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!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

To Skull or Not To Skull

I'd like to ask you a question, because I need an unbiased opinion.

For the last two weeks I've been putting together the first e-workbook for my workshop series, Nature Sketching Basics, and I pretty much finished it yesterday, in PDF form. I'm letting it rest for a few days before I put it up online, so that I can check it again with slightly fresher eyes.

My question isn't about that one, though. It's about the second ebook in the series, Nature Sketching Details, which I'm now working on.

Here's my dilemma. When I give my workshops, I provide all the goodies: paper to work on, pencils, erasers, tortillons (stumps for blending/shading), watercolor pencils, waterbrushes, etc. And I also provide things to sketch: seashells, leaves, acorns, pine cones, gnarly sticks, turkey feathers, bones, etc.

But if I'm not teaching the workshop, but just putting forth the workbooks, I can't supply these things. I can take it on faith that people who download the e-workbooks will manage to cobble together adequate tools to work with, but some of them may not have seashells or feathers and such to draw.

So I've been photographing shells and leaves and other goodies to give them something to draw if they don't have the suggested items on hand. I had plenty of stuff to photograph for the first e-workbook, but now that I'm working on the second, there's something I'd like to add.

I have never provided skulls to draw because I mostly have only one of each kind (I have LOTS), and I prefer that my students all draw the same thing so that when I make suggestions or give advice it is applicable to everyone in the room. But I can supply photos of some really great skulls IF, and here's the kicker, IF I can be fairly sure they won't freak too many people out.

What do you think? I have here a striped skunk skull and a gull (California gull, I think) skull, and I'd like your opinion as to whether or not you'd be freaked out by being asked to sketch a skull to complete your assignment.

Maybe I'm being too cautious, but I don't want to put anyone off, and I don't know if animal skulls are in that category. I personally think they're great drawing subjects. Could I get your opinion?

You don't have to say much, just whether or not you'd be caught off guard and seriously "put off" if you opened your newly downloaded e-workbook and discovered that you would be expected to draw and shade a skull in order to get through the assignment. Help???????

Please leave me a comment with your opinion. I'll wait.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

On Woodsheds and Wild Hairs

Just in case you were wondering about that crunched's a picture of the damage again, and following that is what we did about it. Well, what DAN did about it. I mostly watched and applauded. (click on pictures to see a bigger image)

The sun came out, so Daniel came up that very afternoon with his trusty chainsaw and worked some wonders. At first I had thought the whole tree was lying on the shed, but then I spotted the 30' tall Mother Tree "stump" standing nearby.

Dan said the winds on a nearby hillside had been clocked at 55mph. It wouldn't surprise me if gusts had funneled down my canyon at a pretty good clip, because the top 2/3 just broke off the Mother Trunk and sailed through the air to land 40' away on the shed. oh MY! (that's the Mother Stump in the middle of the tree picture at left.

Dan walked around it, pondering for a few minutes, grinning while I muttered about hoists and block-and-tackles and sky hooks and ladders and such. Then he started up the saw, walked all 6'3" of himself over to the front end of the tree (see the picture), reached up and started sawing off firewood-length chunks.

When he'd gotten the weight off the front end of the shed, he climbed up behind the shed to work on the back end of the trunk, sawing off the same length of chunks, although these will need splitting to get them into my woodstove.

As he cut, I rolled them around the shed and down to the level driveway so they can be split later on with a maul. Earlier, Dan's son and the nursery crew came up to split the wood I'm using this winter. I used to be able to do this, but it's more than I can handle these days and I'm happy to let the young bucks show off their six-packs. It was quite a scene last summer with four young men whacking away mightily at 18" rounds in the driveway!

In a short time, Daniel was taking aim at what remained on the roof, and soon only a 6' section lolled up there. From inside the shed, he craftily peeled aside the broken paneling, stuck the saw up through the roof and sawed it in half, then went back up on the roof and heaved the final piece off over the front end. WOW!

Now we could tug the madrone branch off my warehouse and survey the damage there. While Dan lifted from inside, I climbed up top with a hammer and whacked away at a bulge. We got most of the bent metal tucked back up under the ridge, and for our final number we tied a tarp on to keep rain off the roof. To my anthropomorphic mind, my warehouse now looks like a little old lady in a dust cap! I should paint a face on the doors....

As for the the repair, the slanty 2x4 across the front of the woodshed should be level, and you can see the broken/bent panels. But I can prop the front end back up, scab a couple of 2x4s in next to the broken ones and screw them together ~ then just nail on a new panel over the broken one (I may have to tear out broken/misshapen panel sections first).

It's definitely not as bad as it seemed, especially with a great guy like The Daniel who shows up like a white knight to rescue the female in distress.

1.) I mentioned in the last post that I was doing some Serious Thinking. Just a little over a year into Elderhood, now, I am having serious Pare-It-Down Urges. Consequently, I put out a notice on the BotanicalArt Forum that I am giving away a goodly part of my nature/art library. It's on a first-come, first-served basis, and I'm sending out a PDF with the available books to each person in turn who has replied to my offer. So far I've disposed of 28 books and I'm looking to find homes for many more. It's not a straight give-away, actually, since I'm charging $2/book (with a minimum of ten per person), but that pays for my labor in packing and lugging boxes to the PO, plus the shipping charges. Lots of the books are $15-$25 books, so it's a pretty good deal.
This is just the first wave of changes.

2.) In an earlier blog I was talking about how workshop registrations have fallen to almost nothing in this area, and I'm considering (well actually, I've just about decided) that this is no longer a feasible venue for me. But at the same time I've been getting requests for the workbooks I use in the workshops from people who can't afford or are too far away to attend the workshops. How can I let them down?

So this week I've been reworking my Nature Sketching Basics into a downloadable e-book to offer on my website. There's some work involved, because it has to be usable without my personal workshop guidance. So I have been checking my class plans which I refer to during the workshops and adding pages of instruction for what usually happens in the classes in addition to what appears in the workbooks.

I normally combine the beginning Right-brain instruction with Natural Landscape Basics, but I think I want to make the Landscape materials into a separate workbook. That one is going to take more time since I'll need to fill it out considerably so it can stand alone.

I nearly have the Nature Sketching Basics done and it looks as though it's going to be about 20 pages long (the original was 15). I'll convert it to a PDF, and it can be downloaded and used just like the workbooks.

So what should I charge for such an e-book? Would you pay $9.95? I'd love to get some feedback if you've taken the class, but especially if you haven't. I've been selling a similar e-book "How to Draw Raptors" for $9.95, and quite a few have sold so far, so maybe that would be doable???? Should it be more? Remember, it's an e-book!

There are other plans spinning about in my head as well. More about them later.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Adventures with Woodsheds

There was quite a to-do here around midnight last night... a humongous wind/rain storm blew in, which prompted a large (18" diameter!) Douglas fir snag to try to take cover in my woodshed.

Unfortunately, it attempted to enter through the roof.

What a shambles! Additionally, the errant snag knocked down a madrone tree branch, which punched a hole in the nearby roof of my little metal "warehouse" where I keep all my printed books (to sell). That's it on the left -- you can see the branch which punched the hole. Fortunately, it only leaked a tiny bit and didn't ruin any books. But I'll need to sling a tarp over the warehouse, and I will have a big job cleaning up the mess and repairing my wonderful woodshed which I built with my bare hands two years ago. Alas!

Here's a worse view.

My DF Daniel says he'll come up with a chainsaw when it quits raining -- but I think it will take a block and tackle to remove that LOG from the woodshed roof! I'll need his help getting the madrone branch off the warehouse without causing more damage, too. It's bigger than it looks.

But hey, at least the fir tree opted for the woodshed instead of the house (it's off to the right), which would have been highly catastrophic. So, in my usual optimistic way, I am dancing with joy that I have a crushed woodshed. ;^D (This tale oughtta give a few moderately depressed people a lift -- they can be happy that THEY don't have to remove logs from atop THEIR woodsheds!).

Here's what it looked like when it was new. It was kinda nice, wasn't it? It took me a couple of weeks to build, and it really was sturdy. The translucent panels in the center part made it bright and airy inside, but since they're brittle and not very strong, they contributed to a real casualty when the roof met the tree....

Ah well.....

On the arty side:

A lot of things are going on in my life. Most of them are invisible, which is to say my brain is working overtime with options. I will try to blog about some possibilities in the near future -- but at the moment, I don't have things figured out. Still, it's an exciting time, and I'm having fun playing with the "what ifs."

Here's a grab-bag of other entries...

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