Kira Od
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Got pets? These commissioned portraits in graphite were drawn on Strathmore Bristol board. The Cattle Dog's owner called me, crying, to say: "It's amazing: you captured his entire personality and you never even met him!" (If you saw the photo I worked from, you'd cry and be amazed, too.) Please contact me if you'd like me to draw your pet's portrait or someone else's as a gift. Cats, birds, reptiles, and fish are welcome, and clear photos are always appreciated.

Jason and Bella




"What goes in the sketchbook stays in the sketchbook."

--Kira Od

When I go somewhere interesting, I bring along my sketchbook and my handy-dandy PILOT BP-S FINE ballpoint pen. This alarms people.

"If you draw in pen, what happens if you make a mistake?!" they ask.

Who cares? Life's short and ballpoint pens are fantastic! Do you think Michelangelo would have bothered with a leaky ink bottle if he could've slipped a ballpoint pen in his pocket?

I love making drawings in ballpoint pen. Never big; always beautiful.

Truffle the Poodle "TRUFFLE THE POODLE"
Ballpoint Pen, 2008

9.5" x 7"
(24 cm x 18 cm)

I made this drawing from a photo I took when the dog was looking out the window. He is very soft, and much of the detail in his fur is missing in this image. Blame JPEG compression algorithms; not me.

Edwin at 35,000 Feet "EDWIN AT 35,000 FEET"
Ballpoint Pen, 2008

7" x 9.5"
(18 cm x 24 cm)

I may have started this drawing as early as 2001, from a photo I took of Edwin. I brought it on a plane trip to pass the time, and before I knew it I was in New York! I found it fascinating to make a drawing without touching the ground, and decided I would only work on it when I was 35,000 feet up in the air. It took a LOT of plane rides to complete. Stewards and stewardesses tempted me relentlessly with little bags of peanuts; but no matter how hard they tried, I wouldn't give up Edwin's phone number.

San Francisco Zoo Sketches "SAN FRANCISCO ZOO SKETCHES"
Ballpoint Pen, 2005

7" x 9.5"
(18 cm x 24 cm)

As you may have guessed, I like to observe animals. This day at the zoo, one of the Capybaras was calmly sunning herself by the water, practically posing for me. (Thanks, hon'!) For an 80 pound swimming guinea pig, she sure looked regal.

Getting a fish eye view of a Caiman was also a treat, principally because I am not a fish.

Couldn't resist drawing the lions.

San Diego Zoo Sketches "SAN DIEGO ZOO SKETCHES"
Ballpoint Pen, 2005

7" x 9.5"
(18 cm x 24 cm)

Ahhh...the San Diego Zoo. Not the worst place to get stuck in captivity.

A sketchbook isn't always a place to get things perfect. Sometimes the act of drawing comes first and aesthetic results come second. Such is the case with this page. I was enchanted with my Tapir, happily scribbling away, when I realized my subject was longer of body than my pad was wide. Oh well, it's still a beautiful animal, give or take a half-dozen vertebrae. Who's counting, anyway?

When I draw animals from life I only have a few minutes to capture them because they rarely hold still longer than that. If I manage to record enough information, I can later work on the sketches for hours, polishing them into really lovely mementos of my visit.

Check out that 5-legged Javan Rhinoceros, upper left. When his keeper showed up, for some reason he got all excited. I don't want to know why.

Great White Shark at the Monterey Bay Aquarium "GREAT WHITE SHARK AT THE MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM"
Ballpoint Pen, 2004

9.5" x 7"
(24 cm x 18 cm)

This drawing is really special. When I was young -- way before Jaws -- I was fascinated by sharks. I read every book in the library on sharks...twice. I watched Jacques Cousteau, enrapt by his poetic descriptions of the undersea world, and by the time I reached high school I knew more marine biology than my science teachers. The only problem was that whenever I got on a boat I became hopelessly seasick. Passionate about science though I was, the nausea was more than I could handle. I decided I'd rather starve than barf. ("Hi, World, need another artist?")

Still, the flame never really went out. In 2004, when the Monterey Bay Aquarium convinced a young Great White Shark to feed in captivity for the first time in history, I rushed down to see her as soon as I could. She was so beautiful to me, you have no idea. I was entranced. But what a challenge she was to draw! She would saunter across the glass for ten seconds, then disappear for ten minutes. Then she'd come by again, but from the opposite direction, or from a different angle, or she'd turn away before I could get a good glimpse. So the sketch -- just the raw sketch -- under this drawing took me 2 hours to do. Time well spent, if you ask me. I noticed more subtleties about Great White structure and movement than I ever imagined.

Eventually this little shark started snacking on her tankmates. ("Stan, weren't there two Soupfin Sharks in here last night?") So they put her back in the deep blue sea where she belonged, and she lived happily ever least I hope she did.

California Academy of Sciences Sketches "CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES SKETCHES"
Ballpoint Pen, 2003

7" x 9.5"
(18 cm x 24 cm)

I love bones. I love anatomy. I love natural structure. When the California Academy of Sciences did an exhibit on skulls, I was like a kid in a candy store. I think I went to see it 5 or 6 times. Honestly, I didn't know where to start. They had Elephants, Whales, Alligators, Cassowaries, Vipers...and an enormous wall of Sea Lion skulls -- hundreds of them! Each one had a face you could pick out of a crowd.

I settled for a Jaguar and a Beaver.

Tim Phoenix at the Faultline Bar "TIM PHOENIX AT THE FAULTLINE BAR"
Ballpoint Pen, 2001

9.5" x 7"
(24 cm x 18 cm)

I am very fortunate. Every now and then a talented model will contact me and ask to pose for me. Usually this involves photography, but Tim wanted to sit for a life drawing. Shawn Farnsworth, owner of the Faultline Bar in LA was kind enough to offer the bar's outdoor patio before opening time, and Tim met me there. He sat for an hour, straight, even though I kept suggesting he take a break. (Life poses are normally held no longer than 15 - 20 minutes at a stretch; beyond that, they cause pain.) Tim never complained, never moved, never changed expression. He was amazing!