Posts Tagged ‘learning’

I am now registered with the Mass Board of Library Commissioner’s Performers List! Some of you may know that I teach “How to Draw Manga” Workshops at Libraries and Community centers across the state of Massachusetts. I started teaching these workshops back in 2003 (yikes) and began by cold-calling libraries across the state. Well, my little lecture’s popularity ballooned to the point where I no longer needed to do any advertising to get the word out. Librarians shared my contact info amongst themselves and business has been pretty steady ever since.

Regardless, I feel like its about time that I ought to do a little bit of advertising, if only to let some of the libraries I haven’t been to in a while know that I’m still running this workshop! Maybe I can also reach some new community centers outside of my typically library circuit as well in the process. So per the suggestion of a wonderfully helpful Librarian from Dover I have registered with the Library Commissioner to be on a list of Massachusetts library “performers.”

But I’m also writing this blog post! So that you, curious reader with connections to libraries or after-school programs which are looking for ways to entertain children, might be inspired to make a connection for me here. Anime and Manga is a fantastically popular style of Japanese cartooning and story telling which came to the US in the 1980’s and was made popular by 90’s television shows like Pokemon. The style has grown in popularity so much that there are literally hundreds of titles which employ this style of drawing. Because the style has been so prevalent for over 20 years, many of today’s children grew up with it all around them, and are very interested in learning how to tell their own stories through manga.

If you have a child who would like to learn how to draw Anime and Manga, or if you run an after school program, or if you are a librarian and you are interested in hosting a “How to Draw Manga Workshop” for your kids, I encourage you to visit this link to find out more about my workshop, and to send me an email with any other questions!

Libraries of the World, here I come!

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I would like to thank everyone at Milestones, Inc for inviting me to host two How to Draw Manga workshops today.

Milestones is a therapeutic school for children with any disorder that interferes with their ability to learn in a traditional school setting including autism, anxiety disorders, non verbal learning disabilities and more. Milestones places children in an environment specifically designed to meet their individual needs, with lots of room to express themselves, and extra staff and support to help them focus and grow. I was invited to participate in their Arts Enrichment Day by teaching two drawing courses: one offered at the middle school level, and one at the high school level.

During my workshops, I had lots of staff support to help keep the kids focused. This was extremely helpful because I typically have to stop the whole class to deal with inattentiveness or outbursts (which can happen anywhere I teach) myself. Having a support team meant that I could keep the lecture going and not risk losing the attention of the other students. I am quick to praise the teacher support team watching over us in the back of the classroom, but they were not needed nearly a often as one would think. The children were very focused and engaged in their drawings, and our open conversations stayed mostly structured and on topic.

The Milestones building was a pretty cool environment to be in. The school is located in an office park, so from the outside you wouldn’t think that the place would be very welcoming to children. But the section of the building used for the school itself was painted bright colors and filled with spacious classrooms. Overall it was much nicer than most schools that I have been to.
Again, I would like to thank the students and the staff for having me, and I would love to return in the future!

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Ah! I’m finally home for winter break. Five eighths of the way done with college. This semester I took four studio classes and only one academic; that means that I have made a whole lot of work this year! Some of which still isn’t up on my site but I am getting to that I promise.

So what did I learn this year? Well I learned how to use watercolors. I had painted a little bit in watercolors in the past, mostly sketching with them, but this was the first time that I have used watercolors to do some serious paintings. It was hard to get the hang of at first because I am so used to working with acrylics. With acrylic paint, you mix the color you want, put it on the canvas, and that color is there, its done, its opaque and isn’t going to change unless you put another glob of paint on top of it. With watercolor, the paint is translucent, even transparent sometimes. It takes many layers to build up the colors to dark values and it is easy to move the paint around and change the transparency with a little bit of water. The paintings are fragile and thin and you must work delicately. However, watercolor is a beautiful medium to work in, and great textures and soft, flat washes of color can be achieved depending on how you apply the paint.

I also learned a lot about the figure this semester. I took a figure drawing class, where for two and a half hours, twice a week, we draw naked people. That’s a lot of drawings over the course of a semester, and because the drawings are super time sensitive, it was kind of stressful! Drawing from the figure means that the reference your drawing from occasionally moves, and needs periodic breaks, and will only be there for one class period. That doesn’t leave much time to make a finished drawing in. There is no referring back to that model once the class has ended, so you have to be constantly focusing and watching the time and bringing up the whole drawing at the same time or at least budgeting time for each area. Lots of things to worry about in that class. However all of that practice has certainly paid off, especially in drawing the face. Everyone always struggles with faces, especially getting them to look just like the person being drawn, but after drawing so many faces, and many of the same faces over and over again (because we had each model many times in one semester) I feel like I have improved immensely.

Other than improving my technique, I also learned a lot about myself in terms of how I work and what I want to work on. I have always been relatively in tune with my work habits and how I get things done best, but this semester I spend a lot of time tapping into my creative and critical thinking side of the art-making, and not just focusing on the execution side, as much of college demanded that I do. I had a drawing class this semester that allowed me the freedom to make any kind of work that I wanted. I really loved this because I got the chance to be truly creative and conceptual. I found that I have a real love for function artwork. I need to make work that is going to serve a purpose or could be applied to a future purpose. I love art for art-sake and can appreciate artwork that is not made with any purpose in mind, but for me personally, to get the most satisfaction out of my pieces, I have to make something that is in some way function, marketable, or reproducible.  Appealing to the masses really, is what I aim for. I like making work that applies to other people–not all people, but a sizable group of people.

I also have been making really girly, frilly, sparkly work lately. I am really drawn to the high that “eye-candy” delivers, and I like to make things that are pleasing to look at. However, I don’t want to make work that is hollow and void of meaning, so I try to use the functional and massively appealing conceptual stuff in my head to enrich my work, and not make the work all about the pretty surface. An example of this is my corset playing card deck, which addresses a whole slew of issues around beauty, the idealization of the female form, and the lengths that human beings go to in order to be considered pretty…but I will have more on that soon. They are pretty cute, if I do say so myself.


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What to do with these long summer days? I know, I shall learn how to knit! Or should I learn crochet? Let’s do some research on the internet before I invest in one or the other…..lets see….they say that knitting is harder to pick up, but crochet has more different kinds of stitches to learn–giving it more variety, but once you’ve got  knitting down  you just go–knit or purl?, but knitting takes about THREE TIMES as long as crochet, BUT crochet GOBBLES up much more yarn. Knitting allows you to make stretchy textiles, but crochet allows for beautiful and lacy designs.

First time knitting. The keyboard gives you a sense of scale

So which one should I learn!? Honestly, I could not decide between the two without trying them first. So. I decided to learn both. At the same time. I tried knitting first. I went down to my library, and checked out the book “knitting for dummies.” Then I went to A.C. Moore and picked out a pair of metallic pink size 9 knitting needles. I don’t know if that was the best size to start with, but I saw a beginner’s kit at the store that had size 8 and 10 included, so I decided 9 sounded like a safe place to settle. So I have my needles, some black yarn (no idea what size it is, I found it under the bed) and my instructional book.

It did take me quite a bit to get going. The initial knots around the  needle or “casting on” was not hard to learn, but I found it very difficult to find the correct places to slide my left needle while learning the “knit” stitch. But once I did a few correct stitches, I pretty much had it…most of the time. Then I tried to learn the “continental style” of the knit…..no. Didn’t work. I liked what I had learned and didn’t want to mess it up. I will go back to it someday, but I need more practice first. Anyway, I then tried to tackle the purl. That was much easier to learn than the knit, and my hands felt more comfortable doing it. The picture above of the black THING is the first thing that I knitted. Obviously it’s not perfect. I don’ think I was making the transition from one row to the next properly for a while, and my work had an odd curve to it as a result. I did not bother “binding off” the whole thing here, and just used the first few stitches to practice this finishing technique on.

first time crochet

So the next day I decided I would try crochet because it had taken me about 4 hours to knit no more than an inch and a half garter stitch. Crochet did move a lot faster and the directions and where to put the hook was immediately easier to understand. However, there are a lot more different kinds of knots to be learned with crochet and so it was necessary to keep the instructions in my hand as I practiced.

On the left is a picture of my first crochet. I don’t know what it is….it kind of looks like it could be an ornament…It is a combination of single crochet, a few failed slip-stitches, and double crochet. I did not know how to transition from one row to the next at this point so that is why it started to take on such an odd shape….But at least this only took me about an hour to do!

second crochet practice piece

Once I got going, I decided to start on a new practice piece. On the right is my second attempt at crochet. I was definitely getting better and faster at it. And I learned how to transition from row to row, so it is not wiggling all over the place. This is a few rows of single crochet, but mostly double and half-double crochet because they are SO MUCH FASTER ❤ ❤

I really like the speed that I can work at with crochet but I do enjoy the stretchy nature of the knitted fabrics. I got a free project pattern from the fabric store to make arm-warmers by knitting. So I decided to make this my first small, but goal-oriented project. And here’s where I am at so far.

Off of the needle, it should be about six and a half inches wide and I will continue to knit a basic garter stitch until it is about 8 inches long. Then I will sew the rectangle into a cylinder  with a hole for my thumb. And I will have a home-made arm warmer. Not perfect, but hopefully functional and cute. I will probably embellish with some ribbon, if only to hide my dropped stitches. ^__^;;;

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Now that my sophomore year is over, I decided to make a list of what I think are the ten most important things that I have learned this year. They may not be in perfect order, but I tried to somewhat number them by importance. Hopefully, knowing these things will save you a lot of head aches when you’re working on your own art projects.

10. Green is a primary color. Today, children in elementary and highschool are being taught that the three primary colors are Red, Blue, and Yellow. This is wrong. There is actually six primary colors, existing in two different realms of color mixing: additive and subtractive. Additive color mixing is adding light (color) until you get to white, which is all of the colors. In this realm, Red, Green, and Blue are the primary colors, each one having a little bit of light. When you add two of these primaries together, you get closer to white, and one of the subtractive primaries. For example, Red and Blue make Magenta. You may have heard of CMYK, used in printing images from a computer, using a printer. Printers use ink to make their colors, and those primary colors are Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. Mix them all together an you get black. These are the same primary colors for paint and any other pigment. With these primary colors you are subtracting light when you add them together. White is the absence of color in subtractive color mixing, and mixing two primaries together makes one of the ‘dark’ primaries of additive color mixing. Example: Yellow and Magenta make Red. Now you know.

9. Quality of craft first semester Illustration and typography was a time to really focus on the surface quality of the art I was creating. If the composition and values in a drawing are sound, that is half the battle right there, but the quality and consistency of the marks and lines that make up those values are the icing on the cake and make a big difference in the final presentation. Uniformity and purpose looks better than a random mess of lines.

8. Get good reference A huge lesson in Illustration that was drilled into our heads all year. Get good reference photos. If we’re going to be drawing something, aiming for realism, then we need to know what it looks like. And we need good shadows and lots of information. So good photographs with bright lighting is essential to getting all the information needed to make and manipulate a drawing.

7. Accept the unknowns and roll with the unexpected in some mediums you just don’t know what’s going to happen. You may have a plan going into it but there’s always a handful of variables that will alter the final product from your vision. Lithography and Ceramics are great examples of this. Especially for beginners who do not understand all the little details and magic behind the processes. With ceramics, the glaze can be a real mystery. One glaze can come out bright green of brown depending on how it was fired, and sometimes those things just cannot be controlled. In our intro class, we did none of the firing and had a TA to do it, so once our pieces were glazed, it was pretty much up to fate how they would turn out. In Lithography, we were involved in the entire process in the intro class, but the process was so lengthy and tricky that something was bound to go wrong at least once in every project. None of these problems would destroy the project, but they would cause imperfections or changes that were not in the original plan. After this year, I like to think that I have learned to accept the unknowns that come with certain medium.

6. It doesn’t matter how many times you’re told the answer, you have to figure it out for yourself. This statement right here kind of makes this whole list pretty much useless; one thing I have learned for sure this year is, you can be told and taught all of the answers to the problems of drawing, and no matter how hard you listen and how much you think you understand, it needs to be thought out on your own for it to really click. You’ve got to figure certain problems out yourself. A professor can draw it out in front of you a million times but until you learn to SEE the problem and solution for yourself, you’re not going to be able to grow. It certainly helps to have someone point you in the right direction, but, this is hard to explain but it basically boils down to this: your professor says you drew your foot too short. And he can show you how long it should be. But when you try to do this again yourself, you will probably not be able to until SUDDENLY you see it and go “OH! I drew my foot too short.” It’s basically being able to recognize what you did wrong and how to fix it after its already been explained to you. Now you won’t make the same mistake again.

5. developing conceptual pieces In the past, I have mostly worked on technical pieces, depicting things as I saw them, trying to capture realism so that I could improve as a draftsman, and so that I could convey my ideas when the time came to come up with ideas. For most of my art education, I haven’t really dealt with, or at least haven’t been very aware or interested in the conceptual side of my pieces. This year, I feel like I gained a little bit of insight into myself, what kind of pieces I like and do not like, and how to go about making a piece that says something more than what’s on the surface. The steps that need to be taken to make something with real thought behind it are different for everyone, but they are worth exploring.

4.preservation of work I have accumulated so much work over the years! And it all gets stashed away in vertical paper portfolios, put behind a desk or some other piece of furniture, slumping with time and bending my paper and illustration board. All the pencil pieces mixed in with the charcoal, getting all smudged and sad. Because I never had the space or knowledge to preserve them. Before this year, I had never been taught how to preserve my work effectively, though I had always wondered and had a need. This year, I learned about acetate and glycine. Acetate, is a completely clear sheet of fairly rigid plastic, which can be purchased in rolls and cut to size to tape over drawings. This acts as a water-proof barrier to shield the work from smudges and spills. It also is a heavier weight than paper, and helps it retain its shape. Glycine is a semi-transparent sheet of paper with a balanced ph so your work can be covered in it and not yellow over time. Glycine is basically a cheaper form of acetate. These two things in combination with ways of storing images between boards or in a flat file, will help me keep work flat and clean in the future.

3. human anatomy Drawing people!! People are a SUPER popular subject to depict. Like the MOST popular thing to depict. And yes, I have drawn people before this year, and I have managed pretty well to observe correct proportions or proportions that feel human without ever knowing hard-fast rules. But this year I have been given a set of concrete proportions to follow forever. No more second guessing my measurements. We were taught at length in illustration about the skeleton and the major muscle groups that go over them. Faces too, we covered in great detail. Now I have a good set of notes to refer back to whenever I am confused about the figure. If you haven’t yet, I would suggest trying to track down a really good anatomy book to get a jump start on those proportions. (By the way, a lot of anatomy books are really wrong. So choose carefully)

2. perspective Kind of a big deal, is the way that everything in a drawing fits together to create the illusion of space. Understanding the properties of perspective and the perspective of shadows will help you create a more accurate and convincing image. Every single object in a drawing needs to be drawn in correct perspective for the piece to work. If one object isn’t right, it will break the illusion. Also, images with unintentional incorrect perspective can be uncomfortable and disorienting to look at.

1. The lightest lights in the dark, are always darker than the darkest darks in the light. This is really the rule to live by when it comes to rendering. Once you know this–and repeat this while you are drawing–you are all set. Basically, you can divide your entire picture up into areas that are in shadow, and areas that are in light. Both of these areas will have their own ranges of value to give the objects in these areas form. Lets say that the areas of light range from 0% value (white) to 40% value (an almost middle gray) this means that the ares of darkness can range from 50% to 100% value, or black. This will keep the dark and light areas separate and help make clear where light is hitting and casting shadow. In the areas where light is transitioning to dark, the 40% – 50% range can be used to create a soft transition. Area in shadow should not be of a lighter value than any of the areas in the light, and an area bathed in light should not be of a darker value than those in shadow. But don’t think that this will make your rendering too simple, because areas of light and dark should alternate throughout your image to keep things interesting and well balanced.

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