Sunday, 26 February 2012

'A Brush with Nature' workshop - Testwood Lakes

I have always loved teaching this workshop and it seems to be quite a popular one over the last few years that I have taught it - mainly with the Hants and IOW Wildlife Trust.  This year we were at Testwood Lakes, a reserve managed by the Trust on the western side of Southampton.

It was a beautiful day with the sun streaming through the windows, but alas we were so engrossed in the natural treasures inside that we didn't venture out.

In the classroom we were lucky enough to have the use of several preserved birds and there were other delights such as an intact wasp's nest with its subtle colours and layers pierced at times by twigs from a vine, that had previously supported it.  My absolute favourite was a Harvest mouse nest, which I just cannot wait to draw and paint.  I have some reference photos previously taken at Slimbridge of some Harvest mice, so I hope to combine the two subjects - maybe to exhibit at the Marwell Exhibition in October, we shall see.

Back to the workshop - I had five lovely students (Roger, Mary, Eve, Clare and Jaen), who were very enthusiastic and once over the initial trepidation produced some stunning work.  I was pleased that we focused on the importance of drawing, particularly in the approach that I take to natural history illustration.  Quite often, when time is limited, drawing can sometimes be slightly forgotten about in the rush to apply colour.  But in todays case, everybody really put the effort into the drawing as well as the colour - so well done :)  Photos follow below.

By then end of the day I think everbody felt satisfied and with tired eyes and beautiful artwork we all headed home.


Eve concentrated on drawing a piece of driftwood, portraying the varying depths of tone and the grain / texture of the wood.  Once completed she added a pale wash of brown watercolour across the work.  This helped to set the graphite on the page and also gave a degree of warmth to the subject.

Clare completed some tonal studies of natural objects, first concentrating on a bleached white shell and differentiating between the fine lines on the shell and the overall tone of the subject.  She then did some lovely delicate studies of the maple seed above and features of the Tawny owl model in the classroom.

Jaen loves colour and she really ensured that the drawing was accurate before she added her array of colours.  We looked at ways that she could portray the irredescence of the inside of shells using watercolour, without having to use white paint as the base colour.  It's amazing what colours you can see when you really take the time to look at something !

Mary initially worked on a small study of a Physalis fruit and whilst letting the layers of watercolour dry, she started to draw this sheep's horn.  It had ridges radiating down from the top to the narrow end and she was able to portray these without drawing every single one, but still giving an accurate representation of the subject.

Roger really wanted to explore the qualities of different grades of pencil and to concentrate on what can be achieved, whether it be making a few lines to represent a subject or completing a more detailed drawing but using some broad pencil movements.  He achieved both, but particularly the latter, using a model of a Coot and drawing it with a softer grade of pencil such as a 6B.

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