Online class coming soon

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SketchingNow Foundations Questions

I am not intending for my blog to change and become post after post flogging my online course or other products… however my SketchingNow course is an organic extension of my blog and rather than reducing the daily content I have high hopes that it will improve it. My SketchingNow weekly sketching adventures around Sydney will be shared here (though of course the instructional component will be reserved for the Foundations class !)

So before I start on SketchingNow stuff.... here are my sketches from today.
Naturally I am thinking all the time about the course content and what prompts I will suggest each week.While this sketch of three bottles is not exactly any of the exercises from the course it is  a combination of various ideas.
Today I was thinking, how important it is for me to test out new ideas and really understand concepts at home with simple subject matter before trying it out on location. In a way that is the heart  of my SketchingNow approach. And what I was doing with those bottles I shortly afterwards applied to the above sketch of a lovely house that I pass on my way home from the gym.

Here are a few general questions I have received about SketchingNow Foundations…. most are a clarification of what is described in the foundations page rather than new information. Please email me or ask any more questions in the comment section.

Why have a course during Xmas/New Year? It is a crazy time of the year! 
- The festive season is full of exciting times that are perfect to be recorded in a sketchbook. The course has been designed to help you sketch regularly - or as least do something during this crazy time. There will be no elaborate exercises that require you to go out and track down a specific subject matter. Each weeks concept is best understood by a simple exercise that can be done in under an hour at home (after dinner with a cup of tea handy is perfect!) Finding this quiet creative time during crazy busy season is a good thing to aim for!
- Here in Australia (and other southern hemisphere countries) it is our summer break and a PERFECT time to have our sketchbooks out! I am hoping that many of my Australian readers will join and share their work.

What if I go away for a week or two with limited(or zero) internet - will I miss out too much?
- A lot of people will be busy and travelling…. so the course has been designed to be 'low intensity' only one concept a week. The lesson will be an instructional blog post which comes into your email inbox (video will be supplementary) - so you can carry it with you on your mobile device or in a printout, There are levels to each lesson which means if you have more time you can develop the concept further… but if you are busy you can get the main idea and be thinking about it all week.
- If you do not have internet access for a short period of time, say 2 weeks, as each lesson ties into the previous it will be easy to combine the exercises for two or three weeks into one - especially the object based exercises.  On occasions I will do that myself (exactly what I did today!)
- Over Christmas/New Year period there will be a least one 'break' week - where there is no new content. There will still be a lesson - a revision of previous weeks with examples of combining different concepts together. It will also provide an opportunity to catchup
- The final week is a review week which will represent a wrap-up and review of some participants work - another chance to catch up if needed.

It will be the middle of winter for me - what can I sketch?
- I will be giving indoor prompts as well as outdoor prompts each week - most of these outdoor prompts will not be buildings. But as the course is all about concepts you can always apply these to any subject that suits - I am sure that together we can come up with lots of ideas.
- I hope that it will not be too hard  for your northern hemisphere-rs to bear that we down under are at the beach!!!

I live in a rural area with no architecture here - it that a problem?
- This is not a dedicated architecture sketching course so there is no need to have lots of fancy buildings at your doorstep or warm weather for sitting outside and sketching them.
- The course is all about sketching the everyday - where ever you are!

Will I have to draw teacups? I am more interested in architecture!
(this is not a 'frequently 'asked question but I am sure that some of you have been wondering about it!?)
- You will not have to draw a single teacup!! I promise!
- However, I can't promise that the course will be teacup free as teacups ARE brilliant subjects for explaining a lot of concepts. I will be explaining and demonstrating with a huge variety of subject matter -  naturally being an architect I will be drawing a lot of buildings but also simplifying complex scenes and finding small details that tell a story.

What about total beginners?

- I have designed the course for beginners… we go at a slow pace and I will take time to explain the core concepts and show you how at apply them.
- Art isn't easy - it doesn't come naturally to any of us - but if you understand the foundations you will know how to develop your skills... and you will have more fun!
- What I will be teaching is the framework and I will encourage you continue to work on and research more these concepts during or after the course (depending on your time availability) I strongly recommend going through Betty Edwards "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain"  and/or Bert Dobson "Keys to Drawings"
- There will be a mixed group in the course so it is very important that beginners do not start comparing themselves with others that have been working at their craft for months, years, decades!

Are there any 'live' components to your course? sessions where we can participate in real time?
- No 'live' online sessions - however I am trying to finalise some workshops in Sydney during the period to provide participants with hands on location sketching. These will be announced in my November newsletter due out Tuesday 4 Nov.
- Lessons will be put together the week before so it will be 'fresh' and provide me the opportunity to adjust content if needed.

Will all your course content & any sessions be accessible via ipad?
- The lessons will be posted to the SketchingNow wordpress site in a private classroom. So it will read exactly like the website does now.
- Video will be embedded vimeo videos. The videos will be supplementary - the core content is the written, images and notated diagrams.

Is there a limit to enrolments?

- I do not intend to close enrolment before 12 Nov.

When will you offer the course again?
- I have no immediate plans to offer a re-run of this course - I have a number of future courses planned for next year which will use the Foundations content as a basis. This course is unique.

Will there be a watercolour lesson each week? Do I need to buy a watercolour kit to do the course?

- The course is sharing foundational concepts for fast sketching on location but is not a specifically ink and watercolour technique class. I will be doing demos with ink and watercolour (but not necessarily every week with watercolour) so you will pick up a LOT of tips over the 12 weeks.
- I believe teaching concepts empowers you more than just techniques.

When will the material list be posted so we can go shopping????
- There are not a lot of requirements (copying text from the sketchingnow site below) but a more detailed list for those that want new toys will be posted later this week.

There are no specific requirements however basic recommendations are a medium pencil (2B or 4B), a permanent fineliner pen 0.3 size and some form of colour (watercolour pencils or watercolour paint or coloured pencils).
I will be demonstrating using a range of materials – mostly ink and watercolour – but it is more important to use what you are familiar with. More detailed material list will be provided in the class blog on registration. There will be no need to go and spend a lot of money up front getting any of my art tools!

Please contact me directly if you have any other questions about signing up - paypal etc.

I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Sketching everyday life and making it memorable

I am a huge advocate for the discipline of sketching regularly and using a daily illustrated journal of your life as the means of doing this (something I owe to Danny Gregory). I love the way that keeping a sketchbook of your life creates a record of your life AND your creative journey at the same. The way these two blend together produces something far more meaningful than simply a sum of the two parts.

But for me, and I guess many others, there are two particular challenges. One is finding the time to sketch and 'journal' on the busy day and the other is finding something to draw - especially when we feel that our life is made up of the same grind.  There are a few great lists available (such as the everyday matters list) that provide lots of ideas as to what to draw - but for me, I want to draw something that is part of my day and not a random object.

I do not take a long time to sketch (a bit of an understatement I know... I am very speedy) but some days I just work flat out and the idea of making time to sketch seems difficult. I also find that on the busy days I have plenty of ideas of things to sketch and then the next day when I have a little time I draw a blank. Many years ago I discovered that sketching my evening cup of tea was a time and a subject matter that I could devote to a sketch no matter how busy or uninspired I was. But these days I am resisting using this fall back subject matter - unless there is a reason - such as this day: historic last Taylors of Harrogate Earl Grey tea. The importer has changed and I don't know where to buy in bulk anymore!

On the other hand sketching teacups is a great way to warmup when I have illustration work to do.

But I digress...

I am very pleased at a few developments in my daily sketchbook post Brazil trip. Once again, I acknowledge the light bulb moment of the Unfolding a Story activity (are you tired of me mentioning this yet?) Although fairly subtle, there is a shift in my thinking - I am being more experimental, letting the pages become more random and adding more notes. For some reason notating my sketches really hits a sweet spot for me and the pages that I like the best are the ones that are made of boring stuff with lots of silly comments.

So here are a few examples and ideas I have been exploring...
Some nothing days… a few things I bought from The ArtScene (which if you missed it... now stock Daniel Smith) and a craving I had for baked beans in the morning for breakfast! (some of the details I share are SO interesting aren't they?) These are either end of the day wind-down sketches after my computer is switched off - or early morning sketches to get my creative juices pumping.

A messy random page with trivia but also including the big achievements of the week - trying to rapidly come up to speed with Wordpress and SketchUp (it is amazing that I have survived all these years without using this great programme)

A day when I was working so flat out but I was amused by a 'trying hard' fashion magazine I received. I had to draw an image from it and then the rest of the day was recorded in text. I love the idea of including more text in a graphic way. This page has given me some exciting ideas that I want to work out more in coming weeks.

A day when all I did was work flat out on my SketchingNow website - evening break for a sketch…"what shall I draw?" I didn't want to sketch my computer (how boring!) but it was the only thing I could think of that was relevant. Somehow because it was describing my day it became meaningful and I enjoyed sketching it a lot.

Stuck in a car park and my new printer… I will talk more about my latest super fast watercolour pencil approach separately.

A family visit… sketching the stuff on the floor that was the evidence a visit of a sweet little girl visiting my studio. Talking about my niece I have to share this with you from last week

My almost 3 year old niece (S) who loves visiting Aunty Liz's studio and getting into thing she shouldn't. My brother(B) just emailed me this conversation he had with her one morning
S: Auntie Liz likes photos!
B: Right; what does she like photos of?
S:[Looks up in the air] Work!
B:OK; what does she do for work?
B:What does she sketch?
S:In Brazil: work and work and work.

It is a total myth that my life is just one of travel and tearoom visits - there are hours and hours of grind and hard work sitting in-front of a computer  (like many other people). Many days I don't get out of the house (don't have the 'excitement' of struggling with peak-hour traffic to get to my workplace)… but everyday is an adventure - achievements and little things to be thankful for. I am often amazed how much I do manage to achieve and I love that my current freelance lifestyle gives me to the freedom to sneak time to record these.
I can make a colourful page in my sketchbook out of any day and linking it with what I read from the Bible in the morning is a very precious record of the eternal and the everyday - living every day as it comes.

Ok… still got more to catch up with but that is a good start!

I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sketchcrawl 45: Bourke St Bakery

Today 9 Sydney sketchers met up for a low key sketchcrawl. I wanted to go back to Surry Hills since the other time we went there I wasn't able to stay for the full period. I did intend to sketch down Bourke St but instead ended up spending the morning sitting on a comfy bench opposite the legendary Bourke St Bakery and sampling their wares. YUM!

Was good just to sketch and chat... very casual - people came and went as it suited them.We didn't have a group photo as everyone left at different times.

Here we are all in a row...

Today was the first chance that I have had to test an addition to my kit. A sheet of plastic signboard the full size of my sketchbook that I clipped to keep the spine rigid and hold my paint tin(with another clip). Tried to take a few photos to explain.

Thanks to Chantal Vincent for these photos which describe it better!
This idea is inspired by Marc Taro Holmes and his amazing sketch kit. I love working in the A4 moleskine (watercolour) book but it is cumbersome. I am finding that I either use the other side of the spread as a table for my paint tin or sit on the ground with paint and pens/pencils on the ground.

My first sketch in Brazil was with Marc standing up - I found this position almost unbearably uncomfortable with my right hand is supporting the fold of the book and I was balancing my paint tin. Marc's system was impressively ingenious. He has a board the full width of the open book plus more for his paint tin. I prefer to have something the same dimensions of my sketchbook so hence the slimline model - the length of the board is just long enough to secure the paint tin and the width adequate to stiffen the spine.

What I had today worked great - I had the luxury of a bench to sit on but it still made a big difference!

I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Lambton Rotunda Musings: Do you need perspective to draw buildings?

As I mentioned yesterday, the most significant landmark in Lambton is the rotunda in the middle of the park. This was the subject matter not only that I drew first, but also most of the attendees at my Travel Sketching workshop - done for the Newcastle Art Society. It is a very challenging structure to draw and a number of very important sketching issues arose during the afternoon sketching session.

Do you need to understand perspective to draw buildings or do you just draw what you see?
How do you draw what you see - how do you switch off the objective brain and use your visual brain?
When something looks wrong can you work out how to fix it?

My approach on the afternoon before was to sketch it loose and splashy - painting the sky first and not worrying about trying to describe it accurately. However I did need to be able to help those in the workshop draw it 'properly'.
No doubt at all - it is a very tricky subject to draw! - The form is strongly geometric (without being a rectangular) and the details are refined and delicate - there is nowhere to hide.

This is my first page of sketches done as I worked around the sketchers. We were having a discussion about how to stop one's drawing (and particularly buildings) grow off the page. I was explaining my structured approach (similar to what I did in Paraty) and how I often look for a square. The rotunda fitted nicely into a square! Diagram A. But what I had drawn just looked wrong- what was the problem? I wasn’t immediately sure what my error was - the perspective was ok (it is very rarely perfect but I didn't think that was the main issue)… So I just spent time looking thinking about relationships and started to do some measuring.
All basic stuff … but often we forget it!
I started measuring heights and setting out the main horizontals. And then I realised - my object based brain was thinking 'tricky octagonal roof with (small) cupola on top'. But in fact the heights of the roof and the cupola were almost the same. Once I corrected the height of the roof, the whole structure fell into place and without the perspective being perfect it looked much more convincing (B).
Now the other tricky thing about this rotunda was the fact that most of us were sitting on the grass looking up - therefore we could see the underside of the roof. This caused a lot of difficulty mainly because the angles at the bottom edge of the roof - the eaves line - were generally drawn in the wrong direction - going up rather than down. I think it is so fascinating that our objective brains are so strong that most people get this angle going completely the wrong way.

How do we overcome this tendency? 
Are we aware when we are doing it? 
How do we see the angles going the right way?

It is funny because it is all there in-front of us. We just need time to slow down, to use a few fundamental drawing skills and we can get it right …easy hey? No it is not!!This is where perspective comes in - if you can understand the general rules - you WILL see better. It is also a fantastic framework for helping you get the angles more accurate.

Curiously - in my first sketch (above) when I was drawing shapes - abstracting what I saw into pure shapes I got the relationship of cupola to roof and the angles of the eaves line 'correct enough'! Well, it is not that curious - I was using my visual brain rather than my objective brain and that made a huge difference.

Here is the group photo of the wonderful sketches done that afternoon of the workshop.  I just love how different each one is - how much the unique personality is expressed in the lines and colours on the page. I know I have been talking about accuracy but ultimately consistency and personal expression is far more important - and more fun!
It was a great day and great group and I am looking forward to being up there again for a sketching architecture workshop on Saturday 25 October (I think there might be a few spots left)

A number of you have been asking about my upcoming Foundations Course and architecture sketching. I do have a specific and structured way that I teach architecture sketching (based around explaining architecture) but I hope that this example above helps to prove that you have to be grounded in the foundations first. In fact if we were all more careful in our study what we were drawing, and constantly working at improving our eye-hand coordination we would not need to worry about perspective. But as I mentioned above - an understanding of perspective helps so so much - so conquering it is very much recommended!
As for the Foundations course - I will be sketching a lot of buildings during the 12 week period. I won’t be teaching perspective but I hope this post gives you some insight into the approach I will be taking. My goal is to empower you to sketch anything!

I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lambton Adventures with my Sketchbook (of course!)

Four weeks ago I went up to Lambton Newcastle to run a days workshop about Travel Sketching for Newcastle Art Society. I headed up on Friday afternoon in order to case the joint - not only for that workshop but also a second one on Architecture Sketching which I will be running next week.
I decided that I would pretend to be a tourist and have a little travel adventure exploring Lambton. Of course I was thinking about the recent ideas from my Brazil trip… and I decided to fill my pages in a carefree manner - piecing various aspects together randomly in an exploratory manner.
I also decided to draw a map - this was completed after my adventure but before I left the area to check in to my B&B (important point: before leaving). It was so fun to put this together - I had had such a great time that the map, rather than being a chore, was the icing on the cake. I do love having maps in my sketchbooks but sometimes they are a chore - in the sense that they take time (and are often homework), you have to be careful and you have to spend time planning how to simplify what is a very complex subject matter… and as for the matter of accuracy… well you just have to have a healthy attitude (or else you end up having to trace)

I was still recovering from my terrible virus I got in Brazil so the 2 hour drive tired me a little and the Lambton Pavilion is exactly the type of subject I try to avoid when my energy and 'calmness' levels are low. It is a precise, delicate geometric open structure… ah! very challenging - you must be careful and deliberate and accurate. So - in direct continuation of my Brazilian sketchbook I decide to start with the sky rather than the building, 'embrace the wonkiness' and just play.
The architect in me was cringing a little at this attempt - it really didn't describe the pavilion accurately - so two more sketches were in order. First a detail of the posts (far nicer subject to draw) and then another more elevational view(easier). I will come back to the pavilion in my next post and explain more what we learnt about it during the workshop.

I had done some research on what was significant in Lambton and apart from the pavilion, it was Lizotte's the turquoise building which was previously a theater - really? But hey, google can't be wrong can it? It must be significant.
While doing this quick sketch and getting muddled with the trunk I suddenly noticed the palm trees and worked out they were specifically planted either side of the gate to the park.
Ah ha! this is the type of discovery that comes about by sketching - and really struck a cord with me in reference to Richard Alomar's Paraty activity (this will not be the last time I refer to the ideas I gleaned from that).
The excitement was getting too much for me (sarcasm… or simply a hopeless case of justification?) … I needed to find somewhere to have a cup of tea.

And I found one - had a great cup of 'well being' tea at 2 Blend Cafe in a groovy square cup with an interesting handle (must not have been feeling myself, I do not use the word groovy very often!)

I was so energised by that tea that I went out and sketched a small cottage on a nearby side street. You might notice my comment about having a strong focus - the roof - and how it simplified the sketch and amazingly tied the two spreads together. Great example of the unplanned compositional delights I get from sketching.  I also love the palm trees in the background - a reference point to the gate of the park. (BTW Just ignore my silly comment "Doing a Fred"! )

I was really buzzing by the time I had finished this little adventure.
It summarises many things about why I love sketching - the unexpected discoveries that you make and the way the pages develop into a narrative. I was also using a few different 'foundational concepts' - varying how I used lines and shapes, simplifying what I was attempting to sketch and playing with a few compositional ideas.
All these things are what I will be sharing in my upcoming SketchingNow Foundations Online Course. Rather than being "basic" these concept are the core - I use them all the time. Always trying to refine and strengthen my work by being better grounded in the core.
I have had a big deadline this week… but starting next week I will be sharing a little more as I prepare for my Foundations course. I can't tell you how excited I am - so much looking forward to being able to share my approach to sketching in a structured way and in a way that I can engage with others more. Thanks for all those that have already signed up. Nov 12 is not that far away…
I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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