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, March 10, 2008

The First Day of the Nature Sketching Workshop

Off to a good start! I suspected I would be too tired to write about the latest workshop (Nature and Landscape Sketching Techniques) on the workshop days, and I was right. Those workshops take a lot of energy. I'm on my feet the entire time, either imparting information to the whole class or going around to help or check the progess of individual students. I did sit down a couple of times to work on a demo, I guess. Still, it takes a lot of energy.

So here it is Monday, and I'll take the workshop days in order, Saturday first. Work shown here is by permission of the artists. Be sure to click for a larger view!

I arrived half an hour early at my classroom, and since this workshop is sponsored jointly by the local North Mountain Park Nature Center and Ashland Parks and Recreation, the classroom is a nicely appointed room in a city building, with carpet, sink and microwave, blackboards, chairs and tables.

Actually, it's more accurate to say it would have been, but when I arrived that room was filling with another group ~ it had gotten double-booked! Oops! Well, it was quickstep with help from a capable man named Don from the other workshop. We both were entitled to use the room, but they'd gotten there first, so they helped me set up in another room.

By 9am, right on schedule, my students arrived to find their workshop (surprise!) set up in the gym next to the classroom. All things considered, it was okay except for a bit of an echo, and the lighting was excellent.

I watched them come in with great interest, and when the last one appeared (seven students in all ~ nine signed up, but two didn't show and one woman started to feel ill by noon and had to leave) I was delighted with the variety: one man, five women, and a teenage girl. And when they got settled in and introduced themselves, I discovered that I had mostly people who were interested in being able to draw accurately, but only a couple of them had any previous experience, and that was apparently some time ago, from what I understand. Perfect.

At each seat I had placed the workbook Nature Sketching Techniques , a mechanical pencil with 2B lead, a kneaded eraser, a click-eraser, and a tortillon. The workbook has several extra pages in the back, heavy paper suitable for lots of drawing and erasing action.

We began with the right-brain exercises, then progressed to drawing oak leaves. They were doing quite nicely, although a couple of the students were pretty hard on themselves. So I compared art-creating skills to violin-playing skills. Would you expect to play a violin concerto perfectly the first time you picked up a violin? Of course not, and you'd not only NOT produce a recognizable melody, but the sound would most likely resemble the squawks of an angry chicken. So there's no reason to expect you should be an accomplished artist if you haven't been drawing lately (or ever).

I was very pleased with their leaf drawings. Oak leaves aren't an easy subject. But if I were to give the students an easy subject they wouldn't realize they can do much, much more difficult subjects from the beginning once they understand how the right brain works.

There are some typical problem areas when learning to sketch accurately ~ you must draw lightly (this can be difficult!), with few "try" lines (sketchy lines) ~some are okay, but will need erasing if you want the drawing to look good. And of course the whole process is challenging because you are using a multitude of techniques you have just learned to get the lines in the right place. It's not a snap, but it is definitely doable! Sometimes people with "some art experience" have a harder time than newbies because they may have to unlearn some techniques that are more appropriate to non-realistic art.

When the students had gotten good likeness of their oak leaves (much to their surprise), we developed some dove templates ~ if you want to know what that's about, you'd best take the class. It requires explaining plus a bit of guidance for best results.

With a nice chunk of time left before lunch, I let each student select an object to sketch from a box of treasures I had brought, and they began to apply all they had learned during the morning.

I'm showing their results here, and keep in mind that these are not people who sketch or draw on a regular basis. I think they did a terrific job, and all of them can be pleased with their results.

After lunch, we worked on shading techniques, how to make eyes, and a few other special techniques I show my students which I invented and which aren't in the workbooks. Then they practiced some smudging and erasing techniques in preparation for the final sketching subject for the day, a turkey feather.

A turkey feather is a perfect model for ending this class since it really stretches the students, but they can, at the same time, produce an end result which seems impossible in the beginning but which looks really good when they're finished.

I wish I could run the classes a half hour longer, because the students seldom finish their feathers in the hour alotted for that project. But running an extra half hour has proved to be a real drain on students, especially ones past middle age (like myself), because this is an intense class with the brain working at full speed learning myriad new things, and the body trying to keep up with the new techniques, as mentioned above.

Still, I made sure they had done at least part of each area of the feather, and the end results, although not quite finished, were extraordinarily good. We critiqued, admired the artwork, and they were justly proud of their efforts. Everyone left tired but exhiliarated, pleased with their prowess, and I cleaned up the room and went home happy. Great class.

This morning, I was delighted to welcome a student from my Costa Rica Sketch/Journaling Workshop to my studio! Jocelyn Curry was in the area visiting friends, and she came by with her Costa Rica journal which she had worked on during the workshop.

She has given me permission to show you the entire journal, on which she had done a great deal of work since February. While she was here, I photographed it for the blog. Here's the cover, which I'll run again with the rest of the journal, when I put it up AFTER I finish reporting on the first two days of this workshop.

More later


Anonymous said...

Once again, I am impressed with your teaching skills. The first days student results look really great. Looking forward to succeeding entries.

Kirk Whiteside

Irene Brady said...

Hi Kirk,
Yes, they're doing VERY nicely! I hope you like the second day's progress as well. I'm behind on answering comments, so i'll try to catch up today or tomorrow.
Stay tuned.

Leslie said...

It looks as if you and they had a great time! I enjoyed today's entry- thank you for posting it!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I came across your blog and think it's just wonderful. The nature, the drawings and the travels and your writing - everything about it is inspirational. Thank you for this blog and for pointing out the everday miracles we mostly don't even notice.

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