Thursday, May 1, 2014

May 2014 Newsletter: Tracing to improve your drawing

Yes, you read the word tracing. As most of you know, I do not believe in tracing your photographs to create a painting. I was in a class once that most of the students traced their subjects, using a projector, onto their watercolor paper. Few drew the subject first.

I personally dislike this method and can usually tell who has traced and who hasn’t. Unfortunately, cameras distort, which usually results in a distortion in the painting. But more importantly, I believe drawing and painting should be an expression, an interpretation of your subject, which is difficult if you are copying a photo.

Camera use
Having said that, I do think cameras have their place for us when drawing and painting. For one, the camera is indispensable when it comes to travel and nature sketching. I always take a picture of my subject before and after my sketching session—especially when I’m outside. Lighting changes and since I usually tweak my work back in the studio or in the hotel room (if traveling), the camera helps me to capture the light and shadow.

Secondly, the camera is a great tool to use for reference. While I use the camera to help me with lighting when working outside, I also use it to develop projects for future work. For instance, when traveling I don’t have time to sit down and draw everything I see. After all, sometimes I’m in a bus and things are just whizzing by. That’s when I use my speed drawing technique or simply shoot away with my camera. I do the same when the first flowers of the season come out or when the squirrels seem to be posing for me. Back in the studio I use these photos for reference. 

When I do trace 
However, I do own tracing paper and I do trace. There are times, no matter how much I try, I can’t seem to get the right angle or curve in a drawing/painting. That’s when I pull out my tracing paper and trace the object on the photo. Then I take the tracing and put it over my drawing. It is absolutely amazing what you will learn. I fix the mistake and then place the tracing over the drawing again to see how close I am to the correct line. 

Please don’t misunderstand me here. One student in my one of my drawing workshops thought I was telling everyone to trace before they paint, using a light table. Not at all. This method of drawing and tracing was used by John Ruskin (1819-1900), a professor at Oxford University and founder of the Ruskin School of Drawing. Here's a link to the drawing course, Elements of Drawing, at the university that covers this subject:  Lesson One, Pencil Drawing

This method of “drawing- tracing-drawing” helps to accurately see what you are doing wrong. I remember the first time I used this method to teach how to draw a horse. The students weren’t the only ones to be surprised. While I have drawn daily for 14 years, I was actually amazed to see how far off I was when I lay the tracing on top of my drawing. Try it! You might astound yourself!


What’s coming up—the six-student class
I have decided that all my studio classes will be restricted to a maximum of six students each. There are two main reasons: (1) I want a better teacher/students ratio and (2) to give more working room for each student.  I have three long tables, which means two to a table—lots of room to spread out. My studio workshops will still have the normal maximum of nine. 

And now for the upcoming line-up of classes and workshops:

Second Sunday moved to Third Sunday
The visual journaling class that meets on the second Sunday of every month will be moved to the third Sunday, May 18th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. As always, just bring a heavy-weight sketchbook and I’ll supply the rest. $20

Summer Studio Classes begin week of June 15
My studio classes (sketching and painting) will begin the week of June 15—see sidebar on left side. The acrylics class is usually full, but there is room in the sketching class on Wednesday mornings from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. I will resume the drawing class on Tuesday evenings this coming fall. 

Watercolor Studio Workshop—August 9th
Coming Saturday, August 9th, I’ll be holding a beginners watercolor workshop in my studio from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. I supply all the materials including lunch. All you need to do is show up with the enthusiasm to learn. $95 Minimum four students, maximum nine students.

PCC Summer Workshops
I will be teaching workshops in:  Basic Drawing (June 28), Colored Pencil (July 12); Pen and Ink (July 26). As always, I provide most of the materials for these workshops. They tend to fill up quickly, so if there is something that looks interesting, I’d suggest contacting PCC soon.

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