Friday, September 23, 2016

Herb fanciers rule!

Yesterday I presented a drawing workshop for the Delaware Valley Unit of the Herb Society of America, very high falutin name for a wonderful group of enthusiasts who plunged in bravely with all the drawing adventures I invited them to.

This workshop was hosted at the Holcombe Jimison historic Farm, in Lambertville NJ, see their website here with whom this chapter of the Herb Society has a cordial relationship.   The society's herb garden is a fenced area on the farm, at the moment filled with herbs of various continents, to reflect the modern population of the Delaware Valley. 

Most of the participants were inexperienced in drawing, though great gardeners and cooks, and since the focus was to learn to draw their own herbs, they were interested in pursuing these new skills.

We did the introductory modified contour drawing, using live herbs I'd brought in, picked from my own tiny herb area, drawing within a 5 in by 8 in golden rectangle, failsafe shape to work in.  

Then we moved on, still in golden rectangle mode, to shaded drawing and highlighting, using their own pencils, plus access to my selection of charcoal, carpenters' pencils, graphite sticks, pens, chalk,  and the use of the kneaded eraser.  I had brought various sorts of paper, including some wonderful Indonesian mulberry paper, plus drawing paper and colored sheets, too.  So some people ventured into white drawing on colored background, and others used chalk for highlights, and kneaded eraser to lift out light sections.  

Finally we went to two small golden rectangles, 3 in by 5 in, to use the nondominant hand to make another herb drawing.  Much to their surprise, the results were very very good!  it's hard to believe before you try it, but I love to see the pleasure on the face of a participant who realizes they can draw well with the other hand.

And people went home with bits of kneaded eraser plus mulberry paper, and other sheets, to try at home, and their golden rectangles, which you will have realized were index cards, which happen to be the right proportions.

I have such respect for beginners who plunge in and just try everything, and listen up, and are interested in the history of what we're doing, and why it works, and why there are no drawing police surrounding the building.

Then at the close, I shared my own artist books and portfolios, stuffed with small drawings of plants, in ink largely, and paintings of all kinds of scenes.  And I suggested they try making an Xbook like the one shown here if they're interested in creating a garden journal with picture and drawings of their own herbs, including the society's herb garden at the location where we were.  

Since the members of the society study herbs, history, uses and cultivation, I thought it would be great to pursue a practice of drawing them, so as to be very familiar with the shape and identity of any herb they ever draw.  True of anything you draw -- you never forget what it looks like.

No pix of the event, too totally engrossed in teaching and learning and sharing and showing, to pick up a camera.  I usually feel that all my attention should be on what we're doing together rather than recording it,  also it's better if people don't feel they're under observation, but if I get any pix of drawings from the participants, I'll share them here with permission. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the big tree, eight foot ficus benjamina is back in the house after a wonderful summer out of doors, during which she improved her foliage dramatically, good for the winter until she goes out again next summer. She's about 35 years old and touching the ceiling now. 


Surrounding her are rescued plants, one abandoned, which is now four flourishing plants, after surgery, one a collection from a grieving mother who wanted me to take the plant arrangement from her son's funeral and care for it -- now four times its original size -- and great grandchildren of earlier houseplants of mine.  All making a microclimate, with the help of a bit of light.  I have several other collections, in other rooms, but this is a nice focus of one corner of the living room.

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