Toucan Do It Put Your Back Into It.


It’s true though. I was once very daunted and intimidated by a toucan until I faced it head on… with some oil pastels and paper.

The Toucan, a tropical and fascinating looking bird, became one of my all-time favorite creatures when I was a kid.

I was taking art classes outside of school because it was my most prominent interest at the time and one I had asked for help in honing. With as much confidence as I was able to bring on Day One, I quickly became skeptical when the teacher announced we’d be using oil pastels to draw an animal or creature of our choice.

Until that class, I never felt I could depict anything accurately on paper besides rainbows and flowers. But alas, I flipped through pages of magazines for inspiration- National Geographic maybe? Finally, I ripped out an image of a toucan and thought, here goes nothing.

I had taken plenty of lessons in other outlets before: piano, violin, clarinet… and, I quit most of them within about six months. I couldn’t get excited to practice and therefore, was not learning or improving.

In art class however, I had a sense of determination and focus that I typically didn’t find in myself. I paid attention as the teacher went through the science behind drawing: the perspectives, various ways to measure ratios and proportions, and how in the end, we could break rules and create new ones if we wanted. It’s your art, after all.

To my surprise, heeding her words about drawing had worked. A couple hours into class, I had a very distinguishable looking toucan! What’s more is what I learned about this toucan just from having to observe him in a way I hadn’t before. Measuring ratios revealed to me that the toucan’s beak is about as long as the bird is tall. I had so much pride looking at my little masterpiece that day and grew eager to take on various other forms of wildlife with my newfound skill. I was even more excited when I showed my drawing to my parents, validating my request to take the class.

Nowadays, I find myself strangely obsessed with birds, to the point where I’ll open up my Pinterest to an array of suggested bird pins and then go down rabbit holes of bird videos on Instagram. It’s just dawning on me now that my very first toucan portrait might have played a role in this. But I digress.

Here’s a few fun facts about toucans because, hey, they’re obviously fascinating and really odd:

  • They sometimes fence with their bills and wrestle, which scientists hypothesize is to establish dominance hierarchies.

  • Distant relatives are barbets and woodpeckers.

  • They usually have two to four eggs each year, which both parents care for. (so sweet!)

  • The bill has forward-facing serrations resembling teeth, which has led some to believe that toucans captured fish and were once primarily carnivorous; today it is known that they eat mostly fruit.

  • Toucans range in size from the lettered aracari (4.6 oz and 11.5 inches), to the toco toucan (1.5 lb and 29 inches).