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1st Weekend of Biological Illustration

I came into this class with an empty new sketchbook, not knowing what to expect. My illustration skills were minimal at best and I didn’t know how much they could be improved upon. As soon as I sat down I was emerged into drawing boot camp. I learned basic technical skills such as gesture drawing, negative space drawing, contouring and perspective. We drew skulls, each other (in stick figure form), our hands, the trees and buildings outside. I learned the main aspect about myself that was keeping me from being a better artist: impatience.

I noticed very quickly that I had a habit of drawing things very fast and not taking the time to focus very hard on small aspects that make the difference between vague disproportion and proper representation. Honestly, illustration skill can be taught a lot more than I realized before; it took me signing up for an intense four-day, eight-hour class to find this out.

Yesterday we focused on drawing techniques and today we applied the ones we learned out in the field. We drove to an intertidal zone about twenty minutes away and straddled the rocks with our sketchbooks and pencils in our backpacks. After some slipping and sliding, we each found our own little spot to sit down and draw a little creature. I drew an ochre star, a Black Katy’s Chiton in a sea urchin bored crevice and an algae-covered rock in between wave crashes.

My goal was coming true; slowly I was building the skills to be able to draw something interpretable on demand. While I’m not The Edge of the Sea good, I am at the point where I can see that as much more achievable than before.

After looking out into the foggy coastline while California sea lions serenaded us from an island further out, we drove our wet butts back to campus, ate lunch and went right back to drawing. The next technique we learned was shading and lighting. We took our desk lights from our dorms into one of the classrooms to properly light our subjects. I needed to change my subject from a small shore crab that was discovered dried up on the floor of the classroom to a seashell because crabby stunk up the whole room.

The sea shell illustration (above) is what I worked on for the next five hours. I didn’t understand until this weekend how an artist could take so long on an illustration. I also didn’t understand why an artist drew the same thing so many times with so many pieces of paper to perfect one illustration. Simply, I have a new-found respect for artists and their commitment to a piece of work.

I plan on continuing to draw random items each day, besides the fact that that is our homework assignment for the week. I want to continue my progress and maybe someday, I will be able to publish my illustrations with my scientific writings.

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