A Bit Different When Art Meets Chickens

Jim Sorensen: Birds In Shoes

This is the ninth installment in the series “When Art Meets Chickens”. When I did the first post – a compilation of work by three different artists – I wasn’t thinking this would become a regular feature. Clearly I’m enjoying exploring and showcasing the work of folks inspired to depict chickens and I hope you are too.

I came across one of Jim’s pictures in an online chicken group. I have to say I love his work, a unique combination of realistic illustrations with a twist. That his subject matter is birds is icing on the cake.

We’re pretty close – 282 kms/175 miles as the crow flies – but we live in different countries. I’m in Canada while Jim is just south of the border in the USA. Within 24 hours of having reached out to him, he’d agreed to participate in the series and had returned the questions I’d emailed him. Never has a collaboration been so easy.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’ve always enjoyed drawing, mostly birds and animals. I was a corporate trainer for 40 years teaching communication skills which involved way too much travel and left little time for art except for a yearly art retreat that my wife and I do with a group of friends. During one of those retreats it popped into my head to draw a kiwi wearing saddle shoes. I love the idea of the combination of realism and something unusual. I followed by drawing a raven in high tops and a stork in wingtips. My wife suggested I post them on Facebook and that’s when Birds in Shoes was born.

The pandemic forced me into retirement, which left me asking myself why I didn’t do art sooner. Now I have lots of time to enjoy drawing and hanging out with my wife.  

What’s your history with creating art?  

As a young introvert who was often the new kid at school drawing became a way to relax in an activity that I could do by myself. During my career it was a great way to unwind after being in front of audiences during my years as a public speaker. 

I attended the Colorado Institute of Art for awhile after I returned from Vietnam in 1973, but am mostly self taught through experimentation. For several years I toured around the country demonstrating and selling scrimshaw (carving done on bone or ivory).

I work in a variety of different mediums. I started by doing lots of pencil and pen and ink which led me to doing scrimshaw; some found art sculpture, mostly unusual stuff. I think I’ve tried every medium at one time or another. Now it’s mostly colored pencil.  

How did birds and shoes come together in your art?  

It now seems like a wonderful accident. It just popped into my head and continues to live there. 

What work is most fulfilling?  

The wonderful responses from bird lovers around the world. Plus when I draw all of the problems in the world (pandemic, adversarial divisiveness politics, etc) go away. 

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

You’re maybe the coolest person who’s ever lived. I love these birds so much.”

“Birds in shoes wasn’t what I wanted, birds in shoes is what I needed.”

“It’s your talent that draws the attention and interest, in such a wholly wow category, where else does something so bizarre flourish!”

“Fuck Mona Lisa, this is true art.”

“I love how you have so beautifully combined whimsy and detailed accuracy into you pieces.  It’s a delicate line to walk, and you’ve accomplished the feat masterfully.”

What is your dream project?  

I feel like I’m living that dream now after 3 calendars, 2 books and lots of products with my birds on them. Even some onesies with baby birds on them. My drawings are owned by people around the world. In the last week I’ve sent art to Texas, Virginia, the UK, New Zealand and Australia. 

What motivates you to create?  

It’s a way to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I love that I can brighten someone’s day a bit. I just enjoy the creative aspect of drawing. 

First experience with chickens?  

We raised them when I was a kid and my job was to take care of them and gather the eggs. 

How have chickens inspired your drawings? 

Number one is the deep love people have for theirs and all the great stories about them. Also I love all the different breeds, especially the unusual ones. My favorites so far are the Naked Neck, the Dong Tao and the Golden Laced Polish.  

In case you’re wondering, chickens aren’t the only species of birds that Jim draws.

To check out more of Jim’s artwork, calendars and books head to his sites: http://www.jimsorensen.com; Instagram: birdsnshoes; Facebook group – Birds in Shoes

Many thanks to Jim Sorensen for sharing his fabulous feathered friends, used with permission.

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