My workbooks arrived in plenty of time (whew!) and were received by the students with surprised pleasure (you don't usually get a pretty workbook in a workshop ;^)
The workshop went well, and throughout this blog today I am introducing my class and their works, having their permission to post their photos and works here. They were wonderful people, every one. I miss them already. The first two classes were on Saturday and Sunday from 9-2:30.
However, I can't claim it went exactly as expected. Although I've been writing books and teaching art for many years, I'd never taught creative writing, and I set my sights a bit too low. The students jammed through the exercises with great gusto and skill, leaving us finished half an hour early. Falling back on my art experience, I gathered them in a circle and we all sketched each other for the remaining time. It was a great exercise, but not exactly "writing." I sketched this student, and colored it later as a demonstration in the watercolor pencil session.
The class attracted people who wanted to journal and sketch. Some had never journaled, most weren't able to sketch as realistically as they wished. Some had neither drawing nor journaling experience, so the challenge was to keep everyone working at their own pace and level. Suzanne, a very creative artist, had created a gorgeous hand-made journal that she'd never worked up enough nerve to write in -- it was too beautiful! Shirley S. had tried journaling many times, but always gave up in despair over her art. Everyone had different approaches and needs.
SESSION 1: The first day was full to the brim with drawing exercises and projects. I use right-brain techniques to get beginners off the ground and remind intermediate artists about ways to draw more accurately. Beginners were discovering skills they hadn't realized they had. My one intermediate student brushed up on line work and tried out new tools. We did contour and modified contour drawings and other fun things. Evern's cowrie (at right) came out nicely, as did Shirley B.'s abalone shell, below. The assignment for overnight was to journal and sketch a page, and find a related item to glue onto the page to add interest.
SESSION 2: The next morning we critiqued the journaling efforts -- some great entries came back -- Gail sketched a hail-torn leaf, wrote a bit about it, and glued in pieces of her awning which had been holed by the hail. Shirley S. sketched maple leaves and seeds in the park, and glued in maple seeds and a pressed leaf. A student told us about microwave plant presses! I need to get one!
We sailed right into the writing exercises: take a boring sentence and turn it into an interesting paragraph. The biggest problem with journals is that often we don't work to make them interesting -- but if we do, we'll have far more interesting reading in the future. Their efforts were stellar, and each one read their paragraph to the appreciative audience.
Later, we progressed to poetry, haiku, rhyming and free verse, and limericks. Poems really add a personal touch to a page -- both in content and visual effect -- and the students seemed quite pleased with their efforts, inserting poems and haiku into later entries quite skillfully. In general, the writing was MOST excellent, often funny, drawing appreciative laughter, head nods, and applause from the group.
We also experimented with rendering the haiku with felt-tip calligraphy pens, and making calligraphy initial caps. But in retrospect, I think I will try another approach to that. The ink felt-tip tends to soak through onto the reverse side of the page and the tips are too large to render the letters small enough to visually complement the page. The students offered some good ideas to pursue in that area, which I'll probably mention later.
The assignment was for two journal entries and sketches, with glued-in items. While this isn't a scrapbooking class, a journal is a good place to save important flat items, and they do add a tactile and visual boost to a page.
SESSION 3: This was an evening session and lasted from 7-9 (well, 9:40). Class was supposed to let out at nine but went on another forty minutes because people were having such a good time coloring their sketches and enjoying one another.
I introduced the watercolor pencils, and various techniques they could use, then I sat down with them to demonstrate techniques by coloring the sketch I had made in the portrait circle on the first day, showing them tools and rendering techniques as I proceeded and answering questions and helping individuals as needed. Our critique at the end was helpful, with students seeing what others had done and learning those techniques for their own later renderings.
LATER: Since I've taught long versions of the drawing and coloring classes before, those sessions were relatively easy, although without the full length drawing sessions I couldn't take the students as far toward their goals as we wanted. So I did suggest they might want to attend drawing classes I'll do later on in the season.
I was sorry when the class ended. So were the students. They asked for a list of people's email addresses so they can get in touch with each other after the class, and I sent that out yesterday, plus a .pdf of the letter I'll be sending out to people who responded to my ad in The Artist's Magazine (more about that in a later blog). So there it is, the first run of the Sketching/Journaling Workshop has debuted.
At left is a "patch" Suzanne glued over a drawing that she felt "bombed." At right is our workshop announcement and the Journalist's Credo that Gail glued inside her journal's front cover. Above, check out Shirly B.'s pressed flowers. Above are Dan's fuzzy almonds, and scattered throughout this blog entry are a lot of other great pieces from the class!
At the end of the last session, I held a raffle for my book The Redrock Canyon Explorer in return for evaluation sheets which each student filled out. To me, that's a great trade, and I got lots of good feedback from them, which I'll put to work next time I give this class.
By the way, the students knew they were experiencing the first run of the class (and that they'd gotten a $20 discount because of that). I decided to tell them right from the get-go, and they seemed to enjoy helping me spot areas to be improved. In the last session as they colored their sketches, they offered a whole raft of ideas to add to the longer Costa Rica workshop next February.
Thanks to each and every one of you students for your bright presence and participation in this inaugural run of "our" Sketching/Journaling Workshop. You made it a joy for everyone around you, and your contributions will have a definite imprint on all the future presentations of the class. Thank you!