, and hides behind the furniture and quietly and with much satisfaction, dissembles them into tiny, furry, smelly bits.

But that wouldn’t happen, would it?


Losing a new chick is always sad; but provides a good excuse to draw the dear little thing.

Losing a new chick is always sad; but provides a good excuse to draw the dear little thing.

If you never take the time to study dead things, you’d never realize how many types of mice there are. I’ve drawn probably a dozen different types of mice since we moved to the country. This field mouse was quite definitely the prettiest one I’d ever seen, with a snowy-white belly which even extended underneath the tail! It was a gorgeous chestnut color, too.


Check out that elegant tail! Astounding, and it just shows the care of our Creator to create such a pretty thing.

Drawing dead things is an excellent, sneaky way to get in some extra nature study. For example, when we found a dead shrew outside, little Mack and I right away went to the computer to identify it, and we learned some fascinating facts about shrews. (We got in a bit of Latin study, too). This is pure fun for Mack, and I don’t sully this fun exercise by calling it “school.” 😉

No shrews in New Zealand or Australia, though!

No shrews in New Zealand or Australia, though!

We never did get around to identifying this insect I found flying around my studio. Gosh.



It still gives me shivers.

Gentle Reader. I hope you get in a bit of drawing time today, even if it’s only 10 minutes on a paper napkin. Indulge. Enjoy. Draw!



11 thoughts on “Sketchbook Thursday: on drawing dead things

  1. Trish

    You are a very gifted artist! I like the way you made notations on your drawings. I would stop and look and read if I saw them in a gallery.

  2. Terry

    I have one nature book done that way by a woman, I cannot recall her name. books look wonderful. Yours are very special as you have donen them yourself and can be passed down to family later. They will treasure them I’m sure. You do a great job of your sketches too

  3. Doree Weller

    I’m trying to do more drawing in my journal. Sketching is not really my thing though, so I do a lot of purposeful doodling. Even drawing shapes and shading them in gives me a lot of enjoyment. I can only imagine how much more wonderful it would be to create drawings that look like actual things!

  4. Minette

    Amy, I love this post and the idea of drawing dead things. We have a cat who often brings gifts. She is adept at catching hummingbirds, which is very sad yet offers the opportunity to study these gorgeous beautiful up close and personal. We also often find all kinds of interested dead sea creatures at the beach… I take pictures but hadn’t thought of sketching them. Thanks for this awesome inspiration today.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Dear Minette, it’s another way of studying God’s marvelous creations, and so sad about the hummingbirds, but what an opportunity! (Send me one??)

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