One of the stereotypical visual icons of Interior Alaska is the ubiquitous fireweed, which gets a lot of aesthetic attraction from tourists and artists alike when in full bloom. Personally I much prefer the plant when all is said and done; blown, dried up & dead.
So I spent the evening before class culling the hillside around the cabin picking out individual leaves for use as a simple still-life with which to explore the concepts of basic composition, and also experiment with the new medium (charcoal) plus introduce contour line.
After a couple warm-up exercises for the first part of class + a little lecture on composition including previous examples from students on the next assignment I also handed out.
I'm stressing composition and basic design concepts earlier and earlier each year, as I keep realizing just how fundamental it is regardless of (and often in spite of) any student's individual skill level. Picking out what one feels is the most important part of what makes a good drawing and focusing on only one element can be quite the juggling act. Sometimes it seems as if I should just try and cram every single thing I know about drawing into just one damn class; it's a challenge to parcel out information sequentially when everything's so tightly interwoven. Though it frustrating to seemingly teach each aspect in isolation there's fortunately an entire semester to rake everything up together into one big pile of art at the end of and take a flying leap into.
The form and shape of just one solo leaf reveals so much intimate information and a wealth of material to draw from. Learning to slow the hell down and examine with due patience and care the little details that get lost or overshadowed by the frenetic pace of everyday life is almost an important skill as learning how to draw.
"I am a leaf on the wind - watch how I soar." - Hoban "Wash" Washburn