Zoom Class: Foliage, Near, Middle and Far

Saturday 9th May

So…I started my new Zoom class with a group of students from all over the world. There are occasional tech issues, but somehow we get over the speedwobbles and manage to have two hours of concentrated learning.

The above sketch was of a horse chestnut tree in my garden, and it was intended as an example of close-up foliage. As I sat in the warm sunshine bumble bees buzzed and I was thankful for sketching…

…this one, drawn on a hot day in Sissinghurst Castle in Kent a year or two ago, was to illustrate “middle distance” foliage. The class did stunning work. I am not just saying that – I genuinely find the results they produce astonishing. I have taught many people over the years. I have never seen results like this. Yes, I know they are copying a sketch step-by-step, and not approaching something “sight-unseen” with no guidance, as they do when they scatter on a beach, for example, to sketch. But as they go, they are learning principles of watercolour, composition and drawing. These don’t happen overnight, but most of my students have signed up for a six-week block, so I hope they’ll be able to take what they have learned and use it on those random, unplanned scenes they will encounter.

This is the third image we sketched. This is “distant” foliage. I know this is a very Irish scene, but you are bound to come across trees on a roadside that show the same principle of repeated light-to-dark, as the sun lights up one side.

Next Saturday, I am going to introduce you to the joys of using a limited palette. Now there’s limited, and there’s extreme limited. We’re going for the latter. The only colours we will be using are indigo or Payne’s grey, burnt umber, yellow ochre and either Venetian red or transparent red oxide, or an equivalent reddish-brown. We will be demonstrating how to use them by drawing a cup of coffee or tea. I will be using a white cup – because most cups in cafés are white, so it’s good to get used to sketching white – but by all means sketch a colourful one. I will be using a fude pen with brown ink, but you can use a pencil or another type of fountain pen, and another colour of ink.

The aim with this is threefold: one, to get used to your colours without bringing in too many , to keep it as simple as possible; two, to get used to what you’re going to come across in a café situation; and three, to show you how it’s possible to use very few colours and still produce a rich “colourful” sketch.

There are still a couple of places left on each day (Saturday and Wednesday, at 4.00pm-6.00pm and 5.00pm-7.00pm IST respectively), or you can join in one class at a time. You get a whole class free if you buy a block of five (six for the price of five).

I also teach one-on-one: imagine, two hours to yourself to address all your sketching issues and goals. Only two slots a week available. Your needs will be discussed via email in advance so that I can produce a tailored class. You can get in touch and we can discuss that option!

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