To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Friday, June 29, 2007

For Drawing Hawks and Eagles

Just a quick note: In a recent post I wrote on a raptor sketching workshop I gave, I mentioned the two booklets I prepared for the course. One was Raptor Anatomy for the Artistic Bird Watcher, the other was Sketching Raptors.

I've now put these together into a short book I have named How to Draw Raptors, a Sketching Workbook, and rather than take the time to describe it, I'll just copy the info from its web page for you here:

How to Draw Raptors...

Written and illustrated for artists of all capabilities, this manual covers the anatomy of raptors from eyes, ears and beak to feet, talons, wings, tails, and feather construction, showing how and why they are unique and the part they play in making raptors the incredibly beautiful and functional predators they are.

Learn sketching techniques and how to get the best results when drawing a moving, living animal; how to indicate feathers with simple strokes; how to use feather markings to indicate the entire feather; the effective use of pencil strokes when shading, and many other details.

Created originally as a workshop manual for birders wanting to sketch live birds at a wildlife rehabilitation center, this 20 page manual is packed with essential information. Its comb binding allows it to lie flat for easy reference and the workbook format allows the user to draw right in the book if desired.

A section on right-brain techniques,with exercises on contour drawing and negative spaces, is included to warm up the intermediate or advanced artist and get the less experienced artist quickly up to speed.

For realistic results, a section on ways to achieve 3-dimensional effects is included. It covers shadows and how they can add shape to a flat drawing, shading with pencil and tortillon or soft stump, erasers and interesting techniques for their effective use.

Templates for drawing raptor heads and raptor talons will give you guidance on how to draw convincing eyes, beaks that would open properly, and translate important information from the shape and size of the skull to a feathered, living bird with fierce, lifelike eyes and glossy beak.

Advanced drawing methods are also addressed, featuring tips and techniques on other subjects as well as birds: hair direction for mammals, symmetry on such things as seashells (this applies to other symmetrical subjects as well, such as bird wings and tails), applying veins to leaves, and shading a furry animal.

If you enjoy drawing animals, birds in general, and raptors in particular, this would be a useful book to own.

The reason I'm putting this on my blog is that I've gotten emails from post readers asking if it's available. It is.

And now I'm back to working on The Green Anole illustration for The Southern Swamp Explorer. The book is supposed to be done by the end of the year and I'm wa-a-a-y behind schedule!

p.s. I'm hoping to get my first newsletter out this coming week. If you'd like to receive it, be sure to sign up for it in the column at right. It will list upcoming workshops and will have a section on sketching tips.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

As I promised, I'll now be working on my Journaling/Sketching Workshop "out loud."

It seemed to me that I should probably take a journaling workshop before I finished preparing to teach one, just to see what other people felt should be included in such a workshop, so I w
as delighted to find an "Outdoor Sketching and Personal Journaling" class being offered through Ashland Parks for June 22.

Gathering up my journal, pen, pencil, kneaded eraser, watercolor pencils & brush and a new sitting pad (one of those seat & back connected with straps, you sit in it and it supports your back), I paid my $45 at the office in Lithia Park (this is a gorgeous, "organic" park designed by John McLaren, who designed Golden Gate Park in SF), then hiked down the trail along the creek to the Madrone Picnic Area.

It was chilly when I got there, but the instructor, Elaine Frenett, was ready to go, with examples of her journals and the supplies she uses to create them displayed on one of the picnic tables. One of her journals, which she had set upright and fanned out so that many pages were visible (possible with a spiral binding), was stunning. (That's a student in the photo.)

Each page was a work of art, with "illuminated" caps, at least one to a page, and brilliant, loose watercolor paintings. The text was also a graphic design element, flowing and meandering across the pages. They were written in an attractive style, somewhere between calligraphy and, well, I can't describe it -- but it really adds to the beauty of the page. She's a real artist! Here's a sample -- click on it for a larger view.

Iwas immediately welcomed and made to feel at home, and the sun started to warm the park as class commenced with Elaine introducing herself and having us do the same. I hesitantly shared the fact that I was putting together a Sketching/Journaling Workshop and wanted to see how someone else presented their material.

Fortunately, she wasn't taken aback by this. After introductions, she passed out her beautifully designed brochures which included a short discussion of why we might want to keep a journal, a list of basic materials useful for journaling, and a checklist of ideas on how we might want to present ourselves in our journals.

I was pleased to see that they closely paralleled the list I had made during my long drive to Idaho a couple of weeks ago (998 miles round trip providing 21 hours of contemplation and note-making for my journaling workshop). Exhausting but productive (more on this later).

Next came a brief introduction of drawing techniques. Students in this particular class, which is held
every second Friday through the summer, already had some experience drawing, so Elaine kept this brief.

Then we voted to continue by watching Elaine demonstrate how she creates a journal page, so we gathered around as she roughed in a scene containing a rough stone bench, the creek, and the cool green foliage and trees in the background.

After awhile, still watching, I got out my journal and made a sketch of Elaine sketching, and colored it with my watercolor pencils. Her style is very free and loose, while mine is fairly tight (although when I use
the watercolor pencils I tend to loosen up considerably). While we sketched, she continued to point out techniques she was using and tell us how and why she did it that way.

The class lasted from 9-1, so, shortly before one o'clock, Elaine critiqued our efforts helpfully but gently, and we exchanged emails and said goodbye, leaving with a better grasp of this particular style of journal sketching. That was a very enjoyable class and I am delighted to have made the acquaintance of such an excellent new colleague.

I would highly recommend Elaine's class to anyone who journals -- it would really open up lots of possibilities (if you enroll, tell Elaine I sent you -- she'd probably like to know if blog exposure like this helps bring in new students!).

BTW, I asked Elaine for a scan of the finished drawing, and when she sends it I'll stick in here. Be sure to come back and see how it looked!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Wildflower Sketching on Table Rock

This mini-workshop was an experiment, sponsored by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and The Nature Conservancy, to see if it would turn out to be popular and well-attended. They'd never sponsored a sketching workshop before on Upper Table Rock. As it turned out, it was popular enough to fill up (12 attendees) but the day turned out to be off-and-on springtime-sprinkley, and not a perfect day for pulling out a sketchbook and exposing it to stray raindrops -- so only seven people turned up for the hike. Alas, the only sunshine we saw that day was the lovely yellow sunflower called Oregon Sunshine.

Table Rock is a local landmark, a mesa composed of volcanic materials rising 800' above the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. It can be seen for miles, and supports a great array of spring wildflowers, a Federally listed fairy shrimp which lives in the vernal pools on its flat top, and gives a spectacular view of the valley all around.

To make sure I could guide it properly, the week before it was scheduled I tagged along with an entomology hike (led by Pete Schroeder from Southern Oregon University, and coincidentally a former scientific illustration student of mine) along the route we'd take. I selected good wildflower patches and places to settle down in to sketch, and learned a lot about insects and Upper Table Rock's natural history along the way.

Then on May 27, under ominous gray clouds, my little group bravely started up the trail at 10am. Right away I realized that within the short space of a week the flower show was completely different. Showy purple camas blooms from the week before had nearly disappeared, but Henderson's stars were now blooming. Big yellow mule's ears were almost finished, but lavender brodiaea had taken their place. I realized it would be pretty much "potluck." My plans were relatively useless with the changed flowers and rain threatening.

But we started out in good humor, stopping to admire and identify interesting wildflowers along the way -- lovely pink and white morning glories, indian paintbrush......

About a quarter mile up the trail we stopped at a meadow dotted with purple, white and pink flowers and got out sketchpads, drawing lovely purple lupines, blue dicks (common brodiaea- pronounced bro-DEE-uh) and other small flowers, some of which we couldn't identify.

One artist working on a lupine drawing had just started to apply watercolors when it started to sprinkle. Sketchbooks turned damp and splotched. Darn! We regretfully packed up our art supplies and started up the hill again, stopping to admire and identify flowers as we went -- there wasn't much alternative, if we couldn't get out the sketchbooks at least we could admire the flowers and look them up in the flower book, Wildflowers of Southern Oregon by John Kemper, which I had brought along.

Some of us had brought cameras as well sketchbooks, which I had suggested in the hike write-up. It's wise to take a snapshot of a sketch subject in case you want to add details or color later on. So we stopped for photos fairly often, and I was able to pass along interesting natural history tidbits about the things we saw, but my knowledge is eclectic and spotty. The fascinating Barestem Lomatium has a swollen node at the top of the stem -- we wondered why....

We found false camas, Zigadenus venenosus, growing in the "real" camas patches. Native Americans had to watch out for this plant when digging for camas bulbs to eat, because the Zigadenus bulb looks very similar to edible camas bulbs but is extremely toxic.

Alas, it was very difficult to sit and sketch in the changeable weather, and the watercolor artist decided to call it a day and hiked back down the hill. Two energetic members preferred to hike quickly to the top to wait for us there. The rest of us hiked at medium speed to the top where we had lunch while gazing out over the valley (I can't believe I didn't take a picture of the panorama!).

The top of Table Rock was a gorgeous pastel scene. Where the vernal pools had dried up there were rings of pink, white and blue flowers. Most of the blooms on top were what some people call "belly flowers," best seen while lying on one's stomach peering at their tiny forms, and very difficult to draw. [by the way, fellow artists, remember that white papery flower we saw on the hike - the one we tried repeatedly to look up? I finally found it: it's called Blow Wives, Achyrachaena mollis, and is in the sunflower family.]

We turned around after eating our bag lunches and made it down to our parked cars by about 3pm, after admiring false solomon's seal, discovering a shy naked broomrape, and taking more photos and giving sketching advice on the way.

I always pass around evaluation sheets at the end of a workshop, and got some useful feedback from my remaining participants on this only-semi-successful sketching trip.

I asked for feedback, on a scale of 1 to ten, and here are the averages:
  • How would you rate the education or recreational value of this outing? 9.5
  • How would you rate the overall effectiveness of the group leader? 9.75
  • Did you feel the time allowed and the locale of the hike were suited to the activity? 9
  • Would you be likely to participate in this activity again or recommend it to a friend? 9.75
  • What did you enjoy most about this outing?
    • "hearing tips on sketching flowers, etc."
    • "Ms. Brady makes everyone feel welcome, despite their level of ability."
    • "Irene is an incredible instructor [I'm blushing here] -- I enjoyed all aspects -- looking at and identifying wildflowers, sketching, thinking, a great combo!"
    • "Learning about nature on the trail -- flowers, insects, interspecies relationships. Enjoying the beauty"
  • Can you suggest improvements or make recommendations for future outings?
    • "No, it was totally enjoyable"
    • "No -- well, rename the workshop to attract more people" [we discussed calling it a nature hike with optional sketching and photography]
    • All parts were great!
    • Perhaps focusing on 2 or 3 different locations for the sketching portion [instead of hiking all the way to the top].
So anyway, that was the workshop/hike. Nature Conservancy sent me a thank you note and wanted to know how it went and to send them any thoughts or comments about it. I think I'll just give them a link to this blog -- that oughta do it [Hi, Lyndia from Nature Conservancy, let me know if you need to know more].

I spent last week on the road, driving my car a total of 22 hours to and from my nephew's wedding in Idaho. In my next blog I'll report on the sketchbook/journal workshop I'm putting together. I had LOTS of time to think it out, and had a chance to discuss details of it with my brother, who is very wise. I accept wise anywhere I can get it ;^}

Here's a grab-bag of other entries...

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