a portrait study and a landscape

You know how you feel somebody looking at you, and you turn, and somebody actually is? It’s the same at an art gallery. You’re looking at one portrait, turn around, and there is a work of art directly behind you. Because it’s all energy. Every single thing has energy. – Marina Abramovic


Students go outside to draw landscape for this last marker assignment. We have rain on and off for the couple of weeks we are out there. The outdoor drawing teaches many things, most especially focus. Some students like the experience, others do not.

Their final homework for the semester is a self-portrait. I know they have all the skills necessary to complete one. And they have freedom to use materials of their choice.  It’s really a challenge most everyone enjoys. People share humorous things, people share personal things. They all express something – it’s what a portrait allows.

Here are some works from today’s critique:


Kiria – Stressed Out


Mary – Me


Casey – Portrait 2015


Ricardo – Nothing Stays the Same


Gwynne – Missing Person


Daniela – Danii


Alfredo – Self Portrait


Henry – A Face Only a Mother Could Love


Andrea – Self Portrait


Susan – Dan (silver point)


Kiria – Leafy Embrace

IMG_8074 7.11.40 AM

Gwynne – Aloe


Casey – Little Tree


Andrea – Aloe

among other drawing things…a value study

Time to tell you a bit about my drawing classes this semester. I have a generally good group of students, who really want to learn. They follow directions, work carefully, and observe closely, and they’re curious. I don’t hear many complaints out of them, despite the various challenges they experience. We’re at the end of the semester at this point, and they are so ready to be creative. But this is still the beginning stage for most of the students. They’re still developing important skills that they can later use for their more creative endeavors. They’re very patient, I have been impressed.

Today we held critique. In critiquing work, we discuss the strength and weakness of each completed drawing. Everybody gets a turn. It’s positive, respectful and includes the understanding that everyone is learning. It’s based on specific criteria that everyone is aware of. In the beginning it can be nerve wrecking, eventually it becomes easier, and even fun. My hope is that the students develop confidence and a sense of trust, in themselves and in their peers, and in the learning process itself.

The assignment is the first full still life using charcoal. Drawing 1 students use soft charcoal (and some conte) and though I ask them to focus on local value, they can’t help but pick up on the value created by the light source. Drawing 2 and 3 students use mixed media of their choice like soft pastel, oil pastel  and graphite.  If they have studied with me before and I know their skill level they have some freedom and can play with creativity.

I like the end results of all the assignments we go through…but this one…is visually the richest and strongest in general composition. The clear contrast between dark and light areas, the variety of values in between, the shapes, the patterns, the movement, and the materials make it so.

As each student moves through the critique I always ask him or her, to pick out the strongest work, in their opinion.  They’re asked to comment on why they are attracted to the drawing. Many times it’s a challenge for them to pick one, most point out several.
Here are a few of todays class picks…

Amelec, Drawing 1, Charcoal

Maya, Drawing 1, Charcoal

Davin, Drawing 1, Charcoal

Virginia, Drawing 1, Charcoal

McKenzie, Drawing 2, Graphite

Charles, Drawing 2, Pastel