negative space

I could understand what he was saying, but it didn’t come naturally to me. I had to be reminded to look for it. To see the stuff that’s there but not there.

-Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I’m Home


We are looking at the space between and around the subject – we are looking at negative space. After I have given the directions I come around and remind  each student what we are doing.  Some students find themselves frustrated and others take to the focus easily. That’s just the way it plays out. And though a few insist that they don’t exactly have it down, they all come through with beautiful completed works.

Here are a few examples:


The Tim Burton Leaf by Robert


Angel Hair by Joshua


Fall by Angie


Tales of Two Cats by JT


Popay works on his drawing


The Stand Out by Popay


Bella is completely focused.






Aloe Vera by Kayla

Kayla (above) a Drawing 1 student, completed both in class and home work and still worked on an extra drawing. She went outside and after seeing what she was doing I handed her a box of pastels with not much direction on how to use them. I just thought she should have fun and experiment – she did.

Below are Drawing 2 students. They experiment with different media, though still focus on negative space.





Ma is a Japanese word which can be roughly translated as gap, space, pause or the space between two structural parts.

IMG_5028 IMG_5029



Into the last week of school. Spring semester flew.

Students complete the first charcoal study, a lesson on value. Overall they do a fine job. They work off of color fabrics, and learn to distinguish lightness and darkness in a design. I let the assignment continue one day longer than scheduled, because the majority want another day. Consequently there’s no time for critique.

We’ll have a final class critique next week and it will include discussion on these works along with the final assignment. The last lesson of the semester is a still life using a light source…continued looking at value but also working more intently with creating illusion of depth.

Here are a few works, in process and in completion. Note the surface of the work. Charcoal allows emphasizing lights and darks and creation of rich surface. Students are experiencing new freedom and expression.





drawing a line, playing the edge

“Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.” GKC

Oh…I couldn’t help using that quote. The political climate is absurd these days. Are we losing our minds? Enough of that.

…back to drawing, and the classroom, where we’re developing our minds. We play with edges, but not such crazy ones. It’s a new semester, a new group of students, first assignment, and a new batch of contour studies. Today we hold our first class critique.

For the assignment, students were asked to look closely at the subject matter and draw only what they see, using inner and outer contour line. It’s a challenge. Critique goes the full 2.5 hours. Everyone has a chance to speak and share their work.  Some students are clearly more at ease with the critiquing process than others. Understandable. A few are consistently generous with their thoughtful commentary. Experience.

The classroom is really a microcosm of the macrocosm.  Learning to look closely is a skill worth developing. Learning to see clearly is a valuable asset.

Here are a few of the classes favorites.

Alexis, Corn on the Cob


Ben, Pine-cone, top view


Sergio, Pine-cone, profil


Diana, Cabbage and Bell-pepper


An eloquent beginning to a new semester.  Everyone has a bit more experience than they came in with, and hopefully everyone has a bit more confidence as well.

Now…to getting these spot lights fixed… so we can see the whole picture more clearly.

wanted for messing with charcoal and pastel

The semester is unusual in that I only have 4 female students in the class.  What’s more unusual, none of them are present at the start of critique, this week. Eventually one of the women does show up. Better late than never.
In the meantime, we have fun with the class photo.  We create a line up. The only thing these men are guilty of, is drawing with charcoal and pastel.

Critique is good. Everyone appreciates the finished drawings….they’re strong compositions. We discuss the challenge of the material, that everyone experiences. We discuss the variety of the values, and the surface of the drawing. We talk about how realistic something appears in terms of the cloth, and we talk about space, layers, and edges.
I’ve discussed this assignment before (11/30.2009). We’re in the midst of working with value. It’s the first real charcoal drawing many of the Drawing 1 students have ever worked on (keep this in mind when you see their work below). One advanced student works in color, with pastels. They complete a value scale right before starting the still life. They know by the time the value scale is finished , elbow grease will be required, from this point forward. Also necessary and in development, is another form of patience.  It seems they just learned to control the marker, and now they have to let that go…because charcoal…has it’s own very unique challenges, in terms of trying to control it.  It goes everywhere.

I always notice the class, in general, becomes more quiet with the charcoal studies.

Davin and Misty



In all honesty, I find it very hard to be in the classroom teaching, on some days.  I want to be drawing too…that’s what watching the students learn this particular medium especially, does to me.






Davin, Drawing 2

The end of semester is quickly approaching. One more drawing, and one more critique.

the first bit, more pieces to come

Today I offer the first glimpse of a creative collaboration that I am excited to be writing about. Involved are three other artists. Here begins the first formulations of what will be a future art exhibition.

The group of four has come together for specific reasons, most important is that we want to work together. Working together is a bit more involved than merely showing together in an art exhibit. It includes a systematic series of actions directed to some end. What is the end? Simply put, it’s the creative experience itself.

Certain criteria underlies the procedure of coming together. The artists are mature in their work, with a certain level of ambition still very palpable in their art. Not one  of us can call ourselves an “emerging” artist anymore. There’s experience present, singularly and collectively. And though there hasn’t been a “merging” within every arena wanted, everyone’s on it, in their own way, be sure of this.  Each has an MFA. With this footing, a level of tenacity and self-awareness is implied. Each person can draw, though each of us handles the ability in a very different manner. Everyone relates to the education process as a student, and as a teacher. And each person’s sensibility stands out as unique and precise. You see the individuals hand in the individuals works. There’s unmistakable presence of time, be it fast and quick or slow and steady. And evolution is a constant.

The evening’s conversation bounces around, as we share a meal. Discussion involves how we proceed in making art.  Process will be a part of the exhibition so this discussion is important.  How does one begin a work of  art? Is end result in mind? I listen to each response, there’s overlap in conversation, excitement, agreement, curiosity. I hear how different everyone is, in some external sort of way.  I do note a more internal form of connection as well.

Conversation continues. What do you listen to while in studio? This one element is important to everyone, so much so we discuss it at various points in the evening. Someone asks if the impetus to create is retinal or cerebral? Interesting choice of descriptive words. It’s retinal, they’re in agreement. I pause to consider. I can’t answer easily. Intuition, instinct, a strong understanding of the elements of design, confidence in the process, materials, adventures, age, personal interests…we’re talking about all of it. One spouse contributes a comment that gets our attention. It appears to me, you all solve problems. One person voices appreciation.  We all agree with the observation.

Here it is, in a nutshell. We’re working together, yes. There are four of us. We may have a venue and a general time line.  The whole picture isn’t clear…yet….but we do see it happening. It’s retinal. What do we call the exhibition? It’s important that we get this. It’ll determine various specifics.

This evening we’ve each brought along something. Some thing we work with; tool, material, a bit of process stuff. The symbol is a jumping point to help formulate a working title. I enjoy the discovery, the sharing. We throw words around. Out comes Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary , and I begin to read.

Process – operation.  PROCESS. PROCEDURE. PROCEEDING.   Apply to something that goes on or takes place.
A PROCESS is a series of progressive and interdependent steps by which an end is attained.
PROCEDURE usually implies a formal or set order of doing a thing, a method of conducting affairs.
PROCEEDING applies to what goes on or takes place…

“That’s it! I like that!”  One person calls out. Though I’ve not finished reading the whole thing, with similar excitement, everyone agrees. The working title of our project becomes What Goes On and What Takes Place.

Here, you have the Why. I’ll fill you in on the Who these other artists are and the Where, and When the exhibition will take place, and a few other important details.  Bit by bit, time will reveal.  After all, the creative experience, is what it’s all about. This collaboration is a building of trust in the process, as we each continue to make art.

Stay tuned, more to come!

P.S. this is way better than any reality show.
Hmmmm… what if….

drawing directly from nature

Spring has rolled in.  Landscape drawing in Phoenix, this is the time of the year to do it. Students are still looking…closer than ever.

The assignment uses everything the class has learned thus far…the added lesson, creating depth. Students learn to create the illusion of spatial depth in a drawing. They realize foreground, middle ground and background. They learn to distinguish and draw shapes that appear closer and others that appear further away.

Landscape is complex subject matter no doubt, especially when texture is being emphasized.  I notice all the various ways students resolve the texture of their subject matter, in their drawing.  I refer to it as mark making, and it can be beautiful, expressive, and exciting. The finished work will be more dense than any drawing completed so far.

They won’t include in their composition everything they can see. How much should they include? Twelve hours is the time allotted  in class, to complete this assignment. A few students will make more time.  I suggest they put into the composition as much information so as to make the drawing unique, interesting and so it feels complete. One can’t include everything…pick and choose… the viewers eyes should move about the composition easily, all lines and marks should convey some information.

Today’s progress….








Davin, Drawing II




















Weather held out, and so did the class.


What do drawings mean to me? I really don’t know. The activity absorbs me. I forget everything else in a way that I don’t think happens with any other activity… John Berger

Drawing class…critique day.  Assignment was challenging.  I knew it would be, they knew it would be.  We jumped in any way. And then they really realized the challenge. No turning back. All about the looking. To look at and draw a complex structure is not easy. To look at and decipher texture requires attention. Students learn to stay focused in a much more intense manner than previously.

I will say…this group has appeared to be very focused, in general.  So much so that I have decided to share photos of the process instead of the end result. You can see how much they’re looking and how much they’re drawing.












For the record…end results are impressive.  I know it and they know it.  Class ended on a high note.
Spring break…looking won’t stop though…they’ve learned to see at a different level at this point…