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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sketchbooks and Drawing From Life

In today's lesson, I discussed with one of my students how important it is for an artist to have a sketchbook. While this may cause many to say, "Well, duh!" Often sketchbooks aren't used to their fullest potential!
Bumblebee with observations

All of my children from age 2 to age 10 have sketchbooks. Many are on their fourth sketchbook! I buy inexpensive ones from the craft store that are wire bound so they can lay flat and I keep them handy so that my children can grab them when inspiration strikes. Get the heaviest-weight paper possible so you can use a variety of media on the pages.

For today's lesson, I discussed how a sketchbook doesn't have to be a pristine, finished book of lovely, complete, drawings. I prefer to use a sketchbook as a journal. My sketchbook is a place where I can practice techniques and get my ideas out. This morning, my student and I were able to draw from nature: I had found a bumblebee and a butterfly that had died, but were still intact and we went outside (in the shade) to observe and sketch them. It was a wonderful way to really check out the details of insects that we would never have been able to observe "in the wild."

Drawing the bumblebee--we really needed to pick up the subject
and look closely at it to see all of that detail!

After drawing the bee and butterfly, we wrote down details we observed while drawing, such as:
  • Bees have two sets of wings
  • Bumblebees are fuzzy (the yellow fuzzy part has black undertones)
  • We couldn't see any pointy stinger, but the abdomen did come to a point
  • The abdomen of the bee was striped, but not yellow and black like a honeybee or the usual depiction of a bee, this bee's stripes were grey and black
  • The bees eyes were hard to see at first, but then we looked really hard and we saw them
These observations were written directly onto the paper near the drawing, or you could use the backside of the drawing or another page to write your observations in your journal.

Drawing the Monarch Butterfly--It was great to see all of the detail in the markings--
I never knew they had all of those little spots on their wings!
Other things that go well in a journal-type sketchbook:
  • Postcards or clipping of art or photos you enjoy for future inspiration
  • Swatches of colors used in drawings and paintings (I do a little blob or scribble of color and label the color name so I know which one to choose the next time I go to work on a piece).
  • Sketches of different views of the same subject
  • Websites and books I want to check out (and my notes once I do)
  • Inspiring quotes and interesting thoughts
Keeping a visual journal is an important part of your development as an artist. Looking back on the pages will inspire you and show your artistic growth. Keep it fun and keep adding to it as you like, an art journal is also very portable--bring it with you on vacation or leave it in the car for those moments when you are waiting to pick the kids up from camp. Have fun, there is no "wrong way" to create an art journal!

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