Nature Art: Three Myths About Drawing
If you're intimidated by the idea of sketching and painting, you're not alone. Sometime around age 10 we get the idea that the only good drawing is a realistic one. But good art has little to do with exactness and a lot to do with the feelings an artist gets down on the paper. You don't need perfect drawing skills to observe and record your impressions of the world around you. Here's a drawing I did a few weeks ago; I was trying to capture the shapes of sails caught in the wind, but you can recognize the sailboats without the realistic rigging or masts:
1. I must already be able to draw and, since I can't, it's too late.
The top fear of everyone. Drawing is a skill that can be learned anytime, just like reading. The reason you can't draw as well as you read is because you practiced reading during school, over and over again. Chances are you didn't practice drawing more than a few times in art class...before you went on to try clay or painting. Give contour drawing a try: "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," by Betty Edwards, still has the clearest instructions around.
2. I need expensive or special tools.
I love the tools of art: delicious new colors, accurate mechanical pencils...but you don't need lots of tools. All you need is a number 2 pencil and blank paper. I bring along an eraser, just in case. If you're keeping a nature or travel journal, you could collect your drawings in a sketchbook so your observations will be kept in one place. Sometimes, if I'm traveling with watercolors, I carry a shaker of table salt with me to sprinkle in the wet paint. In the lobster, below, I used the salt to make the pattern in its shell:
3. I don't have enough time.
Who hasn't spent five minutes waiting in a parking lot? You can make a quick drawing of a car or a school bus in that time, putting your own spin on the scene. A camera would have captured all the cars I saw out my window in this parking lot. But I only wanted to emphasize the neat way the car windows aligned, and I tried to do that in this sketch:
-- Sue Fierston paints and teaches just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a painter, she works in acrylics and watercolor and is in the middle of a series called "100 Flowers." As a teaching artist, she works with teachers to bring art into their classrooms in grades 4-8. Her posts focus on her nature-themed art collaborations. For a look at her paintings or more about her teaching, check out her website at suzannefierston.com.