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.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nature Sketch-Journaling, May 9-10, 2009

A new venue! The Jefferson Nature Center on Bear Creek just south of Medford, Oregon, is a lovely place for a workshop. On the weekend of May 9th, it was warm and sunny, the air was scented with lilacs and other spring flowers, and we had a wonderful time. As one of the students said on the second day: "This is a great Play-Day!" And it was.

First, I showed them how I outfit myself to go out and sketch ~ that's a picture of me unloading my sling bag. It carries my Robert Bateman sketchbook (6x9), a sitting pad, my specs, a fistful of watercolor pencils and a sharpener, mechanical pencil, kneaded eraser, ballpoint pen, my waterbrush and a wipe rag, magnifying glass, snack, and a bunch of other things as well. It's always fun to unload it for a class, as things keep coming and keep coming, like from a magician's hat. I really should put a couple of colored scarfs in there for a finale!

We started out with the right-brain warm-ups, as usual, the students producing some great "blind" contour drawings of their hands as a beginning. Contour drawings always look best with all the wrinkles, hangnails and gnarly stuff included. The results are always fun. There's no way to be critical of a drawing you did without even looking!

After that, drawing the curled oak leaf was easy, and every drawing was excellent. The women in this group are definitely candidates for my intermediate drawing class.

With no further ado, they graduated to drawing seashells, planning their drawings as journal pages, leaving space for text, title, interesting dividers and other items to be added later. They practiced some "fun font" lettering to use for titles, and soon their journal pages began to emerge.

On the first day of my journaling classes we concentrate on drawing, and on the second day we put our minds to creative writing, poetry and haiku. But I like to see what they can do on their own that first day. I was quite impressed with the output from this bunch. [Remember, you can click on any of these images to see a larger version.] Here's Tiffany's initial journaling page. Notice the bull kelp seaweed she used to set off the text from the drawing.

Usually the students stick to the assignments, but sometimes I get one who wants to go off on her own tack. Maya drew an excellent shell, then took off on a tangent to journal an imaginative lighthouse. She worked faster than the others but used her time inventively to decorate the opening pages of her journal with a Celtic knot and other imagery. I think the other students found it inspiring to watch her fearless efforts.

Since I had added a couple of ideas to this class plan, I decided to offer the students the opportunity to add some watercolor pencil color to their journal pages on this first day instead of waiting till the second day. It was an inspired idea! Simone is at work here, adding color to her shell (see above). All the journals sparkled with color in short order. Here's the first day's colored entries:

The two that have "torn" edges were actually cut with "torn edge" scissors, which give a much better control of where the edge ends up. Since Simone and Tiffany were working on single sheets instead of in journals, they cut their pages out to mount in their journals later.

On the second day, my students produced some VERY evocative creative writing, haikus and poetry. In order to not bother my students as they work on meaningful word combinations, I write in my journal, too. While they were making 4-liner poems, I did this one (which, fortunately, wasn't taken too seriously):
"My workshop students stare, intent,
Focused on their page.
If they don't write a poem right now,
I shall get enraged."

Having fun with the watercolor pencils, they did creative things with their poety and colorful borders. Then I brought out the Microfleur press (a microwave plant press), and we all went outside to select wildflowers (and tame flowers, too), grasses and leaves to press and add to our pages as ephemera. Journals can really brighten up with pressed foliage and flowers, especially when the leaves are colorful in the fall.
Here Maya loads up all kinds of small florets to decorate her page, and taking turns, everyone got a chance to try out this innovative "instant plant press" (we were mostly using 2 or 3 thirty-second nukes for each group of flowers/leaves).

We broke for lunch after an intense morning of play, enjoying the warm sunshine (perfect temperature!) at the picnic table in the Nature Center yard... then back to work arranging dried flowers, titles, haiku, poetry, writing, and colorful dividers on the pages. Students read their haiku and poems out loud, as well.

Occasionally I would shoo everyone out of their seats to go around and look at what the others were doing. In my journaling classes I encourage people to share and copy ideas from each other. If someone does something cool, it's okay for the others to try something similar out on their own page/s.

The day ended too soon for all of us, although workshops are generally so energy intensive that I'm exhausted at the end of the day. Maya's Dad took this picture of us out the side door of the Nature Center under the wisteria (did you know wisteria smells like jasmine tea?) at the end of the workshop.

Great day, great place to work, great people, great fun.


Rebekah Smith said...

what a wonderful day you all had!:-)...loved that you incorporated real flowers into the journals!:-)

thanks for letting me see!:-)


Irene said...

Hi Rebekah,
Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed that -- we had SO much fun! It was hard to say goodbye at the end.

I just followed your link and discovered your connection to pressed flowers! How on earth did you find this blog so quickly? I forgot to put the keywords in!


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