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!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Robbie and the Haggis

This post is a bit of an aside, not being about a workshop, but since it happened because of a workshop it deserves its place in the sun. When my last student had gone, after my workshop last weekend, the weather was dim and rainy and I felt in need of a bit of gaiety, so I stopped by The Black Sheep Pub on the way home thinking to have a jar of ale and perhaps sketch the Irish Jam musicians playing their usual Sunday afternoon gig.

Imagine my surprise to find it packed with folk, the Irish music barely audible
from the stairs, and three Scotsmen in plaid kilts standing by the bar! All the chairs were taken ~ I circled the room trying to cadge one from every table, but they were all being saved. So I crept behind the menu board at the top of the stairs and pulled out a folding chair and edged my way back with it to the only free spot remaining (and my favorite place, anyway) right next to the Irish musicians.

r awhile I just relaxed, for workshops are hard work and it felt good to sip my Guinness and just float with the music. Then I got out my sketchpad and sketched a piper and one of the Scotsmen with his bagpipe. And as things started to get really interesting, I began to write:

"The Black Sheep is dim with late afternoon light. The blue-black ceiling, covered with gold stars, hangs high over the rich tapestry of Irish tunes woven from the warp of fiddle and heavy thumping heels and a weft of flute, guitar, banjo and box. The air is redolent with Guinness and what must be baking haggis, neeps and tatties [I discerned this from a little menu I found on the table].

A fiddler rises, bow flying, from his chair in the group and crouches nearby, all solemn and gay at the same time, to fiddle the tune for a small child, entranced, held in the lap of a listening mother. Other mothers dance with their children in the very small open area, and a colleen with carroty hair jigs with her portly companion, his hand tucked neatly behind him at
his waist in the Irish fashion. Both of them are improbably light on their flying middle-aged feet. All around me, toes tap, fingers jig on tabletops. My foot wags to the beat.

As I sit, the Scottish trio, with humming drone and a screeling of pipes, circles the pub behind a waiter bearing a silver platter of haggis, to deliver it, all brown and steaming, onto the next table.

Now our Jim Finnegan has declaimed
Robbie Burns' famous ode to haggis with marvelous verve to great applause, and one of the pipers ceremoniously stabbed the great roll roundly with a big knife. Finally a kitchen drudge has marched off to the scullery with it to serve it up, with neeps and tatties, to the folk who would have some.

In case you wonder, haggis consists of a finely ground mash of suet, oats, liver, kidneys, heart, blood and possibly tripe of the sheep, heavily spiced and stuft into a sheep's stomach, then baked. On the menu 'tis offered as:
"Haggis wi'
Bashit Neeps and' Champit Tatties, $12.50."

I shall have some.

The Irish Jam strikes up again, the Scotsmen
having sat down to await their treat. My Guinness stands at half mast as I eagerly await my haggis and tatties. The very air vibrates with heel thumps, heavy strumming of guitar, voices shouting to be heard, and the swirling fiddle and pipes. Laughter rises and dances around the ceiling, weaving through the painted stars (my, that Guinness is good!), as the bagpipe drummer clicks his "spoons" idly, and waiters thread their way through dancers and laughing revelers.

AHH! My Haggis, Bashit Neeps (bashed turnips) and Champit Tatties (champed potatoes) has arrived, and I am savoring it. There is much ado about whether haggis is actually edible, and I am here to tell you that "aye, 'tis good!" How could this Scotch-Irish girl reach this advanced age before getting her first taste? 'Tis spicy and musky, hot and steaming, and truly, most excellent.

Jim Finnegan just sang 'My Heart's in the Highlands" in a voice fit to be heard the entire length o' th' green, followed by 'Auld Lang Syne' joined by the entire pubful of roistering folk. The bagpipes came in on the last verse, and it ended with hoots and hollers, shouts and whistles.

It's after five, now, and the bagpipers have begun winding a final path through the pub, screeling and tat-a-tatting as they play 'Scotland the Brave' on their way to the door.

It's time for me to go home. What a wonderful unexpected celebration for this tired lady on a rainy January Sunday evening!

Later this week I hope to get up the pictures and entry about the last workshop. I tried several new things, and I think you'll enjoy seeing how they came out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nature Sketching Basics Workshop ~ 1-10&11-09

I finally got smart and started taping up a welcome sign to the entry of whatever building I'm giving my workshops in. It's eye-opening how many students have mentioned being glad to see the sign! It's printed out on my computer then slipped into a plastic page protector. I fasten it to the door with tape which has one end folded over to make a tab. When I take the sign down I fold over and press the sticky part to the plastic envelope, so that the next time I want to use it I only have to pull up the tab, the sticky area comes up, and I have an instant sign hanger. Click on the image to see a bigger version

While I was photographing that welcome sign, I also took a snapshot of my Basic Sketching Workshop gear in front of the building. The wheeled pack in front is my Drinks Caddy. It has a pullout handle, and contains my electric teapot, instant coffee, teabags of all kinds, hot/cold paper cups, and creamer. It gets quite a bit of use in some classes, in others it is barely used ~ except by me! At least, now that I provide the opportunity for drinks, I don't have to feel guilty about sipping hot coffee in front of them.

The long-handled caddy with the two plastic boxes contains my display books, supplies, and workbooks. The black and white boxes carry things to sketch ~ in this case, weathered sticks and seashells. I try to provide a good selection so students can sketch something that really pleases them. It usually requires two trips to the car to carry everything.

The Drinks Caddy remains the same from class to class, but for other classes, different things end up in the plastic boxes and I bring different things to sketch. I'm trying to compartmentalize all the classes so that I can just pick up a set of containers filled with everything I need for the class at hand.

On January 10 I had a REALLY small class. I need to figure out just why that is. I think I discussed this in a previous blog ~ maybe I'm just offering so many classes that I'm competing with myself in this area's small population, especially during this economic slump. Well, no matter, I love teaching so I took the class on anyway with just three students, Valerie, Randy, and Jacob, who is ten and homeschooled.

I mention the homeschool part because I don't think I would have accepted someone so young except for that. Homeschooled kids tend to be better behaved and interact better with adults than their public school counterparts. And they tend to have longer attention spans. I KNOW that is a generalization, and there are exceptions, but it fits my experiences so I'm happy to go with it. In Jacob's case, it was well founded. My lower limit is officially twelve.

Jacob turned out to have a great sense of humor, and we all enjoyed working alongside him. He got his first experience with tortillons (blending stumps used for shading pencil) during the first day's class, and was so intrigued that he went home and created a number of large ones out of different materials so he could experiment with what works best. You can see his assortment on the table in front of him here.

In case you are a bit puzzled at Jacob's headgear, that is his invention: an Airbag for Pedestrians created from a grocery bag, which he demonstrated during a break. Never a dull moment!

Day 1
As usual, the students got right to work ~ here's Valerie's sea shell and Randy working on a leaf. Our first critique illuminated what worked successfully and what could be done to improve the drawings. Critiques make useful breaks, giving students a chance to stretch and refresh at the "drinks bar."
Randy turned out a particularly nice shell, using many of the techniques we had just learned about shading and reflected light.

Our final project for the day was to draw a wild turkey feather, and the students turned out some nice drawings. Here's Jacob at work on his.

Day 2

We turned to landscape basics to give the students the confidence they need to go outside on their own landscape sketching trips.

They practiced contour drawing in the workbook, working from a redrock photo, to give them a handle on how to tackle an outdoors scene, which can intimidate even seasoned landscape artists. Then they drew common landscape items -- dead sticks, shrubbery, foliage, and tree forms.

With such a small class, I didn't want to hang over their shoulders, so while they worked on their landscapes I sketched them at work, using a modified contour drawing technique in ballpoint pen.

Valerie took this picture of me sketching, and here's what they looked like from my viewpoint, hard at work. I admit to crowding them elbow to elbow for the picture. In actuality, they had a bit more space for working.

They were all working on their final landscapes when I drew this.

Here Valerie is at hard work on her landscape, and below are the landscapes they all produced. Valerie did the redrocks, Jacob produced the waterfall, and Randy drew the rocky canyon. As you can see, they came a very long way for beginners, and I am very proud of them all.

Next weekend is my Nature Illustration Techniques class, but so far I only have three sign-ups for that class, too. But even if the numbers don't reach five for this one, I think I will hold it anyway, even at that low enrollment, since I want to run the new material in the reworked curriculum past some students.

Reworking two classes at once got confusing even to me, and last time I blogged I was thinking my cattail session was for basic students, but it's actually for the intermediates and I am eager to try it out. I think they'll love it. Cattails are WAY cool to sketch.

In the meantime, I'm now working on the Watercolor Pencil Painting class revisions. It is shaping up nicely, and I've created some new materials for the workbooks. This page from one of my Costa Rica journals is in the workbooks, to serve as inspiration for those trying out the watercolor pencils. It's one of my favorite journal pages.

I'm hoping to get a good signup for the February 7-8 class ~ several have signed up already, so perhaps it will grow a bit larger.

Today was the inauguration, and I watched it with a great deal of interest. What a marvelous panoply (had to look up the spelling on that one!)! I was positively entranced.

Enough! Back to work on the watercolor pencil class workbook. I have to get the .pdf to my brother's printing company in time for him to print the workbooks up and FedEx them to me before the class begins, and I haven't finished the second day's workbook yet!

I'd love some feedback if you have a minute. Are these entries getting too repetitive and boring? I love to showcase my students' work, but if there is something more I can write about that you want to know about, let me know.

How about something on dealing with students with Altzheimers?


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

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