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!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Costa Rica Nature Journal/Sketching Workshop ~ 5

There is great joy to be found in sharing a technique, solving a problem, and guiding a willing student's pen or pencil to the desired point on the paper. But it ain't easy. Class days are a combination of exhiliarating, exhausting, fun, and hard work. I love the challenge of meeting the needs of all levels of students, although it also means I probably won't have much energy left over to work in my own journal that day.

On my first workshop day, February 7, I prepared my "classroom" ~ a quiet end of the restaurant, looking out over the open bannister into the forest canopy with birds and butterflies flitting by and the fascinating insect, bird and monkey calls punctuating the morning air (sometimes that makes it a little hard to stay in one's seat! Sometimes we give in, snatch the binoculars and check things out.)

Jocelyn and Marilyn arrived with their journals, in high spirits and ready to go. They had already done a number of sketches and some writing in their journals, working busily at every opportunity. I was impressed with their perseverance.

I knew I was going to be kept on my toes ~ I had emailed my students before the workshop, suggesting that they bring 6x9 spiral-bound art pads. But Marilyn and Jocelyn had brought and were working on 9x12 sheets, different weights and surfaces from smooth to watercolor-rough. Jocelyn had sewn hers together into quartos on the plane; Marilyn's were stacked on a tough backing and held down with elastic bands. Oh-kay.y.y.y...

Since some of my techniques were aimed at utilizing a 6x9 sketchpad maximally, I had to switch to a friskier horse in midstream and get on with the class. Actually, it turned out to not be a problem, since both Marilyn and Jocelyn are experienced journalers and are used to journaling this way (whereas I commonly have to lead newby journalers gently by the hand), so I shared what was useful in my "6x9 plan" and learned what I could from their styles. Later we had a good chuckle over my initial apprehension.

I always start out my classes with a short overview of right-brain processes. Since I don't know where each student is on the long learning curve, it helps me get acquainted with each person's style, artistic bent, and level. It also warms up the students and reminds them (or shows them if they aren't already aware) of how to best access their creative right-brains. Jocelyn and Marilyn sailed into this with vigor, and turned out the countour drawings and negative shapes shown here.

Kathy, my third student, hadn't arrived at El Remanso Wildlife Lodge yet due to scheduling difficulties. However, I had sent her the opening pages of our workbook ahead of time so that she would already have done the exercises and could join the class and immediatly feel right at home.

When Kathy appeared midmorning, journal in hand, our class was complete. But what a journal HERS was! I have never seen a more creative, way-out journal, and it fit Kathy's outgoing, cheery, off-beat style perfectly. So much for 6x9 journals!

I put them all to work on a drawing assignment, to sketch a forest leaf using the right-brain techniques. These techniques are designed to teach the right brain how to see accurately and transfer true-to-life images from the brain to the hand and then to the paper. It sometimes takes awhile to kick in, but even minimal instruction can usually produce results.

Long-time artists, particularly those who have been doing mostly painting, interpreting their subjects with freely-applied color (as opposed to rendering with pencil or pen lines) can benefit greatly from this redirection of the brain into these more accurate modes. The leaf drawing was the first foray into accurate drawing and would set the tone for the next three days. We were off and running.

With the students working busily on their leaves, I had a few moments to journal and to demonstrate some ballpoint pen techniques, since I had noticed that my students were using micro felt-tip pens which give a harsh black line. I like to use a black ballpoint in my journal for two reasons: 1) if you lose your pen, you can always get another easily (excuse me, may I borrow your pen for a few minutes?) and 2) you can create wonderful half-tone (gray) effects because ballpoints allow you to vary the pressure and get a lighter line. I show some examples on the journal page here.

When we came back from lunch, a huge pink grasshopper had wandered into the classroom. We photographed it, and later I drew it onto this journal page.

During the afternoon session, the students found subjects to draw from my tray of sketching goodies collected on the beach the day before, and bent to the task of sketching them in their journals. Here's the page Jocelyn created in her journal, adding color later.

By the time class was over for the afternoon, we were all full of new ideas ~ myself included (I nearly always learn from my students) and ready to explore and find more fodder for our journals. An opportunity presented itself quite soon.

On the terraza of their cabina Marilyn discovered a big ivory-colored frog. She and Jocelyn called us down to see and photograph it, and when the frog jumped onto their door frame it began to turn from ivory to tan. A chameleon! Later, on a white table, it turned back to white again, then leaped off into the shrubbery to go about its business.

We finally found its name, Hyla rosenbergi, or the Gladiator Tree Frog, in one of the lodge's reference books. But I prefer to call it Madelin's Frog (see my journal page).

Tomorrow's class is about expressive journal writing, poetry, haiku, and (ahem) calligraphy. See you then.

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