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!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nature Sketching Basics Workshop ~ 1-10&11-09

I finally got smart and started taping up a welcome sign to the entry of whatever building I'm giving my workshops in. It's eye-opening how many students have mentioned being glad to see the sign! It's printed out on my computer then slipped into a plastic page protector. I fasten it to the door with tape which has one end folded over to make a tab. When I take the sign down I fold over and press the sticky part to the plastic envelope, so that the next time I want to use it I only have to pull up the tab, the sticky area comes up, and I have an instant sign hanger. Click on the image to see a bigger version

While I was photographing that welcome sign, I also took a snapshot of my Basic Sketching Workshop gear in front of the building. The wheeled pack in front is my Drinks Caddy. It has a pullout handle, and contains my electric teapot, instant coffee, teabags of all kinds, hot/cold paper cups, and creamer. It gets quite a bit of use in some classes, in others it is barely used ~ except by me! At least, now that I provide the opportunity for drinks, I don't have to feel guilty about sipping hot coffee in front of them.

The long-handled caddy with the two plastic boxes contains my display books, supplies, and workbooks. The black and white boxes carry things to sketch ~ in this case, weathered sticks and seashells. I try to provide a good selection so students can sketch something that really pleases them. It usually requires two trips to the car to carry everything.

The Drinks Caddy remains the same from class to class, but for other classes, different things end up in the plastic boxes and I bring different things to sketch. I'm trying to compartmentalize all the classes so that I can just pick up a set of containers filled with everything I need for the class at hand.

On January 10 I had a REALLY small class. I need to figure out just why that is. I think I discussed this in a previous blog ~ maybe I'm just offering so many classes that I'm competing with myself in this area's small population, especially during this economic slump. Well, no matter, I love teaching so I took the class on anyway with just three students, Valerie, Randy, and Jacob, who is ten and homeschooled.

I mention the homeschool part because I don't think I would have accepted someone so young except for that. Homeschooled kids tend to be better behaved and interact better with adults than their public school counterparts. And they tend to have longer attention spans. I KNOW that is a generalization, and there are exceptions, but it fits my experiences so I'm happy to go with it. In Jacob's case, it was well founded. My lower limit is officially twelve.

Jacob turned out to have a great sense of humor, and we all enjoyed working alongside him. He got his first experience with tortillons (blending stumps used for shading pencil) during the first day's class, and was so intrigued that he went home and created a number of large ones out of different materials so he could experiment with what works best. You can see his assortment on the table in front of him here.

In case you are a bit puzzled at Jacob's headgear, that is his invention: an Airbag for Pedestrians created from a grocery bag, which he demonstrated during a break. Never a dull moment!

Day 1
As usual, the students got right to work ~ here's Valerie's sea shell and Randy working on a leaf. Our first critique illuminated what worked successfully and what could be done to improve the drawings. Critiques make useful breaks, giving students a chance to stretch and refresh at the "drinks bar."
Randy turned out a particularly nice shell, using many of the techniques we had just learned about shading and reflected light.

Our final project for the day was to draw a wild turkey feather, and the students turned out some nice drawings. Here's Jacob at work on his.

Day 2

We turned to landscape basics to give the students the confidence they need to go outside on their own landscape sketching trips.

They practiced contour drawing in the workbook, working from a redrock photo, to give them a handle on how to tackle an outdoors scene, which can intimidate even seasoned landscape artists. Then they drew common landscape items -- dead sticks, shrubbery, foliage, and tree forms.

With such a small class, I didn't want to hang over their shoulders, so while they worked on their landscapes I sketched them at work, using a modified contour drawing technique in ballpoint pen.

Valerie took this picture of me sketching, and here's what they looked like from my viewpoint, hard at work. I admit to crowding them elbow to elbow for the picture. In actuality, they had a bit more space for working.

They were all working on their final landscapes when I drew this.

Here Valerie is at hard work on her landscape, and below are the landscapes they all produced. Valerie did the redrocks, Jacob produced the waterfall, and Randy drew the rocky canyon. As you can see, they came a very long way for beginners, and I am very proud of them all.

Next weekend is my Nature Illustration Techniques class, but so far I only have three sign-ups for that class, too. But even if the numbers don't reach five for this one, I think I will hold it anyway, even at that low enrollment, since I want to run the new material in the reworked curriculum past some students.

Reworking two classes at once got confusing even to me, and last time I blogged I was thinking my cattail session was for basic students, but it's actually for the intermediates and I am eager to try it out. I think they'll love it. Cattails are WAY cool to sketch.

In the meantime, I'm now working on the Watercolor Pencil Painting class revisions. It is shaping up nicely, and I've created some new materials for the workbooks. This page from one of my Costa Rica journals is in the workbooks, to serve as inspiration for those trying out the watercolor pencils. It's one of my favorite journal pages.

I'm hoping to get a good signup for the February 7-8 class ~ several have signed up already, so perhaps it will grow a bit larger.

Today was the inauguration, and I watched it with a great deal of interest. What a marvelous panoply (had to look up the spelling on that one!)! I was positively entranced.

Enough! Back to work on the watercolor pencil class workbook. I have to get the .pdf to my brother's printing company in time for him to print the workbooks up and FedEx them to me before the class begins, and I haven't finished the second day's workbook yet!

I'd love some feedback if you have a minute. Are these entries getting too repetitive and boring? I love to showcase my students' work, but if there is something more I can write about that you want to know about, let me know.

How about something on dealing with students with Altzheimers?



Spinneretta said...

Well I found it interesting- I like to see what you do in your classes- and if only they were online classes!
I had to laugh at the pedestrian airbag- that is totally something my 9 year old homeschooled son would dream up *grin*. we've had all kinds of weird inventions ;)

tlwest said...

as I said before I wish I was closer. The January 10 class may have been too close to the holidays and in the middle of people trying to get settled back into routines of school and job paying holiday bills? or may be it was too cold? Interesting classes I can see a direct result of taking your class- more confidence. You showed them how and eliminated the fear of drawing:)

Renie said...

I'm sure I answered this a couple of days ago, but I don't see the post! Sorry! What I said was: I'm trying to get it together to teach some online classes. I've signed up for a couple to see how it's done, so maybe someday I'll be offering them to all and sundry. Come and get it!

Jacob was such fun in the class. It's always chancy with such a young one, but he really pulled it off with class.

Hmmm, E.A., thanks for the input on small classes. I'll put that in my list of things to reconsider.

Valerie, who did the redrock drawings, lives in redrock country part of the year. I think she'll be a lot more likely to try sketching them now that she's gotten her feet wet with a few red rocks. I thought that was really smart of her.

Quilt knit said...

Irene! Wish I lived closer too! I had thought by this time in my life. every other weekend or three - I would be jump-seating to a workshop across the country. Well, 9-11 scorched that! How much would you charge for a workbook. The watercolor pencil journal looks great. One can never practice water Color- or pencils to much.
I am so glad you had Jacob in the class. I was one of those kids - always told too little - too young. Though I do not think I would take one younger either. I remember I was very upset with my drawing in first grade. I felt good about some of my coloring in second and third. Fourth grade I was enlightened to pressing harder on crayons. (My parents had repeatedly punished me for pressing to hard. Said I broke the crayons and had dirty colors - too dark to see.--You have to draw lightly.)
Well, I was looking for the sky and the homemade tortillions. I love that air bag for pedestrians-- My oldest could have used it on the first snow day - here in Boston-- He fell in the snow bank. Thank goodness for Nature's air bag.
One time I was so made at both of my boys! I threatened to beat them to death- I had an empty 2 liter coke bottle, I pulled it high in the air- a came down with it on his butt. His little brother was screaming. Then the oldest turned to face me--- That doesn't hurt!!! My youngest comes through the Hall way behind me with a coke bottle for battle. They take on each and me for a couple of minutes I am in the floor laughing at them.

Mine always had more fun with the Wrappings than the toys. Mine had personal swimming pools out of Yard garbage sacks- They even built a rim so they could jump in.

Oh, my Jacob and Irene and Randy and Valerie, what wonderful days you have given back to me.

I was a Good MOM!

One works for the Army-Captain, the other for Apple Business.

Have a great one.


Renie said...

LOVED hearing about your experiences. Sounds like you WERE a good mom. It is a demanding task, requiring many teaching skills -- often that is underestimated.

I don't usually sell the workbooks since they are designed to use along with verbal instruction. However, I might be persuaded if you write to me about it offline. That's not a guarantee, though.

Thanks for getting in touch. You (and the other seekers) are the reason I write these blogs.


p.s. hindsight...your parents should have just instructed you to hold the crayons closer to the tip, then press as hard as you want!

Mary McAndrew said...

Hi Irene,
just dropping by at a very late hour...I hope you continue just the way you do, as a teacher I like to read your thoughts and experiences. And I think it's a good idea to teach even if it's a small class, keep the momentum going and test out your teaching ideas. I have a teacher coming to Buffalo in May from the Midwest for my two day workshop, if she's the only one (I don't' think this will be the case!) I'll still teach it, I guaranteed her this. And I can see how it goes at the nature center I want to teach it at.
keep up the great posting!

Anonymous said...

Hi Irene,

I really enjoyed reading about your class. I've never been to a class like that - I was in art-based higher education for 4 years, then topped it up with life drawing for a while, but I do sometimes wonder what else I could pick up from a class like this.

A class of 3 sounds quite fun actually. I've done a bit of IT training and I much preferred it with smaller numbers, although I wasn't getting paid per head!

They seem to have produced some lovely work anyway - well done!

Looking forward to seeing more of the same. Well, similar anyway. :)

Renie said...

I feel the same way about the small classes. I much prefer to try out new ideas on a small class -- there's more chance you can fix something on the spot if it doesn't work because you have fewer students needing your attention.
Besides, even if I only make $150 for a weekend, that's probably more than I would have made sitting at home!

Rachel, taking workshops is really useful for recharging, even if you already know the material. Sometimes you can get a new slant on something you felt you were totally acquainted with. I've seen this happen repeatedly.

I'm curious -- what did you cover when you were teaching IT?

Thanks to both of you for the input on the content of the blog. I really needed the feedback.

Hugs to you both,

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