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, August 5, 2009

Nature Drawing Basics, July 11-12, 2009

What a nice weekend workshop! With just four students, there was plenty of time for personal interaction, and we had lots. By now, if you read these posts regularly, you'll have an idea of what happens in one of my basic drawing classes -- a fair dose of Right-brain grounding, then on to nature sketching using what has just been learned.

By the end of that first day, all four artists were tackling a wild turkey feather with more skill than they thought they possessed.

Somehow, I managed to miss photographing Clarissa's feather, but here she is drawing it, quite capably. Sorry Clarissa! Check out what the others did with their feathers below.

Sketching can be a bit chancy out in nature ~ it could start to rain, you could be spotted by a moose and have to run, you could start sun-burning... and there goes your sketch as you beat a hasty retreat.

So one of the more important things I teach is to first draw the entire outline and any important structural elements, then completely finish at least part of each distinctive area so that you could finish the rest of it later (without your subject) if necessary. You can see the product of that teaching here, with the half-done feathers. The students can finish the undone areas later by using the finished portions as a reference.

On the second day, they tackled landscapes, practicing typical foliage patterns to form "templates" in their right brains to be pulled out for use in future drawings. These templates are generalized foliage patterns that can be applied to any number of landscape scenes with realistic effects. Once you learn these, foliage is a (relative) snap.

The "draw a stick" portion of the workshop came next, with the students doing their best to wrap their right brains around gnarly dead sticks and branches. These can be used as templates, too, and some of their results were quite fine, in my opinion.

After lunch I brought out the landscape photos. We don't go outside to draw in this workshop, since much more can be learned in the classroom setting. After all, we only have two days!

I provide about fifty really beautiful landscape choices to draw from, but to my amusement, the same ones usually get chosen, class after class.

First the scene is framed using a sheet of heavy paper with a "window" in it. Then that scene is redrawn into a same-size rectangle on the sketch page. This is a very quiet time in the classroom and I make a real effort to not talk while this is happening. With varying success, I might add.

Some of the scenes are more difficult than others, and if they are, I usually inform the student. Then they have a choice as to whether to select another or go ahead and try the one they first chose.

Lots of things are learned in this copying process. How to transfer correct proportions, how to achieve the right foliage, rock, or water textures, how to shade to give the scene 3-dimensionality, how to check for accuracy, and many other things.

I think their results were really excellent. See for yourself!

Okay, now I'm caught up with THAT workshop, and it's time to blog the most recent one, which was last weekend.

Workshop attendance has really fallen off. My rosters only fill halfway, or even less, these days, and if I were feeling insecure I'd surely think my teaching is to blame. But from what I hear, enrollment in ALL the classes and workshops are down considerably, due to the recession.

That isn't very reassuring, because that could go on for some time. So I'm starting to think seriously about working up my in-person workshops into online workshops which might be a bit less expensive and would probably have a greater pool to draw from. They certainly would cause less wear and tear on my bod! If I do, I plan to make some video demos to illustrate difficult techniques. I'll let you know how it goes!

At the moment, I'm working up my Observing Nature Teachers Manual for a couple of workshops later this month which will teach teachers to teach kids how to "notice, observe, record and enjoy nature." I described this fully in the blog just before this one, in case you'd like to know more about it.

After that, I have just one class every month until December. See you next blog!


Anonymous said...

I so much enjoy your blog and applaud your idea of working up some on-line classes. That would be within the budget of many, I'm sure. With the financial situation right now, travel and workshop costs can be beyond the pocketbook of many.

The workbooks that you use for the classes look very helpful...nice stuff!
I have your "Drawing Nature" book and love reading through it. I admit that I have been too artistically lazy to do any drawing. However, now that cooler weather is in the offing, the possibility of actually getting outside and drawing is manifesting! (I'm positive that I have written those very words many times...perhaps I will really do it) Thanks for the time and artistic energy you put into all that you do.


Irene said...

Thank you, Frankye! I know how hard it is to just get to things, even when we want to do them. Hang in there.

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