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!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Costa Rica Nature Journal/Sketching Workshop ~ 7

Day 3 of our workshop. COLOR ~ the workshop day we've been building up to!

Before it even began, starting at 5:45am, Jocelyn, Marilyn and I went with Gerardo on a birding trip while Kathy caught up on her beachcombing. (Kathy would have to leave early the next morning, missing the last day of class, and she hadn't spent enough time with the waves.)

The birds were very forthcoming, and Gerardo, tirelessly searching the forest fringe with both naked eye and heavy scope, showed us many special birds (see my list above ~ how about a bare-throated tiger heron? or a green-breasted mango, a hummingbird, with young at the nest!)!

Back at the lodge, after our usual gorgeous breakfast, we prepared to work. Usually my classes contain students who haven't yet worked up the nerve to color their sketches. Not this class! Kathy had arrived in class the first day with scenic watercolors in her journal. Jocelyn and Marilyn had already been watercoloring their journal sketches with great verve. But none of them had much experience working with watercolor pencils, so, after a gentle critique of the previous afternoon's homework (two or more journal pages with attached ephemera plus an improved poem) we launched into the watercolor pencil workbook, Color Your Sketches, with vigor.

Each day of my workshop has its own workbook. I have designed the workbooks to fulfil several purposes: 1) to augment and give background for the instruction I give in class, 2) to provide a place to make notes, experiment with techniques, and in some cases to actually do an assignment, and 3) to give the student a concrete resource to take home from the workshop. Often there is additional material in the workbook for the student to continue working on later. My students appreciate these workbooks a great deal. This workshop has three workbooks: Sketch in Your Journal; Journal in Your Sketchbook; and Color Your Sketches.

We began with a brief journey around the color wheel, trying out swatches and blending colors to get familiar with the use of the pencils. Then we added color to see how that changes the hue, intensity, and appearance of the colors. I showed the students some different ways to get color effects, then I handed out worksheepts and we did a step-by-step exercise adding color to a gorgeous spotted orchid.

Since the students already had experience in watercolor, this class went more quickly than usual so I handed out a sheet of foliage patterns to be pasted into their journals for quick reference. They practiced foliage patterns for awhile. Tomorrow's assignment would be a beach landscape, which would use these patterns (or take-offs on them), so the practice was useful preparation for rendering palm trees and other types of foliage.

By now, we were all well acquainted, and having a great time chatting and working together. All three of my students had joined other resort guests the night before in a raucous card game, joined by a fearless praying mantis which stole the show. I was a bit sorry I'd missed the fun, but mostly I was pleased that my students were enjoying themselves at all levels: the beautiful surroundings, the sketching and journaling opportunities, the classes themselves, and the other guests

The homework assignment for tomorrow would be to produce two or more well-designed journal pages including some foliage, with color added to at least one of the pages. I was doing the homework as well as the students ~ I'm of the opinion that an instructor's efforts can serve as good demonstrations of techniques, styles and ideas, as long as the production of it doesn't get in the way of the student's instruction. In other words, if the students need my input, I don't work on anything during class. If they are progressing nicely at their own pace and don't need help, I use that time to color my own sketches or to make examples of what is needed for the assignment

After class, I took up my journal, water bottle, and camera and headed up the Carablanca Trail (see the map) to see what I could see. There were still a couple of hours of light, and I wanted to get misted by a waterfall and see if I could spot some wildlife. Check out my journal page to see what I encountered!

Guests are given a map of the El Remanso forest trails and beach when we arrive, and I glued it onto a page in my journal so that I would always have it handy. So far on this stay at El Remanso, I'd only been down to the beach, so a forest walk was high on my list of adventures.

The forest here is beautiful, with giant buttressed trees ~ buttresses are fin-like ridges at the bases of trees . Buttresses spread out like fingers, helping to support the tree over a wider area of ground. There are lots of palms and vines. Up in the trees you are likely to see monkeys if you are out for even a little while. Agoutis, like long-legged, long-toed rabbits (see my sketch), browse in the underbrush, and peccaries (wild pigs) roam the forest in groups of up to forty or fifty. There's no need to be afraid of them if you don't threaten them.

Flashes of red in the forest are likely to be passiflora flowers. They are about 4" across and look like brilliant scarlet stars hanging on vines. Insects and frogs fill the air with chirps and buzzes and high buzzing whines ~ with ventriloquistic qualities that make them next to impossible to track down.

By now, it was almost dark, so I got out my little flashlight (it fits on the bill of a cap, and makes lots of light) I got back to the lodge in time for a mango smoothie and lots of good conversation with my estudientes and the other guests before dinner.

NOTE: Kathy, Marilyn and Jocelyn, Adriana, Gerardo and others: I'm telling this the way I recall it and from notes in my journal. I may not always get it right, or you might want to add something to the tale, so please feel free to comment on ANYthing, with observations, your own tidbits, or corrections if I'm wrong about something. I value your input.


PamYla said...

Beautiful artwork! Im sure that you had a blast..welcome to EDM :)

Nan said...

Irene, great blog and lovely sketches! What a wonderful opportunity, and it looks like you made the best of a difficult situation (tee hee).

Nan (another n00b EDMer)

Alanna said...

Hi Irene,
Welcome to EDM! I was curious to check out your sketchbooks as I studied in Costa Rica for a semester in 1998. I lived in Heredia, but traveled all around, as I was studying ecotourism. I wish I had been into sketching like I am now!
I really like your journal pages!

Knitting Painter Woman said...

In haste! but it looks as though I could get a whole color journaling lesson by studying this post! Whee. Of course, then I'd have to practice.
thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Irene, do you have your students start with a minimal number of colored pencils? Seems like it would be confusing to start with a huge set. Also, what kind of watercolor pencils do you advise starting with and what colors/set are the best for beginners? You do such lovely work.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks! Yes, I did have a blast -- I always do when I go to El Remanso in Costa Rica! BTW, thanks to you and Alanna for the nice welcome to EDM (Every Day Matters journaling forum).

Nan, I didn't actually think of it as a difficult situation -- just full of surprises and challenges, and I was so lucky to have three terrific women in the class!

Alanna, Glad you like the blog! The workshops give me impetus and a great excuse to keep sketching
and journaling, and I'm so glad, because if you don't keep doing it you don't get better. In fact, I actually lose some of my skills. At least they slide temporarily.

Knitting painter woman, Yep, you could probably get a pretty good outline for doing such a class
from this blog, but I like to think that having a real hands-on teacher is worth at least something [grin].

Anonymous (hey, it you put your name in the letter I'll have something to call you besides anonymous) -- I generally have a large selection of colors available during the workshops, but at the same time I do
all my coloring in the journal I keep during the workshop using an off-the-shelf set of twelve. That
way the students can see that it is possible to get nuanced effects with only a standard set.
However, I do like to add a cream, and a couple more greens are handy if I'm going to be doing

Irene (I answered this as "anonymous" to see if you can comment without an identity or account. If this comes up, we'll know. Just click on anonymous and your comment will appear.)

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