Recently I had the pleasure of teaching a class on “Drawing Animals in Nature” in graphite. It’s a popular class I based on one of my most recent books by the same name. I teach not only how to draw animals, but also how to draw them in their natural environments. This includes backgrounds and the elements of landscapes such as trees, skies and water.
In this particular class, I had many newcomers to art. In fact, only three of the eight had ever really drawn in graphite before. As a teacher, this is a great opportunity, for new artists haven’t developed bad drawing habits that I then have to try to undo.
I always start my five-day classes the same way. Usually, on Monday, I’ll play one of my teaching DVDs to introduce them to the materials and techniques, and show them what they are in store for during the week. This is when I see the old familiar “deer in the headlights” look, of people pretty sure they won’t succeed. I just laugh, because I know what’s going to happen.
Due to the high ratio of new artists, this class started a bit slow, for we really had to start with the bare basics. That even included explaining what a mechanical pencil was, and how to put the lead in it. After that, I tortured them with the “dreaded sphere,” to show them how to make a drawing look three-dimensional. The sphere is in all of my books, and is the foundation to everything you will draw. My students went home exhausted, and I’m sure, feeling very overwhelmed.
On day two, we launched into the elements of drawing animals, and the procedure required to make them look real. This always starts with the same three-stage procedure of:
1. Capturing shapes
2. Creating form through blending and the five elements of shading (applying the sphere)
3. Adding surface details
I teach through extensive demonstrations, so I had projects I was working on to guide the class. Never do I just tell a student what to do–I show them. With my own drawings, I show them each step required.
Day three came, and each student had selected a project that they were going to work on. With most of them being new, there were many questions, and a fear of failure was going on around the room. I had promised them that by Friday, they would have something to be proud of. Few believed me at this point, but I knew better.
By Thursday, a few of them were having their artistic epiphanies, where everything was starting to gel a bit. I could see the excitement building as their drawings started to escape the kindergarten appearance and evolve into a believable piece of art. Their faith in me at this point was becoming restored, and I told them that by the next day I would keep my promise to them, that they would leave the classroom proud of their work.
Well, I was right! That’s why I now call my last day of art class, “I Told You So Friday.” I worked feverishly with each student on their projects all day, encouraging them not to quit too soon. It’s in the many layers of development that the realism comes in. Often the difference between a good drawing and a great drawing is just a few more hours of slow diligence. By the end of the day, all of the students were proud of their art, and amazed by the work they had accomplished. “I told you so!”
In all of my almost 40 years of teaching, I’ve never tired of the wonderful feeling of seeing the look on a student’s face when he did something he never thought he could do. If you’re one of those artists with “fear of failure” syndrome, please do whatever you have to do to take one of my classes–I promise you won’t be disappointed. Many beginning artists never experience the feeling of honing that skill, because they’re afraid to step out and try. Let me help you! It’s a wonderful life to have when you can do what you love!
Check my web site here at ArtistsNetwork often for tips and pointers, and my class schedules. You won’t regret it!
Hope to see you soon!
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!