Is it cheating to trace?
Nope. Tracing is a tool, and if you can’t draw, tracing won’t solve the problem.
Yesterday, I said that we often trace the main shapes first, and then draw by looking at the tracing. If you look at the photo, there are many distracting details. If you get the skeleton of the picture on the page first, then you know the details will fit inside.
Rosemary took photos of this giraffe, and then we cropped it down to the essentials. She is now ready to copy the shapes on the tracing.
A tracing is no guarantee of accuracy. I can see that the head-knob (what are those things??) on our right isn’t just like the photo.
The tracing is a starting point. Many corrections happen throughout the entire process. Rosemary will look at this tracing in every direction, evaluating the shapes around the giraffe rather than just the giraffe itself. (In Artspeak, that is called “negative space”, in case you were wondering if I know the real term.)
You can be fast or you can be good. Rosemary is good. This giraffe will be wonderful, because that is how she draws!
In drawing lessons, each student works at her own pace on the drawing of her choice. (Men are allowed too, but this class happens to be completely feminine.)Below:
Jane, on the left, sat outside a house and did a very nice sketch of it. She decided she’d like to do it in the highly accurate and detailed manner that I teach. So, she is working out all the dimensions, learning about perspective, and getting the “bones” of the drawing in place before she gets to the shading stage.
Elainea, on the right, has a very endearing photo of her grandson reaching for a Christmas ornament. We cropped it, and then she did a tracing of the main shapes. Next, she drew the shapes on her good paper, looking only at the tracing instead of the photo with its overwhelming details. After all the shapes were in place accurately, she began shading the child’s face.
In very difficult or demanding subjects, I usually instruct my students to begin with the main part. My theory is that if the main part doesn’t look good, then you don’t have to spend time on the rest of the picture. Also, if you do all the other stuff, then sometimes the fear of wrecking the drawing will cause paralysis.
In other words, “Life’s short – eat dessert first”.
Drawing lessons are one of the best parts of my art business. See? Happy people having fun!
Once a week, I spend an afternoon helping people draw at the Courthouse Gallery in Exeter. Some folks just need a regular place and time to draw, some need help with difficult projects, and some need instruction every step of the way. It is a pleasure and privilege to help every one of my students in whatever way they need.
This happens 4 people at a time, 1 hour per week. Each person works on his or her own piece, at his or her own pace. They pay by the month, a month in advance. Sixth grade is the minimum age. You don’t have to have “talent” or experience, just the desire to learn to draw.
My classes are full, but there are four alternatives.
- Private lessons at my studio in Three Rivers, scheduled when and however it suits both of us.
- A beginning drawing workshop at Arts Visalia, scheduled for Saturday, August 26th, 9-3.
- IF YOU HAVE ALREADY TAKEN THE WORKSHOP OR HAD LESSONS WITH ME, continuing lessons in a group format at Arts Visalia, the 3rd Tuesday of the month, beginning in September.
- Get on my waiting list for the Tuesday afternoon lessons in Exeter.
Drawing lessons are fun for everyone who participates. The only ones who don’t learn how to draw are those who quit too soon.
Claire drew the barn and we were quite pleased with the results. Her Mom requested leaves on the oak trees. It was very hard, but we figured out a way. The drawing looks faded because I photographed it under a cellophane sleeve while my camera battery was dying, Claire’s dad was waiting for her, and I was in a big hurry. My fault, not Claire’s!
Happy Birthday, Lauren!!
At Arts Visalia, a non-profit gallery in (duh) Visalia, I gave a drawing workshop on Saturday.
There were 6 participants, all attending for different reasons – used to draw, always wanted to draw, tried it before but wasn’t successful, a painter who wants better shapes, draws a little but wants a boost. . .
We started with the basics. I explained that drawing is a skill, not a talent, and the only people who don’t learn are the ones who quit too soon (or don’t listen). We went through the tools and the steps, and then did a very simple copy-the-shapes exercise. Next was a shading exercise.
Then, we applied what we had practiced to working from 2 photos of oranges.
The workshop was 6 hours long, and this is how the drawings looked at the end:
The drawings are all unfinished, but these were eager learners, and I think each one will finish and keep practicing on her own. Very pleasant group of truly nice and interesting people. I feel blessed to have met you and am proud of you all!
Jennifer Logan was a friend of mine for about 30 years. We met in Lemon Cove at the Womans Club (yes, that is the correct spelling); I was taken with her English accent and for some reason, she liked me. She called me “Janner” and referred to herself as “Jennifa”, which tickled my fancy.
When my studio first was public, I shared space in a very fine gift shop called “Shirley’s Home” in Exeter, before Exeter had murals. Shirley hired someone each year to help us during Christmas, and for a handful of years we had the pleasure of working with Jennifer. It was during one of those times that Jennifer suggested to me that I publish a book of my art, which became The Cabins of Mineral King.
I followed Jennifer to Foothill Fruit in Lemon Cove; the next year after working a temporary job at the Lindcove Field Station, they offered me a full time job, so I recommended Jennifer, who lived around the corner. A few years later, after I finished a temporary job at the Citrus Research Board, Jennifer went full time there.
There were also two years when I needed crutches several times, and Jennifer was always there with a pair for me to borrow. We laughed about it, and sympathized with one another while being thankful it was always for temporary conditions. She didn’t mind when I confessed using them to get into the neighbor’s swimming pool (only as deep as the top step.)
About five years ago, Jennifer asked me if she could take drawing lessons. I was astonished and delighted. She had done photo retouching and also set-painting in her life, but had a desire to try my style of drawing. It was a pleasure to meet with her each week, to have that regular time together. She began with this peony, which she later came to dislike (we call that “growth”!) (Jennifer, I’m sorry for showing this, but not sorry enough to not show how you increased in skill.)
We joked quite a bit about how she chose difficult subjects, working from photos that were too small to see the detail or just plain challenging in other ways. She was always cheerful and sometimes cynical at the same time, which would make us laugh.
She loved gardening, reading, horses, her dogs and cats, and her grandchildren. This is Anna, and although I haven’t met her, Jennifer said she caught the likeness.
Jennifer joined some of the secret oil painting workshops (given just for my drawing students, not open to the general public). She definitely marched to her own drumbeat – when everyone else painted pomegranates, she painted a buoy. When the class painted redwood trees, she painted a cat.
Her drawing classmates bugged her to try a redwood tree in pencil, so that was the project she was currently working on. She referred to it as “wood with leaves” and when I would correct her with, “Needles”, she would say, “Whatever”. Then we’d look at each other and snicker, and I’d call her a closet tree hugger.
Jennifer was the only person who called Trail Guy “Mikey”, and he liked her so much that he just accepted it. My dad used to tease her about her accent and call it “a speech impediment”, and she was always gracious with his offbeat sense of humor.
A few months ago, Jennifer surprised me by inviting “Mikey” and me to her upcoming birthday party. For the first time in almost 30 years, she actually told me her age, which was also a surprise. I said, “Jennifer, you could be my mother, and it wouldn’t even be a scandal! I had no idea.”
On Wednesday, June 7, 2017, Jennifer surprised us all by moving to Heaven. She went quickly with no fuss, no 911 calls, no tubes, no hospital indignities, and no warning.
Jennifer Logan, you were a dear friend and I choose to be grateful for the time we had. “See you, Sweets”, as you used to say to me.
Are you interested in a one day drawing workshop?
Here is your opportunity!
Visalia, CA 93279
The show “Gray Matter”, consisting of pencil drawings by 3 of my advanced drawing students and me, opened on Friday evening.
This is the Brandon-Mitchell Gallery from the front, 117 S. Locust Street, Visalia, California. That is the county seat of Tulare County, in Central California where I live and work as an artist. (In case you are new to the blog. . .)
Here is what you see when stepping through the front door.
And this is what I saw when I came through the back door before the people started arriving.
Maggie and I spent 3 hours hanging the 40 or so pencil drawings, grouping them in ways that made sense visually, lining up the tops ever so carefully, evaluating the spaces until we laughed aloud at our fastidious approach. It was so important to us to make this show just shine with the brilliance of our pencil work.
Kelvin began his art life with cartooning a chicken named Henrietta. He has cards, quilt squares and original drawings featuring her and the rooster Harold. He even had cookies one time. . . This is all in addition to his very fine pencil drawings.
This is me with Kelvin and friends (newlyweds!) Melissa and Jeff. This was at the end of the evening, which was so busy and exciting that I didn’t take any photos. . .
. . . except for a magical moment when the light on the Post Office near by was just stunning. I ran outside as if it was truly important, abandoning my post, guests, and art. The Post Office is a work of art.
I didn’t get a photo of artist Maggie, but did catch Wendy (center) and her family in this blurry snap. I saw her husband across the gallery and thought he looked familiar, like someone I should know. Well, indeed – I have assisted Wendy in drawing him several times!
A good time was had by all, and the art looks wonderful. If you weren’t able to make it, there will be a second reception on Friday, June 2, 5-8 p.m. If you live anywhere near Visalia and like pencil drawings, I suggest you plan to attend. The work is really remarkable!
This show is all graphite pencil, 3 of my (very) advanced drawing students and me. It is part of Visalia’s monthly Art Walk, an event in downtown Visalia on the first Friday of each month. See you there?
A pencil show? Yes, an art show of only pencil drawings by 3 of my advanced drawing students and me!
Title: Gray Matter
Dates: Friday, May 5 and Friday, June 2
Location: Brandon-Mitchell Gallery, 117 So. Locust in Downtown Visalia (between Main and Acequia, west side of the street)
Time: 5-8 p.m.
Participants: Kelvin Farris, Maggie Meling, Wendy Miller, Jana Botkin
We are part of the monthly “Art Walk” in Downtown Visalia. There are many business and art studios that join in this regular event. This is something I’ve never gone to, so I don’t know what to expect. However, you can expect some wonderful pencil drawings, including these.
That’s what I tell my students, and perhaps I need to specify that I am NOT speaking of a hummingbird egg.
But, sometimes my students test their skills while also testing mine. I warn, nag, deny, forbid, warn some more and finally capitulate, but with more warnings.
When someone insists on doing a drawing that I know from experience will be too hard, I just help them as much as possible, and moan the entire time. (Good thing I am not a parent.)
Susan is a classic case. She is determined, committed, focused, and perseverant. Look what she did! Yes, she erased the face multiple times, and there was one day where I almost shouted at every class, “LEAVE YOUR ERASERS BY THE FRONT DOOR TODAY!!” As she would leave class sometimes, I would tell her, “DON’T TOUCH THE FACE!”
Why she puts up with me, I’m not sure. She is a remarkable person doing a fantastic job of learning to draw. Congratulations, Susan, on a job well done!
P.S. To everyone else taking drawing lessons, NO FACE SMALLER THAN A GOOSE EGG! (At least I didn’t say an emu egg, although I felt like it.)