Man who wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details. – Heraclitus
The assignment focuses on natural objects with complex (and beautiful) structure and texture. The students set up a composition balancing positive and negative space, using sea shells and insects – either or both.
Careful observation is key. I suggest they use a magnifying glass. I ask they consider the quality of the lines they use. What sort of lines represent structure? What sort of line represent texture? By now they want to have a larger selection of fine(r) markers.
A couple of students have a particularly challenging time and I suggest short breaks for them. The weather is so nice now, walking or moving will help to settle them.
Here are fine examples of the drawings. Note composition, quality of line and the attention to detail.
Close up and personal by Virginia
Bug Portrait by Marco
Shell Game by Kat
Bug and Shells by Is SaK
Sally Sells Seashells by the Seashore by Angela
The Starry Fish by Vince Van D’oh! by Virgil
Sea Dreams by Anita
Equanimity by Amareli
Deux Ex Machina by Anthony
Three Stooges by Adonis
Advanced students use scratchboard. Here is one example by Victoria – still in progress.
Victoria’s shells on scratchboard (in progress)
Ma is a Japanese word which roughly translates to gap, space, pause or the space between two structural parts.
This assignment asks the student to focus on the negative space, the space that surrounds an object (or the subject), the space in between things. I point out, in the still life, the area which they will be focusing on. It’s sort of the opposite of how we normally see, I explain. In the process, should you find yourself drawing the positive space (the foliage, in this case) simply stop, refocus and continue. We are training the brain to work a little differently.
Once they understand what they are doing, they have so much more to see and respond to. Negative space helps to define the boundaries of positive space and brings balance to a composition. It also gives the eye a place to rest.
All of the drawings are strong graphic compositions. The contrast allows for a particularly type of delicacy and boldness to take place at the same time. In general the class enjoys the study. In some cases students are so immersed in the work, I have to remind them to take a break.
There is something great about teaching this particular assignment because as soon as the students grasp the concept, they quickly begin to use it and consequently experience things around them very differently.
Anne’s Cactus Skeleton
Trenary’s Weeds and Clover
Clay’s Leaves and Berries
Drawing 2 students work with color and have a little bit more freedom with how they approach the study.
Susan’s Ironed Weed
Cassidy’s Fall Leaves
New semester. New group. After the first day of drawing, one student notes the work is like meditating. It is, I respond. I organize my drawing class like I might organize a Yoga class, it’s an excellent observation.
I really, really want to get this, another student tells me. You will, have patience. But I want to get it now! I have to smile – You’re ambitious, I say.
A returning student tells me quietly, I am so glad to be back in your class. Life is so busy, I just want to slow down. Welcome back, you know you’re in the right place then Cassidy.
It takes this group 2 days (6 hours) to complete this first assignments in careful and slow observation of a complex – natural object. They are nervous to start working with marker As they get going, they do just fine.
Below are some examples of their completed drawing. A few of these students have never drawn before and a few are experienced. I won’t say who is who. I suspect it will be a very good semester.
Terry’s Bell Pepper
Drawing 2 ↓
Cassidy’s detail drawing of a Magnolia Seed Pod
Charles’ Stem and Seeds
Discipline in art is a fundamental struggle to understand oneself, as much as to understand what one is drawing. Henry Moore
We have lots of conversation this semester. We talk about art, looking, seeing, putting down what one sees, and focus. We discuss art as discipline, as practice.
Look closely, work carefully. Look closely, draw slowly. Are you drawing what you see? Look. Look. Look again. See.
This last critique includes final charcoal studies. The group stays focused with this medium. They work to make the surface of their drawing look smooth and rich. They consider the shape and material of objects, dark darks, light lights, values in between, edges, space and illusion of depth.
Have a good break – you all deserve it!
Pedro’s pattern work.
Jorge’s skull drawing.
Leah’s skull drawing.
Aimee and Susan
Aimee’s wine glass.
Renee’s bottle tops.
Pedro and Charles
Charles’ containers and candlestick
Giovanni’s metal watering can.
Below is an extra charcoal drawing Susan worked on. Susan doesn’t need any extra credit, she’s got 5 extra credit drawings in the queue – but just in case.
Here are a few works from yesterday’s critique. The examples include in-class and homework assignments. Note the lines that make up the structure and then note the lines that make up the texture. Students use a magnifying glass to get a clear sense of the surface on shells and other natural objects. They also have to pay attention to the negative space.
kayla in process
JT in process
J.T. shared with the class that he spent a good amount of time setting up his composition before he ever got to putting down a mark on his paper.
J.T.’s Not Four Shells
J.T.’s – Land and Sea
Cassidy’s – Land and Sea
This last photo below is a Drawing 2 student working on scratchboard. Because Adriana worked with me last Spring, I knew she was looking forward to this assignment. Her composition appeared one black, white or silver shape at a time She understands and trusts working organically.
Her work brought up interesting conversation, eventually leading to comments about the nature of empathy.
Adriana’s – Laura
This is such a valuable assignment. It’s a good amount of work for the willing student. Vicki, one of the Drawing 1 students commented on how much she is seeing. There is so much detail, she says with eyes wide open. She chooses and arranges these 2 shapes, a melon leaf and a bay leaf. They grow in her yard, she thought she was fairly familiar with them. Now with her careful observation (that includes a very good magnifying glass) she comments on the fuzzy stuff, the hair-like edge of the melon leaf. She’s aware of so much more. And she draws it …
….on a side note…
I want to share a work I commissioned from a student who worked with me over a year ago. Kimberly dropped into class last Spring to show me how her scratchboard work was evolving. She was completing a series of small pet drawings. I was so impressed by her developing skill that I asked if she could draw my cat. Over the summer she drew Issa.
Kimberly – Portrait of Issa
The permanence of ink encourages one to “go for it,” to try to put the line right where it should be… continued attempts to place lines accurately build the eye-hand coordination necessary for sketching. Paul Laseau
New semester. New series of line drawings. You’ll recognize my usual subject-matter, the pine cone. This shape has everything I need to challenge my students – complexity and elegance. You’ll also remember the students work in marker. They use Sharpie’s and Micro Pen’s.
Homework is a complex natural fruit or vegetable of their choice. Note, the charcoal study is a drawing 2 student. Only those that have gone one round with me begin with charcoal. They pick up right where they left off. Here are some top picks from today’s critique.
Notice how lines flow…
Pinecone by Papay
Broken Pinecone by Cassidy
Morning Stretch by Mariah
Pinecone 1 by Kayla
Pinecone by JT
Pinecone 2 by Kayla
Flittering Pine by Robert
Artichoke Flower by Alexa, Charcoal and Pastel (Drawing 2)
Kiwi by Robert
Jalapeno and Tomato by Angelica
Mushroom and Cabbage by Kayla
We had a strong downpour of rain this morning, it’s a sure sign – something’s been seeded.
We don’t need shading or even perspective and we can understand the image. It’s all in the placement of the lines of the work; the pressure and direction of the line.
Adriana: I never thought of drawing a pine cone.
Me: Did you enjoy it?
Adriana: Yeah, I did.
Me: Do you like the end result?
Adriana: I’m really proud of it. I didn’t know I could do that.
In-class subject-matter: Pinecone
Focus: Inner and Outer contour – which basically means they are working with the design element of line. A fluid, simple line is arrived by careful observation and careful putting down what one sees.
Out of class: complex natural object of their choosing.
I Got The Pinecone Blues by Adriana
Bell Pepper and Onion by Adriana
Tilted by Alyssa
Jalapeno by Alexssa
Pinecone by Kyle
Curvy Cone by Katie
InnerCone by Jesus
Orange by Lela
Below: Drawing 2 students.
They have to stay connected to line. But they get to pick their subject-matter and drawing medium. I’m pleasantly surprised when they each choose to work with charcoal and pastel. All of them have studied with me before, basically they pick up where they left off.
Artichoke Flower by Alejandra
Gone With The Wind, by Manny
Is the drawing believable? Carefully observed? Do lines flow? Does your eye move through the composition?
We take a 15 minute break mid-class and usually the class goes out to the courtyard. This time I notice many return to the drawings and take a closer look at each others work. Already their understanding has expanded.
…. clearly we are off to a good start …