Wales – October 2017 Pre-workshop Exercises

Scroll down to view each of the Pre-workshop exercises.  I have listed them in reverse order: number one is at the bottom of the page. The exercises are the same for al three of the 2017 Workshops in Wales: The Court Cupboard, Chapel Cottage Studio and Gallery, Swansea Print Workshop.

Exercise Six – For both Painters and printmakers, but focused more on the printmaking process of layering pigments.

Directions are fairly long and complex. If have created a separate page for the direction to Exercise Six.  Click here to go to that page: Exercise Six

Exercise Five: Close to your heart Art

Two or three times a year I sift through my studio and fill my dumpster with paintings, drawings, sketches and scribbles. Year after year the work I’m attached to diminishes. At this point, only a few of the pieces that are older than ten years remain. I keep all of my sketchbooks. They are more precious than gold.

One tiny little drawing, measuring only 3.5 inches by 5 inches, has gone in the toss-out pile time and time again only to be pulled out at the last minute. One time, I made the excuse that I could use the back of it to test colors, which I did. But, instead of throwing it in the trash, I leaned it against my pen jar so that I could glance at it every now and then. Eventually, it made it back to the box labeled “I don’t know what to do with all of these”. A few months ago, I realized I would never throw this little sketch away and I decided to put it into an old frame and let it sit on a shelf.

What I would like you to do is to look back at your answers to the questions I posed in Exercise One. See if your answers are still the same. Have a cup of tea, coffee or wine and put your attention on both the questions and the answers. Find a time when you won’t be rushed and sort through some of your old work. Look at it with your heart, not your brain. Do not pass judgement on the work. Ask yourself “How do I feel when I look at this?”.

Sort the work into three piles; one pile of the ones you feel good about, another pile that you really don’t like and a third pile of those that you don’t really respond to at all. Keep them sorted in one way or another and return them to the shelf, drawer or box.

Make a few journal notes to capture the feelings and thoughts you had during this process.


pokeberry leaves at sunrise

Exercise Four: Colour Preferences

In the first two exercises we explored our sources of inspiration. In the third exercise we experimented with different approaches to how we move our hand to make lines and how we use line to define the shapes and forms within our sketches. In exercise four we will open our eyes to our colour preferences.

Use your camera or phone to make quick and easy notes of colour and colour combinations that you find pleasing, that excite you, that move you emotionally. You don’t have to figure out why you like them or what it is you’re feeling. You simply want to pay attention to and seek out colour as well as colour combinations that you might like to see incorporated into a painting sometime in the future. Snap a photo. Don’t worry about composition, design, shapes or values. Just be on a treasure hunt for delightful colour.

If possible, upload your photos to a separate folder on your computer and spend some time looking through them. Do you see a consistency in your choices? Are most of them bright, subdued, neutral, saturated?

If you wish, try the exercise again seeking colours and color combinations that you definitely do not care for. Do you notice a common thread?

Exercise Three: Exploring Your Personal Line-Making

Expressive, gorgeous colour, whether intense or subtle, can be more easily achieved when it’s the outer garment for a strong foundation of drawing, value choices and design.  The more you become familiar with your personal preferences for making lines, and the more you hone your skills at making those lines, the more fun you will have playing with colour.  You will not depend on gorgeous hues to divert attention away from a weakness in drawing or design. Everything will work together to create a powerful and lovely work of art.

Find a comfortable place to sit and look around you.  Notice something that catches your attention.  It might be a shape, it might be a texture, a pattern, or a contrast of values. It might even be a combination of colours. Draw six boxes on your paper and use different types of line in five of the boxes to create a thumbnail sketch of whatever it is that has caught your attention.  You may use pencil, pen or brush. You may experiment with any tools you wish. Pay attention to how if feels as you are making those lines. Do you feel connected to your hand and the tool you are using to make the lines? How does your stomach feel?  How does your heart feel?  Are you anxious? Are you relaxed? Are you happy?  Before drawing in the sixth box, take time to reflect on your experience of drawing in the first five boxes.  Make notes if you wish.  In the sixth box, draw the same image without looking at the image.  Allow your heart and mind to move your hand, guiding your tool to make lines within your sixth box regardless of whether or not it looks like the image in the other boxes. Put the drawings aside.  Repeat the same exercise the next day choosing a different image that grabs your attention.  Do this on three different days before looking back at your previous sketches.  On a fourth day, look at all the sketches and take note of your reactions to the sketches.  What do you notice about the energy of the lines?  Do you feel more connected with one kind of line over another?  Which types of lines did you enjoy making? Do you prefer one tool over another? Do you find yourself enjoying many different kinds of line-making or do you feel strongly connected to only one?

Once again, enjoy this exercise.  The time you spend sketching is a time of play, not a time of work.  This time is a gift to yourself.

Exercise Two: Focusing on What Inspires You

Review what you did in Exercise One.  If you have not yet completed Exercise One, please complete it prior to doing Exercise Two since Exercise Two relies on the results of Exercise One.

You may have more than one category into which your visual interest and inspiration fall into.  Spend an hour searching for and recording snapshots of images/views that fall into only the category(s) you have listed.  Do this on three separate occasions.  You may capture these snapshots either in your sketchbook by drawing them or with your camera.  When you have completed all three sessions, review your results and write a paragraph or two or three related to your experience of the exercise and your thoughts regarding how your interests might translate into your art.

Have fun with this.  Please embrace your interests regardless of what they are.  Your art reflects who you are.  You are not the artist next door whom you admire.  Your interests are totally valid and enhance your days, twenty-four hours each day.  Celebrate those interests, passions, fascinations in the world that surrounds you.

Exercise One: Story, Shape or Subject

What inspires you? If you had to sit and stare at something for three hours, what would you choose to stare at? Or … would you close your eyes and stare at the something you make up yourself, projected on the blackboard of your mind?
When I forget to ask myself this question I end up drawing and painting purely as an exercise and not as an act of expressing myself in a creative way. There is a time and a place for both activities. Both are rewarding when we have chosen between the two with intention rather than happenstance. You gain far more from any workshop when you are clear about two objectives; why are you attending the workshop; why do you express yourself using the tools and techniques of visual arts?
Your answers to those two questions may, and probably will, change over time. When I know what it is you wish to learn and why you wish to add a certain skill to your toolbox, I can either teach you those skills or direct you to a path to develop those skills.
Each person’s visual journey is unique. I was fortunate to delve into black and white photography as a teenager, turning my mother’s kitchen into a darkroom after the sun went down.  After shooting hundreds of photos and scattering my favorites on the living rom floor I noticed that the majority of images depicted rows of things: identical beach houses, bulldozers, bicycles, chairs, rocks, etc.. The other noticeable similarity was that I preferred high contrast of lights and darks. It became clear to me that the subject matter was of little to no importance. Fifty years later I find myself with the same preferences. I do not limit myself to images that fall into those two categories but I find it helpful to be aware of them. 
Some questions you you might ask yourself:
1. Do you prefer linear shapes or organic shapes?
2. High contrast, low contrast or balanced contrast?
3. Is subject matter important to you?
4. If subject(s) matter is important, what subject(s) are you most intrigued by?
5. Realism or abstraction?
6. Closed shapes or open shapes?
7. Full intensity color, diluted color, neutral color, muted tones?
8. What season’s colors do you prefer?
9. Daylight or moonlight?
10. Is there a specific part of the world that you are drawn to?
11. City, Rural or Remote?
12. Working in what media brings you the most joy?
13. Which is most important to you, the process of creating something or the finished piece of work?
14. If you were told you could only create one more piece of art in your life, what might it be?
These are not easy questions to answer. You might be able to answer only a few. Read them aloud to plant the seeds of curiosity in your mind and the answers may begin to come to you. Write the questions down and write the answers down. 
If if you have a camera or a cell phone, spend an hour in and around your home snapping photos of anything and everything that calls out to you. Take at least 100 snapshots. Take a look at them on your computer or phone (Don’t pay for them to be developed) and see if you can see a common thread that appears in many of them.
If you have questions or comments don’t hesitate to contact me.
Have fun with this exercise and with the search for answers to all the questions. Your creative energy is for you to enhance your life and by bringing more joy to your own life you automatically bring joy and inspiration to those around you.