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June 2010
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August 2010

July 2010

My Four Chicks: Capturing Personality with Penstrokes

The chicks I sketched a few weeks ago have developed into young pullets now (well, two of them were boys so they went back to the farm and were replaced by Bess and Ming). The four hens-to-be have distinctly different personalities and appearances. I sketched them this morning, using as few lines as possible, selecting poses that expressed their characters. I used a pointed pen nib and India ink, then added a few strokes of digital color in PhotoShop:


The poultry profiles are thus: Bess is a Barred Plymouth Rock. She's rather formal & staid, one might say, while being at the top of the peck order. Cinnamon is a Welsummer, a master forager with a wild bird quickness and restlessness. She's the youngest and the smallest, and is at the bottom of the peck order but doesn't seem too phased by this station in her life. Vita is a Speckled Sussex, and is very industrious and equanimous, usually with her beak to the ground. Ming is a Golden-Laced Cochin who looks like a toy chicken with a perfect little face and feathered legs. She's keenly watchful, imagining shapes to be threatening prey. She is playful with the others (sounds like a report card), and gentle. To read more about my chicken-tending story, click here.

Ready to Mail: Summer Garden Sketches

Our little drawing group, happily convening again after a hiatus for travel and classes, gathered in one member's garden today. It was a perfect July afternoon for nibbling summer fruit, sipping tea, and savoring home baked muffins. Oh yes, we did also allow time to draw - and there is no shortage of beautiful subjects in this garden. My goal: make four sketches to send as cards to people I wish to thank for various things. I did get three made (we did linger indulgently over our repast!). Here are my garden cards, ready to write in and send:


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They Drew, and Drew Some More: Drawing Students at NCI


Students' work. Above left: skull drawing in charcoal on tinted paper with white highlighting. A sketch of Colonial Peak and Diablo Lake is in pencil. Above right: pen and ink exercises are done over quick line drawings done earlier while out on the Deer Creek Trail. The butterfly drawing, done from a classroom bug box specimen, is stippled in ink, and the bird skull is rendered in charcoal.

To look at a massive stone peak, and with a pencil put the image of it on paper; to see the geometry of a moth, and render it in remarkable it is to be human, and to be able to draw such huge or minuscule magnificence!  Students began their drawing lessons by looking closely at a Douglas fir cone and quickly moved on to sketching an awe-inspiring lake and mountain vista on the first day of class. Then came the lichen and moss-covered bark, the skulls, the insects, the campus library building (granted, this lesson was a quick one), and the drawing with sumi ink using found natural objects. My goal for the students in the class at the North Cascades Institute Learning Center on Diablo Lake was for them to learn about drawing using the local flora, fauna, and landscape as subjects. They did this very well, and with notable bravery & great esprit du corps! All students considered themselves either beginners, or beginners with some long-ago drawing experience. None had done any drawing, to speak of, directly from nature. By the end of the three days (June 28-30), each student knew what it felt like to see, to really see, the extraordinary natural world, and to be able to record what they saw with new skills.

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Focused work was done both in the beautiful Learning Center classroom and out on the trails.

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Above left: the student who did these drawings had never sketched prior to the class, but bravely gave it her all and did very well, labeling her landscape "My First Sketch."  Above center: these drawings were done by a student who learned to see shadow and proportion by drawing the natural objects. Above right: extensive field notes on the page help students remember how to observe, and what to consider, when drawing en plein aire, or, directly outdoors.

DSCF5495 The final exercise of the three day course was one that broke from using traditional drawing materials. After collecting a natural item from the ground outside the classroom, students experimented with dipping these into rich, black sumi ink and finding out what kind of marks their "tools" made. More time doing this would have been fun for this hard working group. 


We were fortunate to have two knowledgeable resident assistants in the drawing class. Katie Roloson helped with classroom logistics and enriched the drawing curriculum with related wildlife legends from the Native American lore. In this photo, naturalist / grad student Justin McWethy (in the cap) is discussing the bear claw scars in the alder tree. He also expertly set up all the specimens for us to draw in the classroom. While on our way up the Sourdough Creek Waterfall Trail (where this photo was taken), we also identified and learned about wildflowers, native ferns and trees. Ultimately, students selected individual spots from which to sketch.

To learn about other courses held at this spectacular natural location at the edge of the North Cascades National Park, click here.