bugs, seashells, skulls

This semester the majority of the students use a variety of Micro-pens. Note the line work in this assignment, some indicates structure while some indicates texture.

The subject matter is a natural and complex form. Students used to draw only shells. A few years ago I brought in bugs. This semester, thanks to the PC biology department, we have small animal skulls. The composition is to include 2-3 objects and students must balance out positive space with negative space.

While I would like each student to include 1 of each (bug, shell and skull) in their composition, I let them pick and choose. I’m not surprised some students don’t like the bugs. I’m very surprised others don’t care for the skulls. And I understand why most of them love the variety in the seashells.

Santan focuses on a star fish.

Drawing students learn the skill of observation. Using a magnifying lens, they look closely at the form and surface of their complex object. Marker (no eraser) forces them to work slow and careful. They learn to focus. They learn patience, commitment and discipline. During critique we talk about how these traits show up in the work.

The assignment goes well. Here are a few of the studies.

Santana’s What Am I Looking at?

Angel, She Sells

Luis’s Land and Sea

Seb’s Sirens Song

Leo’s Hopper Goes to the Beach

Grace’s SeaShells

Pedro’s Dinner Time

Ilse’s Monsters

Aine’s She Sells Sea Shells

Eman’s Food Chain

Luka’s Linear Evolution

Luka’s Speleothems

Fernando’s Skulls Overboard

Early in the semester, students tell me about Inktober. In general, I think the idea behind this is one ink drawing a day throughout the month of October. This study takes at least 4 days for the majority of the class. But it’s still a fine drawing for the month!  #inktober2019


The post includes only a few of the drawings. You can see all of the work on Thursday, November 7th, when Phoenix College (main campus) celebrates National STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) day.  Free and open to the public. You’re invited!
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every picture tells a story

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Wouldn’t you know, they get their marker act together and it comes to an end. We move to charcoal next.

But before we do…
Here are samples of (larger than life) self-portrait work. They use media of their choice. This study moves students into understanding art is a form of communication.

Every portrait tells a story. We learn a lot about each other during this critique.

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Brittany

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Susan

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Michael

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Kanyata

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Maygin

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Kanata (#2)

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Victoria

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Collin

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Kestin

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Robert

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Karen

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Natividad

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Jen

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Alma

I include a few of the outdoor assignments. Students spend 4 days on the campus, drawing landscape.

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…and there’s Susan, an advanced student who learns how to collage. She’s never done it before and this is practice. The image does tell a story but it’s not about birds, it’s about a fox.

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Basically we cover texture, structure and depth. Next week is value.

structures and textures, insects and shells

Watch the greater image materialize. You need that thing over there to tell you what to do about that thing over here. -Robert Genn


img_9315Structure – a complex system of parts arranged together (to form a whole)
Texture – tactile quality of a surface

The student’s task for this assignment is to learn to distinguish different types of lines. They look for those that form a structure and those that define a surface. I bring out large and small sea shells. I also bring out my collection of insects and lizards. Secretly I wish they will all choose the creatures, but I know better than to insist on this.

Aside from looking at the lines that make up a complex natural object they also work to balance positive and negative space.  And they continue to develop patience.

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Karen’s shells

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detail

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Victoria’s dead lizard and a spiral shell

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detail of lizard

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Brittany’s Bees – Two of them

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detail

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Kanata’s See shells, Sea shells

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detail (amusing tarantula wasp)

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Kevin’s (maybe ready to kiss) cicada and palo verde beetle 

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first sketch – too small

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Robert’s shell studies

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detail

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Maygin’s shells and mantis

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detail mantis face

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Alma’s shell corner

looking closely and the value of seeing

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It seems right that this last weekend, on an early morning run, I find two objects ↑. The small, golden pinecone catches my attention as it shimmers in the grass. The larger pinecone waits for me at the end of my run. I bring both of them to my studio and consider the following Monday (that would be yesterday) we’ll be holding our first semester critique. And the subject-matter is the pinecone.

A sign of good things to come?  Oh yes!


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Here is my new group. Their completed drawings fill the wall behind them. We critique, among other things, some fine pinecones yesterday.

The first full assignment of the semester is a contour study of a complex natural object. You’ll see students give me more than that. Yes – note the fluid lines! I am  pleased with their careful observation and drawing. This is the first time they use markers to start and complete a work.

For many of them this is the first time they spend so much time looking at one thing (at least 9 hours if not more). One student asks if she can keep her pinecone. I tell her she can keep it if she has bonded with it. I have! I spent a lot of time with it. This is the value of looking and really seeing – I think out loud.

Here are some of the pinecones as well as some homework assignments (subject-matter of their choice). Note the titles…they tell you something about the group.

Yes…we are off to a great start!

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Sofia’s Pinecone

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Jennifer’s Separation

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Nati’s The thing….

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Gabreila’s Life Lesson

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Bravilio’s Nature

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Sofia’s Pineapple, Strawberry and Lemon

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Nati’s Lemon or Lime

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Matt’s  Orange you glad I drew this?

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Yari’s Y el aguacate?

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Gabriela’s The Pain of My Eyes

I also have a couple of returning students. And while they pick up where they left off last semester and use mixed media, they have to keep focus on the line.

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Neomi’s Through Life

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Gwynn’s Charcoal drawing

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


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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:

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Kiria – Stressed Out

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Mary – Me

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Casey – Portrait 2015

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Ricardo – Nothing Stays the Same

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Gwynne – Missing Person

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Daniela – Danii

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Alfredo – Self Portrait

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Henry – A Face Only a Mother Could Love



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Andrea – Self Portrait

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Susan – Dan (silver point)

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Kiria – Leafy Embrace

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Gwynne – Aloe

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Casey – Little Tree

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Andrea – Aloe

bug according to art

If we were to wipe out insects alone on this planet, the rest of life and humanity with it would mostly disappear from the land. Within a few months. – E. O. Wilson


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I am going to try something new here. And you all are part of the experiment. If it works, I’ll do it again. If it doesn’t work, I won’t.  I bring out the shells students normally draw to learn about structure and texture. I also bring out my collection of insects (and lizards). I hear gasps from some students and note smiles on the faces of others. I don’t necessarily think everyone should draw a bug but I would like particular students to draw one, maybe two.

Shells and bugs are the general subject-matter. The insects I bring to class certainly have interesting structure but not all of them have a variety of texture. We proceed anyway. They need to arrange the forms and consider both the positive and negative space in the composition. And they use a magnifying glass. I expect some students will hesitate because they are nervous. Once they get past the initial fear they not only look at the bugs closely, but they hold them with kid gloves. They can’t help but draw with care.

I see the bugs are a challenge for a few of them, but the shells are always a challenge for the whole group so I let it pass. I ask (while they work and after) if they appreciate the result (if not the process). All of them answer yes.

Our conversation about insects and life sprinkles into the 4 days we work on these drawings. Here are a few samples. Enjoy the titles.

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Peeka-Boo! by Ryan

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Palo Verde Beach Party by Casey

rattlemyrock

Rattle my Rock by Ryan

woahthereshelli

Whoa there Shell-y by Kiria

tantalizing

Tantalizing by Gwynne

buglightyear

Bug Light Year by Alejandra

badmothfia

Bad Moth-fia by Mary

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One of These Things is not Like The Other by Casey

Susan is an advanced drawing student. This semester she is choosing to work on faces. Below is a portrait of a previous classmate. I would say Charles is interesting structure and interesting texture. He’s since cut his dreadlocks but here they are captured forever in this silver-point drawing.

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Portrait of Charles by Susan, Silverpoint drawing

observation

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Ruskin believed that everyone had visual as well as verbal capacities that needed to be developed in order to become a complete human being, and that the apprehension of truth depended on the power of observation. – Robert Hewison


 IMG_7897John Ruskin was an art critic of the Victorian era. He was an art patron, a draftsman, and a prominent social thinker of his time. I use this quote because we had an interesting conversation about observation, the truth and the illusion of truth. A lesson in drawing sometimes becomes a lesson in life.

I want to tell you we begin with line but more accurately what we begin is a practice in observation. I teach drawing students how to see, and I direct them to put down what they see. I acknowledge the challenge in this exercise considering it is their first long assignment and it is also complex subject matter. The group took on the challenge with no resistance and overall did a great job.

We discuss quality and variety of line. We talk about developing patience. A number of students share they didn’t know they could draw a complicated object like a pine cone. I see the satisfaction in their faces as they share process and result.

One student brings up the idea of a true line and a not so true (stylized) line. The discussion is a good one considering this is only the beginning. We are off to a fine start.

Here are a few examples of the completed studies.

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Close Withering by Alfredo

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Citrus by Alejandra

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Complex pinecones by Ryan

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Step 1, Pinecone by Kiria

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Cracked by Daniela

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Observation: Pinecone by Casey

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Chili Pepper by Mat

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Red Onion Vertical Bisect, Casey

Susan ↓ is an advanced student. Her work includes contour study (the assignment) she also uses other elements of design.

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The Water Sun by Susan