Friday, April 16, 2010

Article selected for "The Painter's Keys"

I was very pleased to discover today that my article was selected for inclusion in Robert Genn's April 16 online letter to artists on his "The Painter's Keys" website. This was a very nice honor, as Genn has thousands of readers around the world and only includes 10 letters in each post. To any of my readers who aspire to paint, I highly recommend The Painter's Keys.
Here's what I wrote:

"I teach a workshop, "The Illustrated Journal in Ink & Watercolor," that speaks directly to this issue. In it I show students how to make quick watercolor and ink sketches that record moments in their lives. The students think they're learning techniques for travel sketching -- and indeed they are -- but I know what's happening is much more than this; they're learning how to paint. The results are always so much better in these sketching classes than in my more formal painting classes. Why? Because the students are relaxed (after all, it's just a "sketch" not a "painting") and absorbed in filling page after page with small studies, done from direct observation. They're drawing and coloring intuitively, with joy. When they come up for air, they seem surprised they've been having so much fun and that their tiny paintings are so expressive and charming. Apparently that's myelin in action, accompanied by intense, deep learning. I can't say enough about the value of doing lots and lots of small paintings, and I keep trying to pass that on to students. Some years ago, International Artist published a great book, Work Small, Learn Big: Sketching with Pen & Watercolor -- now, sadly, out of print, but still available in librairies -- that makes this same point. And online groups like SketchCrawl ( and Urban Sketchers (, that encourage artists of all levels to get out and sketch, are creating an international community of like-minded folk. So, there's a lot of momentum, for this, Robert, and I'm glad to hear medical science is backing this up."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Alabama Sojourn

Last week I taught an "Illustrated Journaling" class to a wonderful group of students at the Alabama Folk School. An hour northwest of Birmingham, the Folk School is part of Camp McDowell, an Episcopal camp and conference center nestled in 1100 acres of forests, canyons and waterfalls. Our weekend there took place under sunshiny skies of unfolding spring -- everything was in bloom!

As soon as the students had learned the basics of watercolor sketching -- drawing in pencil, ink ing the drawing, adding watercolor -- we headed outdoors, down a nearby trail to the creek. While the students busied themselves with small studies, I crept off to a shady spot to sketch the cliff face above the creek. Just as I finished, a gaggle of middle-schoolers set off in a flotilla of canoes. Here was a challenge! a dozen boats floating quickly past while turning in every direction imaginable as the children worked to get them under control. I had to draw fast to capture just one pair of them.

When the students were ready to paint landscape I presented a sketching lesson using photographs, (the scene above is Wyoming, not Alabama....), so they could learn how to simplify before confronting the real thing.

Once we were outdoors, I demonstrated again, sketching the woods outside our classroom. By summer, when I will return to the Folk School to teach drawing, these woods will be bursting with green. I can't wait to go back there and sketch!