Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sketching at the Royal Winter Fair

On November 12th, 2015 I sketched at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (RAWF) in Toronto. It was a blissful day!
My Sketch of the Royal Champion Pig
(Art journal: watercolour and ink)
"Ninety-five years ago, a cattle farmer from Brooklin, Ont., had an idea to establish the first national agricultural exhibition, showcasing the best in Canadian farming and livestock". (Source: CBC It's More Than Just Animals)
On Nov. 22, 1922, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair opened for the first time and remains the premier agricultural fair in Canada.  
"Back in 1922 when the Royal started, rail cars came from both sides of Canada into this very place to show cattle against one another. It was a unifying factor back in the 1920s," said Peter Hohenadel, the fair's director of agriculture and food.  (Source: CBC It's More Than Just Animals)

The last time I attended the Royal Winter Fair was over twenty years ago when my children were toddlers and we had a chance to say goodbye to Ian Millar's Big Ben on his 1994 Retirement tour.

The last time I attended the Royal Winter Fair was 1994
Big Ben's Retirement Tour: A picture of me holding my daughter Meagan with Big Ben

(Note on full circle moment of sorts: I was able to see Ian Millar again on this visit. I witnessed his horse having a bad refusal in the show jumping ring and then I watched Ian working things out in the practice ring later)

I grew up attending the Royal Winter Fair. As a student in the GTA/Mississauga areas, we attended the RAWF every year with our schools to learn about agriculture; as an art student, we went to spend the day sketching.

The Royal Winter Fair still forms part of the official curriculum for a number of high schools and art schools in Ontario.

Toronto District School Board - Rosedale Heights School of the Arts

It's no surprise that sketching at the RAWF is part of Sheridan's animation course curriculum (Source: Sheridan course outlines). A lot of the links at the bottom of this page take you to blogs and tumblrs of animation student's sketches at the RAWF.

Following my school years, I continued to attend the RAWF because of my life-long passion for horses (and all things equestrian) and my love of sketching.

The RAWF is the largest agricultural fair in the world and it takes place in the heart of a major metropolis!! Such a wonderful place for artists!

On the day that I was there, there were folks sketching everywhere!  It was wonderful!

A Great Place for Artists

Some results from googling "sketching at the Royal Winter Fair"
This year, over five thousand animals were housed over ten days in the Coliseum buildings of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Ontario.

I spent seven hours at the RAWF sketching and I barely covered it all. Due to my last minute scheduling of this quick trip, I missed the chickens and geese, the beef cows, the goats and the rabbits (see below)........I could have easily gone for another day and I will plan better for next year!

What I saw:

What I missed seeing:

No Poultry, Waterfowl and Pigeon For Me

Source: Globe and Mail 2012
Jungho Chan,a first-year animation student Sheridan College does some sketching in the poultry, waterfowl and pigeon display at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto on Nov 7, 2012. The fair celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2012

I was quite sad to have missed the poultry, waterfowl and pigeon. It was one of the areas that I was most excited to sketch this year. The Royal welcomed over 800 chickens, geese, turkeys, pigeons and many more, but they had been restricted to two days only (Nov 10 & 11) at the Royal Winter Fair and I had missed them by one day. I wondered  whether the Royal Winter Fair and other large shows are cutting poultry exhibitions from their roster for the year due to concerns over avian influenza contamination?

Some of My Sketches

Here are a few of my sketches that I did on site at the Royal Winter Fair on November 12, 2015. 

I took lots of photos as well and plan to use them as references for future sketches that I will blog about in a separate post.

My first cow sketch of the day
I could have spent the entire day sketching cows. I love them so much!
These two watched me the entire time that I was sketching.
It was awesome.
Tequila and Cheerio - these two beautiful Holsteins stared at each other the whole time that I sketched them
I didn't know it at the time - but these two are prize-winning Holsteins!
"Bud" the Belgian - one of the first horses that I sketched
Bud preferred to eat his hay rather than pose for me despite my many attention-seeking noises
I watched the Junior Jumper #113 on November 12
I sketched the Ricoh Coliseum while I watched

Couldn't resist sketching the sweet sheep with hoods on!
(The hoods are put on to keep them clean in between showings.)


If you have never been to the RAWF, here are some videos to give you a visual "taste" of all there is to see.

I'll definitely be going again in 2016 and next time, I will make sure that I am there when the chickens, geese, turkeys, pigeons are!!!

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair: 2011 Preview

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair: 2014 Preview

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair: 2015 Preview


  1. Gorgeous sketches! Sounds like a fabulous couple of days.

    1. I just loved sketching there and hope to do it gain next year! Thank you for your kind comment fuzz pedal.