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, April 3, 2008

Jumping Off the Cliff ~ I Try Something Different

Years ago I did Author Visits in elementary schools for a living. I traveled all over the west, from Santa Barbara to Alaska, and for an hour (three sessions per day, max) I would give my slideshow about writing and illustrating nature books for kids, in the gym or cafeteria or a classroom, for as few as 20 or as many as 600 kids ages 5 to 12 or so.

I learned from those experiences (and from one very knowledgeable school media specialist) that to hold the kids' attention for an hour in a dark room sitting, often, on a tile floor (!) I had to keep the action lively, add humor, stay on their cognitive level, use a mike (keeping my voice low and confidential), and change to a new subject approximately every seven minutes. I always ended with a slide I had taken in Kenya of an elephant "picking its nose" (kid humor) which brought down the house. I was much in demand.

That being said, I am doing a 3-day workshop next Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday for 20 kids ages 11 through 13, on nature drawing and journaling, and I am verrrry nervous about it!

This is the workshop I normally give for adults who want to sketch and journal. The adults go at it for 5 hours from 9 - 2:30 for three or four days, and they are attentive, absorbed, focused, have fun and learn a great deal. The school in which I will be teaching the kids is an art and science magnet school, and the kids have been given the option of taking the workshop -- they will not go to any other classes during those three days -- and have been told that it's serious business and there's to be no goofing around. So I will not have (presumably) unwilling students, and they will be getting a break from their usual schoolwork, but still.......

I'm adjusting the workshop, of course, for their interests lie differently from those of most adults. For one thing, they have an ongoing project for which they visit a forest study area, take notes, draw pictures, and journal. They want to do a better, more interesting job of it, and their teacher thought my workshop sounded like just the thing. But that means that I must focus things differently, and also take into account that their attention span/level might not be quite as steady over a five hour period. We'll have lunch break, of course, and at least one fifteen minute break (in the morning, and possibly after lunch), but I've no idea how this is going to go.

The school is photocopying the workbooks to keep expenses down, but for the color pages, I will provide on-the-table color copies (one per two students) so they'll have the color reference. So there is some extra prep time for this as well. Additionally, I'm still working on my Fun Font page to add to the mix (because I've toned Calligraphy back to an Illuminated Caps function) and haven't quite figured out how to add it to the workbook.

I have no doubts about what they can get out of the workshop if they are interested and stay focused. But while I've had experience working with kids on a group level, this bears little resemblance to what I've done in the past. And in my experience, so much depends on the teacher's previous preparation of the students and their desire to absorb the subject......

Well, I'll let you know how it goes -- I sincerely doubt I'll have time to blog again before the workshop.


Anonymous said...

I recently got your Illustrating Nature book and want to thank you for it. I've never gotten an art book with so much information and so many good ideas and help. It is truly excellent. I think those kids are lucky, and I bet it will be great. Judy Warner

Renie said...

Judy, thanks for the feedback on the book. Glad you like it!

And I certainly do appreciate the encouraging words about the workshop. I've spent a good part of the day making handouts and sorting through the various things we'll be doing and I'm feeling much more confident about it. And I'm bound to learn and grow, as well, so hey, let 'er rip!

Leslie said...

Irene, this sounds like a wonderful group to work with! I'm sure you will do great- since the kids are interested in art, are already journaling, etc., I'm sure they will be excited to learn from you. I look forward to hearing about it afterwards!

Jody said...

I bet your workshop will be a resounding success. I work with students in natural settings, and my experience is once they turn on their "artist eyes" and really observe you will have trouble getting them to stop nature journaling! I wish I had had such an opportunity at that age. Plus a teacher that could find time in this age of testing to take them outside and bring in an artist also! The observation skills that they learn by drawing -- work just as well in the field of science. Thanks for blogging Irene, hopefully I will make it to one of your workshops one day.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with the workshop! Sounds like an interesting challenge which I am sure you will be up to!!

Kirk Whiteside

Renie said...

Thank you for your encouraging words! I've been reworking the class plans for the last couple of days and making tweaks to the handouts to make sure the students will get the most out of the experience, so I'm starting to feel more comfortable. I appreciate your confidence in me!


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