Once I realized I was most interested in the process of sketching and painting I signed up for a few Craftsy classes on the topic. Although I was itching to watch them all at once, picking just one to start seemed more prudent. So I started off with Sketchbooks: Drawing the Everyday with Paul Heaston.
Paul is a master at drawing with ink (his hatching is really special), and he’s an excellent teacher as well. This course was so good for learning basic things to consider when starting to draw. Many of the things covered were familiar to me from college art classes, but I’d forgotten them over the years.
There were seven assignments, and I committed myself to do each of them one at a time before moving on to the next lesson.
1: Blind contour drawing of my hand
For a blind contour drawing, you follow the edges of the subject with your eyes and your drawing hand follows — without looking at your paper while you draw
2:Explore points of view, space, and texture with 3–4 arrangements of a still life
I used this opportunity to draw the same subjects from the three different points of view that Paul covers in this section.
bird’s-eye view (where you see the tops of an item than the side)
traditional (below or at eye level, where see a bit of tops and sides of items)
eye level (straight-on, where round surfaces become very foreshortened and squished)
3: Hatching values
One of the things I was most excited about learning from Paul was hatching. I’d been dabbling in it and struggled with consistency and direction of my marks. His techniques help with achieving a precise yet natural look.
My watercolor box, with different hatching values — the shadow was a big mistake! Looked better without it
I took my time with this driving moc drawing, and it paid off — I’m really happy with the values and shaping
With this soap dispenser, I practiced going darker with my shadow values to allow the actual white parts to remain white
4: Paint two objects that are the same color but different values
I had a surprisingly difficult time finding two objects that fit this description! For me the best part of this lesson was just gaining more experience with my watercolors, primarily with doing a background wash.
There’s work to be done with my rendering of the foreshortened ellipses and cylinders
5: Sketch a person that’s moving through my scene
The challenge with this lesson is to learn to sketch people quickly, capturing what’s necessary and unique about the person and letting go of the rest. This one was really intimidating for me to begin because it sounded just impossible. Finally I asked my husband to stand there while I quickly sketched him.
I also experimented with my water brush — it has a much different feel from painting with regular watercolor brushes. I like how precise it is in some cases, but find it too precise for other things. It’s really good for painting in little shadows or small washes of color.
As additional practice for sketching people, I found a photo online and made a watercolor sketch version of it in my book:
6: Use a viewfinder and draw several thumbnails of a scene, trying different approaches
The viewfinder was awesome for making it clear how the composition was going to look on paper. I took it outside to find something to draw, and it cut out all of the extra bits of what I saw in the environment. Paul suggests doing thumbnail sketches in a few proportions like landscape, portrait, panoramic, and square, to get a sense of what’s going to work well before diving into the larger sketch.
7: Create a detailed study out of a larger scene
Using my favorite thumbnail sketch from the previous lesson, I selected a part of my house and back yard in a portrait view.
I really like how the rosemary bushes look, and the general composition. But overall the house was a pretty boring subject! It was more about getting some practice in a convenient place than capturing something really interesting.
It looks a little too much like a cartoon for my taste — as opposed to a journal sketch — so that’s something I want to see if I can figure out.
This class is a great balance of learning a lot of techniques in a very accessible way. When I look back at all of the lessons I can see it was very informative and helps move my art skills toward my goals. My big goal is to record watercolor sketches in a travel journal. I sure wish I’d had this knowledge when we went to Paris a few years ago! I may still do some watercolor sketches of those photos just for fun.
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