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!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

December Workings ~ and other eclectic news

As I had hoped
, I've been successful in working to make my new January classes full of good surprises. I thought I'd just post the workbook covers ~ the first one, "Nature Sketching Details" is the same, but for the last half of the class, "Nature Illustration Techniques" I've got a new workbook and cover, shown at right.

The Nature Sketching Basics class is pretty much tweaked now, and I've added some fun projects, of which drawing cattails is one. I thought you might like to see the covers for those workbooks ~ so here they are.

Preparing the cattails was great fun ~ I was a bit late in realizing I'd better collect them before they explode (that's a naturalist's term for what happens when they go to seed ~ you don't want it to happen unexpectedly in your living room!!!). So I got out my nursery pruners and brought home a dozen-plus from a roadside marsh to prepare for the January Basic drawing class. December is WAY late for collecting cattails, and overnight they started to show signs that they might pop, so I went online to look for preserving directions. After trying out a couple, I wrote out my own recipe. Here's what you do:

How to keep cattails from turning into balls of fluff:
1. Thoroughly mix one part Elmer’s glue to nine parts water in a shallow dish (a poly veggie or meat tray works). Slowly turn each cattail in the mix for 5-10 seconds. If part of it doesn’t moisten, dip a finger in the mix and pat some onto the dry area. Stand the cattails upright where they can’t touch each other until dry (see below). Drying can take up to 10 hours. OR.................

2. If you’re in a big hurry, cheap hairspray will work (the cheapest spray has the most lacquer). To waste little spray and to be as environmentally responsible as possible, stand the cattails up in a bucket of sand to keep them separate and spray all of them at once. They’ll take about an hour to dry.

I've put this recipe in the workbook in case my students want to preseve their own later. I also added to this class a section called "Diagnostics for the artist ~ a checklist," kind of a jumpstart on figuring out how to proceed when you get stuck on a project. I think my students will find this useful in their ongoing development as artists.

I still am working on the "Nature Sketching with Color" workshop, but I quit for awhile before Christmas to do Christmassy things. I expect to get it nicely finished in time for the class in February.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some nice (and interesting to me, at least) things from my life. First of all, the final veggies from my now put-to-bed garden: this little basketful was the tag end of everything, plucked on Thanksgiving Day and eaten with great and proper thanksgiving. Imagine fresh peas from the garden on TG Day! The peas were second generation. I'd missed picking a couple of pods, and when I discovered them in the greenery in August they were hard and dry. So I popped them open, shelled out the peas, and poked them into the soil at the base of the producing peas. Lo! They sprouted and grew, and I got numerous wonderful crispy green salads from them.

This little clump of tomatoes is still ripening in my kitchen. They were from a volunteer Roma tomato plant from last year's garden on the deck. It sprouted midsummer, so I just watered it and let it grow, but it got off to such a late start that by the time of the first frost its clumps of tomatoes were still green. I snipped off this little clump and hung them up with my garlic over the sink, where they have turned from deep green to bright red and look like something out of an Old Master's painting. They're almost ready to eat now, and I'm ready to eat them!

If you've paid attention to the national weather, you'll know that western Oregon is having some wet, cold weather. I've been snowbound for a couple of weeks, although Daniel has come up to visit a couple of times in his 4WD, and taken me out for dinner, Christmas shopping and Christmas Dinner down at his mom's.

So I've been doing house projects. Here's a cheap fix for an area of my house that never got properly finished when I built the house (never move into a house until it is completely built, or it may never get done. I'm not even SAYING how long this little task remained unfinished!). On the left is what it looked like before, with a high-up area needing some wall covering to hide 2x4s. On the right is the "after" photo. The covering is reed matting which is cheap, easy to cut (tin-snips), apply (staples), and not too heavy for this woman to lift and hold while standing near the top of the ladder and fastening it to the 2x4s. I mean, it's bad enough to stand on the next-to-the-top rung vacuuming (that's the vacuum cleaner on the ladder in the photo), but lifting heavy stuff? Uh-uh! I think that looks kind of nice, don't you? It's a bit eclectic, but I like it.

Now this next thing, you might want to skip over if scorpions give you the willies....DEFINITELY don't click to enlarge the photos! the scorpion was in the matting when I unrolled it. Very unexpected. I don't see one of these from one year to the next. It was about 2" long, but it was also chilled and I wasn't even sure it was alive until it lethargically twitched a leg when I slid a leaf edge under it. I photographed it on an oak leaf, then tucked it under debris in a log out in the woods where it might safely winter. These guys are marvelous little creatures, and I'd like to draw this one. I didn't have time to sketch it when I found it. I was intent upon putting up the reed matting and it was almost dark. I may be able to get a good sketch from the photos.

Moving right along, I wanted to share a really pretty picture of homemade Christmas tree ornaments. Wouldn't this make a nice jigsaw puzzle? I made most of these tree ornaments many years ago (collected some, but made most) but since I don't put up a tree anymore I photographed them then packed them up and sent them to my grandniece Amy, who has a little child, Ella, and has always admired and coveted them. She sent me a picture of the ornaments all dancing on a little tree at her house, so I know they are in a good home now.


And now, I have a confession to make. I have been sending out occasional workshop newsletters, but I'm going to stop. I realized that I was procrastinating lavishly at the very thought of writing the newsletter, and if that's the way I'm going to behave, well, I just don't get to send them out anymore. So there.

And boy, what a relief THAT is! So if you were wondering when the heck I was going to send out the next newsletter, now you know. I may send out one really short one to tell people the jig's up. But not receiving my newsletter is no big deal if you bookmark my workshop website and come by now and then to check out the itinerary. I have it up to date as of yesterday, with some workshops planned clear through September, and more to come as the season progresses.

I'm planning to broaden my scope to a larger area, giving workshops out of the Jefferson Nature Center near Medford (OR), in addition to the North Mountain Park Nature Center, in order to tap that larger artist pool. I'm really looking forward to that.

In the meantime, if you have any ideas for workshops you'd like me to give, get in touch and let me know. Even it you just have suggestions for subjects, I'd like to hear about it.

Here's wishing you a Happy New Year for 2009. I hope your 2008 was as fulfilling as mine.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nature Sketching Details Workshop ~ 11-22&23-08

There's never enough time! I've been struggling with this problem with every workshop ~ I have so much I want to teach/share, and so little time to do it in.

During all this last autumn's workshops I tinkered lavishly to find the right balance of time vs. content, guaranteed success vs. challenge, plus adjusting other details ~ all while giving the students results they expected and hoped for. The student evaluations at the end of the classes really helped me figure this out (and the students who won the evaluation raffles appreciated the autographed book prizes ;^)

This fall, I had split the Nature Sketching classes into Beginning (Nature Sketching Basics) and Intermediate (Nature Sketching Details) workshops, which gave the students time to concentrate and complete more projects. Starting in January, I will have further split off the watercolor pencil painting section into its own two-day class, in order to allow the students more time to hone their skills and experiment with the medium.

I will also split the Nature Journaling workshop into two 1-day workshops so that people interested only in nature writing OR in nature journaling could come to whichever class appeals to them. The workshops will be held back-to-back on a weekend, so it's easy enough to take them together, as before.

Obviously, this December I am going to be busy working out more exercises for some of the classes, because when I split them up there was necessarily some repetition of the exercises to bring each class up to speed. The students would prefer a fresh exercise instead of repeating a previous one. In terms of learning, it's probably more useful to repeat an excercise several times, but when you pay for a workshop you expect to get all-new revelations, so I'll work to make sure there are no repeats. I really DO listen to my students!

So that's the update on the behind-the-scenes workshop planning.
Here's what my most recent batch of eager students went through.

This was my intermediate nature drawing workshop, so I was quite pleased to see some returning Basic students appear Saturday morning, along with new students. And I had all ages, from a very mature twelve to somewhere in the late 60s or 70s. Great people.

The format of this class was to spend the first day on pencil rendering, including ways to get the drawing accurate, shading for three-dimensional effect, and learning special techniques for special situations (realistic eyes, hair direction, and rendering symmetry in such things as seashells and leaves, etc.). Here's the class, warming up with the draw-your-hand exercise before launching into the details.

Notice the way the classroom is set up in an L shape ~ I like to coach from in front of the student if possible. This keeps me from jostling the student (and the adjacent student) because I can come in from the top of their drawing instead of beside, although sometimes I need to go around behind to see the subject from the student's perspective.

When I have more students, I add another table to make a U, which still gives me the inner work area. This is especially nice because no one has their back to me, and students can see the demos better.

For this class I now tried out a new project, and the results were thrilling both to the students and to me. Students who had time, took their project home to perfect, but most of these were finished in the class.

Be sure to click on these to look at them close-up, because we did some really tricky stuff with them.

the second day, after admiring and critiquing the mushrooms they'd brought back to class, we concentrated on color, trying pencil, ballpoint, and micron pen drawings combined with various watercolor pencil color wheel combinations to get brown. Then they drew bones and experimented with various ways to use color as shading on the (relatively) white bones.

I encouraged
them to use unconventional colors for effect, since anything white bounces back colors that surround it, and their results were fascinating. Here's a pony tooth rendered in green and blue, and a beaver jawbone rendered in ochre and purple, and they both came out excellent and very natural-looking (as did the bones by other students).

The next project was my standby orchid ~ this is a useful model for teaching brush techniques for edges, because it emphasizes how to get precise clean edges and also how to get soft, blurred edges which blend off to nothing. It always amazes (and pleases) me how every orchid ends up different, even though each student hears and responds to exactly the same instructions.

they had MOSTof the skills they needed to tackle the day's final project, to draw and paint some gourds I'd found in the local farmer's market. There was one remaining technique I showed them about removing color from the pencil tip with the brush to apply to their picture. You can get a nice, intense color this way, and apply it more precisely then you could with the pencil.

I have to say here that my students are really gracious about my taking pictures. I urge them to just keep working as I come by to snap photos (I do turn the flash off for the least intrusion). For the two photos showing how to remove color from the pencil,
though, Randye slowed down a little so I could get the pictures.

One technique we used for these gourds was an under-wash to help blend the color values. Varying shades of yellow seemed best for most of these gourds. You can see the wash at right. The students had a choice of doing the original drawing with pencil or ink. I was pleased when some of them chose ballpoint, because we had tried it out earlier in the day.

While drawing in ink would seem impossible for a beginning or even intermediate student, they discovered (as I had hoped)(and MOST counter-intuitively) that drawing in ink is sometimes easier and more freeing than drawing in pencil. Some students not only drew the original gourd in ink, but then went back after coloring it and put in details with a pen, with excellent results ~ particularly for a first-time effort. Here are their gourd paintings. Be sure to click on them to see them close up.

As I was saying in the beginning of this post, there never seems to be enough time to finish. These gourds, first time watercolor pencil renderings for (I think) all of these students, were completed (or not completed!) in about an hour and a half. Amazing, huh? While the students learned an immense amount, I think with less pressure and more time they would have been able to produce even more satisfying paintings, as well as learning a few more subtleties. I think the two-day watercolor pencil workshops from January onward will be a very pleasing improvement over this one-day experience with color.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nature Sketching Basics Workshop ~ 11-8&9-08

I love teaching beginners. There are two kinds: Those who want to draw but are scared to death that someone else will see they can't draw already. They're halfway expecting to fail miserably ~ but they're determined to get out there and try anyway. Then there are those who want to draw even though they suspect it might not be possible ~ but are gung-ho eager to test the waters and don't care what others may say.

I suppose there are nuances of these, too, but most people who pay good money to take a beginning drawing class fall in one or the other.

I love both kinds. I love the bold ones who'll try anything, and I love the tentative ones who need the gentle encouragement. I suppose there's a bit of both of those in me, so I really connect at both levels. Lest someone wonder how a person who is already an established artist (and an instructor, no less!) can feel tentative and fearful at the prospect of an art project, I assure you, it happens to me all the time.

But what I've learned over the years is that just pressing forward with determination and as much fearlessness as can be mustered usually overcomes the barriers.

Anyway, the workshop I held a bit over a week ago had both kinds of beginners. I'm not going to go through all the details of the class process this time. I'm just going to put up a gallery of their wonderful work and let you appreciate. If you want details of what happened in each class, scroll back through previous workshops (or pull down the archives at the top of the page and read through one of the previous ones).

The students assembled themselves around the tables at 9:30am on Saturday, and we had our usual introductions during which everyone tells their name, why they are there and what they hope to accomplish. Below is what they accomplished. Click on an image for a larger view. And remember, some of these artists haven't drawn since they were children!

They were only able to work on these shells for half an hour or so before we had to go on to the next exercise, the sequoia cones.

In the cone exercise, I show the students some techniques for drawing conifer cones. Here are some of their results. They worked on them for about 45 minutes in class; later some students took them home to finish. In the pair below, you can see the grid technique the students were using ~ this student tried a couple of different renditions. I apologize for not attaching names to some of these masterpieces ~ I ran out of time.

Now, in case you are wondering what on earth would take so much "time" in getting these pictures up on the blog, take a look at the dark photo. This is what many of the photos look like straight out of the camera. In this particular classroom, I always photograph under fluorescent room lights plus natural north light on a table near the window. The pictures would be lighter if I used the flash, but that often causes even worse problems of glare and lost details, so I take these dark photos with all their details intact (albeit a bit dark) and fix them up in Photoshop.

If you look at the dark picture, you'll also notice some additional work that had to be done. The two cone drawings were quite far apart on the page. If I had used that picture with the cones in their original positions, it would have had to be very large to show the details, and that would take ages to load on your computer. So sometimes I have to move things around on the page, then crop.

Since I'm intent on showing my students' work as they did it, I have to be careful to not mess with or misrepresent their work. Students come to the blog and look carefully at their artwork, and they'd know if I changed it. And they'd surely comment, as well. So I try to make it look exactly as it did when they allowed me to photograph it.

By the time we got to the second day, they were getting quite proficient, and really buckled down to the serious business of rendering their landscapes. An additional student joined us on the second day ~ she had to miss the final day of the class she had attended a few weeks before, so I'd told her she could attend the day she missed this time. She fit right in. We used the morning to learn how to show tree and shrub forms, then texture them.

In the final landscape exercise, copying a photo landscape onto their page without any aids, they're not only trying to get the proportions right, they're having to translate and create their own textures to show what's in the landscape: trees with various sizes and shapes of leaves, rocks, water, distant mountains, etc. Having practiced this with a photo, they will now have enough skills to take on an actual landscape outside with a degree of confidence.

[You hear that, dear students? I hope you go out VERY soon to practice this, or else the heebeejeebees will getcha and you'll be afraid to try. Just get out there and DO it! If you feel nervous about it, come back to this blog and look again at the marvelous landscapes you produced in class. That should encourage you.]

The landscapes below were produced by a bunch of ordinary people (heck, who's ordinary? Let's just say they're people who worked very hard and had phenomenal success because of it.).

I'd like to point out something in Sandy's landscape (the two left-most pictures in the bottom row above). Sandy did her drawing not in a pad but on a single sheet lying on a textured table ~ with interesting results. I didn't notice until she was nearly finished that the hills and mountains, which she had darkened with heavy pressure, had picked up texture from the table surface beneath. Since it was a serendipitous texture, it made the trees look great. If you click on the enlargement you may be able to see what the texture did for the natural scene. Cool, huh?

So that's it for this class. Students, ya done good! This coming weekend, for the Nature Sketching Details class, I have a couple of returning students from this Basics class who plan to continue their education. I'm looking forward to that a great deal.

By the way, I put up my new Workshops 2009 webpage this week. I think this one is a lot easier to use than the 2008 page. I'd love feedback on it if you want to visit and let me know what you think. Any ideas for a better layout or way of doing things (or if I forgot something) will be accepted with good cheer. And if you've been waiting for a newsletter with drawing tips, I'll try to get that out soon. It's on my list.

So, until next workshop, just keep thinking about what these beginning artists did with just a few hours of guidance ~ and think what you might be able to do if you apply yourself! Hope to see you in class

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

Related Posts with Thumbnails