Homework assignments have always been part of my drawing classes. Keep drawing. Keep a sketchbook with you. Draw on anything, anywhere, while you’re waiting, bored, watching t.v. etc. It’s all good practice.
My students and I gathered for an after-holiday drawing get together as I wouldn’t be able to teach my winter class due to other commitments. After exchanging holiday stories, I was delighted to hear they’d somehow managed to incorporate art into their holidays. Giving gifts of artwork and creative gifts to their families. They made my heart happy. I showed them paintings I’d done since the beginning of the year. Joining a website called Paint My Photo with a group called Loose Watercolor Painting. There were three challenges for the month of January. Admittedly, I’d probably painted each challenge three or four times (all of which I showed my students), but I’d gotten two paintings I thought were worthy of “the frame”.
When we cracked open the sketchbooks, the grumbling started. They didn’t know what to draw, hadn’t drawn, not sure where to start. It seems they hadn’t done much drawing since before the holidays. I settled them down, helped them get started and decided I would do a quick drawing and painting of a snowy owl to commerate the fact that New Jersey actually has been the home to one this winter. I think the orinthologists call it an irruption year for these beautiful creatures, as they are being seen in areas south of their normal range. Out came the paper and paints, the drawing went quickly, and in about 20 minutes I had my snowy owl. Not only did I suprise myself it appearred so quickly, I liked it.
Not so for my students and their drawings. No one at the table was happy with what they’d done except me. That’s when I realized just how much I’d benefited from the advice I’d been giving them. Perhaps “irruption years” are not only for snowy owls.
I give drawing lessons at a senior center, but in reality the lessons are often for me. Take this painting. I often emphasize planning as an essential in drawing. Where are you going to start, where’s your center of interest, horizontally or vertical? Our lesson for the day was to draw big. I’d brought newsprint to draw on, challenging my students to use their entire arm to help loosen their lines. Their subject matter was small – birds, challenging their minds to think differently. As usual, I drew along with them. Stopping to check their progress, help where necessary, encouraging and assessing their progress. But, I was reallly liking my drawing, fascinated by it. By the time I gave them their homework assignments, I could barely wait to get home to my studio.
A full sheet of watercolor paper (22″ x 30″) is normally not my size. Too expensive to frame. But the drawing was big – that was the beauty of it. I quickly transferred the drawing and off I went with my favorite big brush. This large “little” bird was a fall off the brush painting. Effortless, luscious, fat and fluffy, I was transfixed. He was singing to me. Ah, I love being an artist.
Then I tackled the background and the lack of planning for this section quickly became evident. I struggled, drug my brush, tried to cajole the paint, and finally gave up, lamenting the gorgeous chickadee on this God-awful background. Relegated to the “reject” section of my makeshift gallery, I decided to use it to demonstrate “lack of planning” in my next class,
Bringing it back into the studio, the freedom struck me. I had three choices. Trash it. Paint it again, though the bird would never come out the same. Turn it into something else. So I pulled out my pastels (a medum I’m not very comfortable with) and just attacked the background. The painting already ruined, I couldn’t make it any worse. (Been here before – see my blog on my painting Dan’s Swan). And now my little (actually rather large) Chickadee hangs over my fireplace. Another lesson.