Birds wearing different types of shoes may seem like a strange concept. However, during the last 18 months, drawings from local artist Jim Sorensen have gained popularity for their odd and whimsical nature.
In July, Sorenson published a 120-page hardcover book filled with a repertoire of his birds in shoes illustrations as well as informative captions. In the near future, he plans to release two calendars featuring adult and baby birds in shoes.
“[The idea] just popped into my head,” he said. “I like odd things. I've done a lot of what would be called very eccentric sculpting and things like that. I just like things that are a little out of the ordinary. I mean, I think the juxtaposition of a bird wearing shoes is kind of funny.”
Sorensen, who claims to be “pandemic retired,” said he tries to draw for about an hour and a half every day. Prior to COVID-19, he spent 40 years traveling around the world teaching communication skills to mostly corporate audiences.
He said these drawings are “one of the good things that came out of the pandemic.” In fact, the comment he receives most from supporters is how the artwork helped get them through the pandemic.
From a young age, Sorensen moved around a lot and was quite introverted. The longest he ever stayed in the same school was a little over one year, he said. According to him, drawing became an outlet.
“Actually, a similar thing happened during this pandemic with all the adversarial divisiveness politically,” he said. “When I draw, everything goes away and it’s just me and that drawing. And so, when I'm feeling stressed or depressed about the world, it all kind of goes away when I draw.”
After joining the service and moving around some more, he eventually settled down in unincorporated Snohomish County, where he’s lived for the last two decades. His home is located in the woods near Lost Lake, which was originally called Devil’s Lake.
Every year, Sorensen and his wife meet with friends for a five-day art retreat. He said the idea popped into his head to draw a kiwi bird wearing sandal shoes. Next, he drew a raven in high tops and a stork in wingtips. At the encouragement of his wife, he started posting the drawings on social media and quickly gained a following of more than 10,000 people.
Through the Facebook group, he met a fan and graphic designer named Amy Hill from Charlottesville, Va. She helped to compile and design the coffee table book as well as two calendars, which will come out next month.
Sorensen said he receives tons of suggestions for different birds in various styles of shoes. He just finished a drawing for a woman who owns a coffee shop in Ballard to remember one of her beloved customers that passed away.
“People love getting involved,” Sorensen said. “Right now, I have about 142 suggestions on my to-do list. That’s a couple of years’ worth of ideas.”
Next, he said, someone wants him to draw a peacock wearing traditional vintage Indian shoes. He said people from all over the world have engaged with his artwork online. According to him, the public connects the most with crows and pet birds like parakeets and parrots.
Aside from drawing the birds, Sorensen said, he also enjoys researching them. Occasionally, he will include one odd thing that isn’t true to keep people on their toes.
“I love finding out new things. I'm very curious. Plus, there's a lot of real serious birders on my pages.”
Sorensen’s book was officially available to order online on July 7, which was also his 70th birthday. To purchase the book, visit https://www.jimsorensen.com/bisbook.html.