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!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Third Day of the Nature Sketching Workshop

I really must compliment my students on their composure and good sense of humor. As you probably have noticed, these blog entries have been studded with photos of them at work, what they've produced, and various points in between. And not ONCE did one of them snarl at me "BACK OFF!" They remained totally blasé about the whole thing. What good sports! Thank you, dear students, from the bottom of my heart.

From the email and blog comment responses

I've been receiving, I know that a lot of you find this blog helpful and inspiring, so if you'd just send a silent thanks in the direction of these students for their generous contributions, I (and they, too, I expect) would appreciate it greatly.

Here's how the third day went.

The first order of the day was to lay out the incoming homework, the landscapes they'd begun during last Sunday's workshop session. I was delighted with their strong renderings. The critique was a celebration of how well they ALL did. Some had not been quite able to finish, but as I mentioned in a previous post, people attend workshops in addition to their private lives and doings, which sometimes must take precendence.

Most of the students had also had time to work through a demonstration I had given last Sunday but which they hadn't gotten a chance to try. I had sent home a redwood cone with each of them to try to draw. Some of the results were truly outstanding! I had the students pass their workbooks around the circle so that everyone could appreciate the results.

Here are the sequoia cones:

The workbooks I give the students are full of information and projects which are good for doing outside of class. Sometimes we cover a technique briefly but don't have a chance to try it out in the limited time available. But many can be done later at home. One student had worked through a technique in the workbook for drawing scallop seashells, so during lunch I critiqued that and another shell she had drawn and wanted advice on.

By the way, dear students, I apologize for some of my close-up photos (including landscapes, cones, and final apple or mango) ~ some of which are a little (or a lot) blurry because I muffed it with the borrowed camera. If yours is on the fuzzy side, I'm really sorry!

After the critiques, I had the students do a few contour drawing warmups using a conch shell as a model, then I added a duck to their set of templates (during some hilarious exercises to highlight the process of visual recall).

With the drawing techniques fresh in their minds, each student selected either an apple or a mango from a basketful I had brought for them to sketch, and drew their model on a fresh page of heavy paper in the back of the workbook.

When that was complete, I introduced the watercolor pencils, the waterbrushes (they hold water in the barrel, making a brush, bottle of water and rinsing jar unnecessary), and some exercises from today's workbook Watercolor Pencil Techniques. They experimented with the watercolor pencils, trying different line weights and application techniques, then I set them to blending colors with the waterbrushes, using a hairdryer to dry between coats.

By this point in the workshop I have an idea of how people will pursue their project ~ color is a bit scary to some ~ their drawings tend to be light and tentative. Others pounce avidly and turn out bright, bold results. Neither technique is preferable to the other, although the bolder artists get finished first. The poky artists tend to produce equally excellent results, given sufficient time.

Working in color is usually scary to novices. To help them overcome that initial reluctance to color their fruit sketches, we turned to a practice page in the workbook with black & white plus color examples of beach and mountain scenes ~ sort of a coloring book ~ where they could practice estimating what pencils would give good results as they tried to duplicate the colors.

When they had gotten reasonably well acquainted with what the pencils will do both in their dry and wet states, I had them scribble yellow pencil for a light underwash on their fruit since the apples and mangos both had a yellow cast to them. The underwash ties the colors together and makes the fruit glow in a way that it wouldn't if the colors were put onto a white surface. Additionally, since the undercoat is meant to be covered with a future color, it's easier for a novice to get started with an undercoat.

By roaming the room and keeping an eye on where everyone was in their progress, I could head off most problems before they got started. When useful, I would halt everone to give a demonstration on techniques to use to get certain effects.

I like to use fruits, vegetables or gourds for models, because the students can take them home to finish the drawing if they don't get done in class. Or they can eat them. Since not all students will finish in the time allowed, they are relieved to know that they will be able to finish this final art piece at home if they need to.

With a few minutes left (I keep the students aware of the time, "you have ten minutes left, so try to finish the most important areas...") I went around pointing out final artistic touches that would give the most impact for their final results. And finally, with most of the paintings nearing completion, the session was over.

I had told the students previously that there would be a raffle at the end of the session for my book The Redrock Canyon Explorer (or if they had already bought that from the back table where I always make my books available at approximately half price) a copy of Illustrating Nature ~ Right-brain Art in a Left-brain World. The raffle is my solution to getting usable evaluations, and I always request critical observations and suggestions as well as complimentary ones. They have to fill out the evaluation to enter the raffle. It's a win/win situation.

As the group was filling out the evaluations, I posed indivuals with their fruit and painting to record their progress. Here they are with their beautiful results:

Diane A. Chris B. Belinda V. Candie M. Gaff Jubilee W.

NOTE: I had one other student, Marilyn B., whose work isn't shown here (she became ill during the first session and missed the second session). She had to leave early again and didn't feel her mango was ready for a photo. But I thought it was quite nice.

And here are the fruits, on review:

Is anyone interested in seeing their comments? If I get three (3) or more comments (at the end of this blog) asking me to put them up, I will. Otherwise, I won't.It's always a letdown to finish such a class. I love the give-and-take, the jokes and joshing, the gentle support of group members for each other, and the quiet (or sometimes not-so-quiet)excitement and pride in learning a new skill. But I have several more classes to look forward to this summer. I've been working on my schedule and they're stacking up nicely.

I may not blog this and the journaling class in such detail in the future, since I can always put links to former classes (like this one) for people to read through. But I WILL continue to put up my students' artwork. They work really hard on their art pieces, and deserve recognition for their progress.

As I work up each new class, though, I will blog it thoroughly so that you can see if it's a class you might want to take. I'm taking suggestions for topics, as I'd like to develop workshops that people feel a real need for. Do you have a suggestion?

I also want to put up Jocelyn's Costa Rica Workshop journal. I have about half of it ready. If you scan artwork into the computer, it usually looks pretty good without too much adjusting. But if you photograph it, there are all kinds of problems: parallax problems (sides not parallel); overall darkness (you've probably seen this on other blogs, from people who don't have the program or know-how to fix them); part of the page may be dark, but the rest okay; color aberrations (so that I have to adjust color as I remember it to get it correct); etc. I didn't have time to scan Jocelyn's journal, although she offered to wait, so I'm having to tweak the photos to make the pages look right, and it takes awhile. Next week, maybe.

So. Let me know if you want to see what was on the evaluations. I promise to be honest (I have to ~ my students read this blog!).

And, next week, in addition to continuing with workshop prep, I will be beginning the final edit changes of The Southern Swamp Explorer. I have had a number of requests to post my progress on that and the process of preparing it for press, so tune in if you'd like to keep an eye on what's going on. I'm expecting the return of the final edited copy Monday or Tuesday, then I'll open the book file in InDesign, prop them all (six edited manuscripts) up around my computer, and open them all to page one, and start making the final changes. aughhhhh!!!!! Wish me strength and endurance!


Anonymous said...

Wow Irene,
After seeing you in action in our class-how much energy and patience you used, and then to view this blog, with all your pictures of us and our work, makes me appreciate you even more! Glad we got to cross paths! Thank you so much!

Irene said...

Hey Chris!

My pleasure! I very much enjoyed that class (obviously) and your hard-earned progress deserved recognition.

If you didn't already, I hope you'll click for a close-up of the final fruits -- they're pretty incredible aren't they?

Thanks for helping make that class a joy to give and to take. I'm really glad you were there.


Jody said...

Thank you all for sharing your work from this workshop (and the Costa Rica journal from the next entry), I am impressed by all!

Thank you Irene for sharing such detail in your reporting of your workshops - it only fulls the fire to take one myself.

As far as workshop suggestions.... I like many am hampered by time. Would like to see a format of just 1 weekend or a Friday afternoon, evening, Sat. and Sunday morning. Then I might be able to figure a way to get to one, or would love to see you in other parts of Oregon.

If I was interested in trying to bring you my area, do you have criteria for doing that. Such as helping find location, advertising etc.? Would love to get you to come to Corvallis area.

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

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