Archive for the ‘Drawing’ Category

High school teachers, Brian C. Dempsey and B.J. Betz, describe how they use drawing as a learning tool in Biological Drawing: A Scientific Tool for Learning. They observed that while a lot of time is spent drawing during a typical biology lab, biology instructors do not take the time to teach students how to draw. In response to this observation, they incorporated structured drawing activities into a biology class and successfully taught students how to observe, describe, and draw.


Dempsey and Betz taught introductory drawing techniques to students in a 9th-grade biology class to enhance their observation skills and to make them better learners. The drawing activities and homework exercises they created were administered over a five-day period. During this time, students participated in exercises addressing observation, drawing from memory, the recording of texture, contour drawing, and the drawing of negative space. Most exercises were completed as homework, while class time was spent conducting directed activities.

Detailed descriptions of each activity and illustrated examples are included in Dempsey & Betz (2001). Here is a quick look at the exercises students completed.

    Exercise 1: Observing & Describing
    Students were instructed to sit with their backs towards each other. Each student took turns describing an object from nature to their partner, who could not see the object being described. Students were required to incorporate art-related terms into their descriptions (e.g., form, value, and color). Prior to this activity, students received instruction about terms used by artists during the drawing process.

    Exercise 2: Drawing from Memory
    In this exercise, students studied an object given to them by their teacher. After studying the object for a while, they put the object away and drew it from memory.

    Exercise 3: Textures & Surfaces
    Students collected as many textured items as they could find in their natural environment. Their recorded observations and texture rubbings were used to create a master list of textures and to launch a discussion about observation skills.

    Exercise 4: Contour Drawing
    After observing a classroom demonstration, students were instructed to create a contour drawing of an object at home. The construction of a contour drawing required students to observe carefully and to draw slowly while drawing what they observed.

    Exercise 5: Negative Space Drawing
    Students learned what negative space was and how to observe it. They then practiced their negative drawing skills.

    Exercise 6: Color Blending & Shading Techniques
    This lesson was taught in the classroom. Students learned different shading techniques and learned how to mix and blend colors. The student handout for this exercise is included in Dempsey & Betz (2001).

To assess if students knew how to use contour drawing, negative space, shading, and color in a biological drawing, Dempsey & Betz created a two-part project requiring students to apply their new skills. The first project was a take-home project requiring students to complete a drawing of a plant growing around their house. Students were graded on their use of contour drawing and negative space, their use of color blending and shading, their attention to detail, and the correct identification of their plant specimen. Dempsey & Betz established grading criteria by which student drawings were assessed. Their rubric and a copy of the handout students received are included in their article.

The second part of the assessment project was conducted in the laboratory and required students to apply their drawing skills while observing and comparing insect-pollinated flowers to wind-pollinated flowers during two 50-minute class periods. A detailed description of this activity is included in Dempsy & Betz (2001).

Since this initial program was conducted, Dempsy & Betz have revised their technique as necessary. They have also incorporated drawing lessons into a unit about human anatomy. In this unit, students apply their drawing skills while learning about bones and the origin and insertion of muscles.

Getting Started
Dempsey & Betz (2001) recommend teachers read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, take introductory drawing classes, and collaborate with the art teacher at their school. I would like to add the following resources to their recommendation:

  • The Art of Botanical Drawing: An Introductory Guide ($19.95) by Agathe Ravet-Haevermans, scientific illustrator at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Read about this informative sketchbook-style guide for beginners.
  • Botanical Drawing in Color: A Basic Guide to Mastering Realistic Form and Naturalistic Color ($24.99) by Wendy Hollender, botanical artist, author, and teacher. Read the review about this comprehensive guide.

Literature Cited

Dempsey, Brian C. and B.J. Betz. 2001. Biological drawing: a scientific tool for learning. American Biology Teacher 63(4): 271-279.

Search for The American Biology Teacher at a library near you (enter your location in the appropriate field).

Also See

Drawing with Graphite Eyes

How do you use drawing as a learning tool in your classroom?

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Drawing From Line to Life by graphite artist, Mike Sibley, is currently shipping for free from the UK. Take advantage of this limited time offer before new shipping rates take affect. If you are a graphite artist caught up in a world of watercolor how-to books, this book is for you!

Mike Sibley is a very good teacher and is one of the world’s few professional graphite artists. He shares all he knows with students in his class and he does the same with readers of his 287-page book about graphite techniques. In this book you will find clear instruction and more than 625 helpful and inspiring illustrations.

Here is your chance to learn from one of the best.

In his book, Sibley discusses…

  • The tools he uses
  • Line drawing
  • Tone drawing
  • Erasing techniques
  • Blending & Layering
  • Indenting
  • Working with photographs
  • Negative drawing
  • Perspective
  • Light & Shade
  • Transfer methods
  • Preparing & planning a drawing
  • Drawing ellipses
  • Drawing textures
  • Drawing reflections
  • Drawing foilage
  • Drawing hair

Drawing From Line to Life is an excellent resource. Take a look inside!

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© Jane LaFazio. All rights reserved

Jane LaFazio is a mixed-media artist, teacher, and author. Working primarily in paper and cloth, Jane teaches classes in the San Diego area, internationally at art retreats and leads sketchbook adventures to Italy. In 2010, she began teaching her sketchbook class online.

Her much-admired sketchbook work has been featured on the cover of Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine and in An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers by Danny Gregory. Jane’s mixed-media art has been featured in Quilting Arts magazine and countless newspaper articles.

Meet Jane LaFazio!

ArtPlantae Today: How long have you been keeping a watercolor journal?

Jane LaFazio: I started a mixed media journal in 2005 and then a dedicated watercolor journal in 2006.

APT: You credit Danny Gregory for getting you started. What was the trigger that launched your journaling career?

JL: Yes, a friend told me about Danny’s blog and I started following it. Then I got his book Everyday Matters and began drawing in a sketchbook immediately. The following year, I had the fabulous opportunity to meet and sketch with Danny when he visited Los Angeles.

APT: In 2010, you began teaching your sketchbook class online at Joggles.com. How is this new format working out for you?

JL: Surprisingly well! I really wondered how my in-person teaching style would translate to online and I’m thrilled that it does! With the step-by-step lessons I wrote (loaded with photos) and the online forum that all the students can participate in, I think I really got the message across. And an added bonus was that the online students were just as supportive and friendly to each other as my in my in-person classes. It’s been great! I’m starting a new online class January 20, Sketching & Watercolor: Journal Style ON LOCATION. This will be another challenge for me! But the message I want to share is my love of sketching and painting on location, so I intend to get my students out in the public with their sketchbooks to coffee shops, museums, and parks.

APT: What are your preferred sketching materials? Why?

JL: I’ve worked in a Moleskine from the very beginning. I like the larger, watercolor version. It’s tidy outside appearance appeals to me somehow! And the books are great to travel with. I’ve got 14 finished ones, lined up on my bookshelf! However, lately I’ve been working with 5×7 inch individual sheets of hot press paper. (I love hot press, and use it for my larger work) I use the small sheets in my classes and now I’m beginning to use it regularly for my own pages. I’m also creating portfolios and boxes to keep the pages in. My watercolor paints are squeezed from the tube into a small travel palette. I use a superfine tip black permanent ink pen, any ol’ pencil, a kneadable eraser and a Niji Waterbrush. The products I use can be viewed on my blog here.

APT: Your journal pages exude a lot of spontaneous energy. Is your approach to journaling as spontaneous as it appears, or do you make a point of sitting quietly with your journal on a daily basis?

JL: Thanks! I make a point to try and work quickly. I sketch the basic shape in pencil first, then again looking just as closely at the object, I draw it in

© Jane LaFazio. All rights reserved

pen. The watercolor part goes fairly quickly. I don’t think a lot about composition of the page, when I’m doing it. It’s only later that I “finish” the page, adding an inked frame and text. My goal is to draw it, ink it, paint it, and scan it for my blog in an hour. Of course, sometimes I spend a longer amount of time on a page, but it just depends how much time I have to devote to it.

APT: How long have you been leading sketchbook adventures to Italy? How do you encourage travelers to become engaged with their surroundings?

JL: Ah! May 2010 was my first trip as teacher and it was fabulous! Thirteen wonderful students from all over the world. And frankly, it was easy to engage them. Once I taught them the basics of really looking, and how to get what you see down on paper, they were entranced with the beautiful details everywhere. Once a person draws in public, realizes how easy it is and how quickly the feeling of self-consciousness recedes, they love it. In Italy, my classes were usually in the morning, and most afternoons the students could be seen around Orvieto drawing and painting on their own (That is, when we weren’t at a cooking lesson or wine tasting together!). I’m leading another trip in May 2012 and I can’t wait!

APT: You teach an after-school program for children. Tell us about Mundo Lindo. How did you come to launch this wonderful program?
JL: In 2007 I applied for and received a grant to create a program “to teach my passion.” I love teaching art, and I love teaching to the 4th & 5th grade age group. So I created Mundo Lindo~Beautiful World, a FREE after-school art program. The kids spend 2 hours with me, and we make all kinds of art! We work in watercolor, papier mache, clay, paint, oil & chalk pastels. We’ve done kites, tie-dye t-shirts, treasure boxes, mosaic pots and puppets. The kids come back week after week and the program runs the whole school year. It’s in its 3rd year now and is one of the things I’m most proud of.

APT: Many years ago in a class taught by a well-known colored pencil artist, fellow students and I were told artists either see in shades of gray or in color. Do you agree with this assessment? What have been your observations as a teacher?

JL: Interesting. I KNOW I don’t see in shades of gray! Color is what attracts me to the subject, and then, I go straight to the contour drawing then the color creates the shading. That’s how I teach. I too, have taken from a well-known colored pencil artist, and she teaches students to start with the shading and gradually flesh out the details.

APT: The business aspect of art is a topic of interest to many artists. You market your artwork through classes, exhibitions, books, conferences, and online services such as Joggles.com, and Etsy. How many online services have you used to market your work? What types of things should artists look for as they research online venues through which to market their art?

JL: I’m lucky because my background is graphic design and marketing and I really enjoy it. I love my blog. I love Facebook, and always post my blog updates on Facebook. I used to snail mail postcards, now I use Constant Contact and send out a monthly email newsletter listing my classes, workshops, special exhibitions.

I’m thrilled when an artist asks me to contribute artwork to their books and nearly always say yes. I’ve written articles for magazines, my faves are Cloth, Paper, Scissors and Quilting Arts, and that helps get my name out too.

Artists should be aware of what’s out there in cyberspace, and then hone it down to what they enjoy doing, and where they get the most response. It’s impossible to keep up with all of it, so choose a few sources that work for you. Also, don’t try to tackle it all in one day! Do a little bit each time. For example, if you chose to start a blog, or improve the one you have (by adding Pages, for example). Do it gradually. No need to feel overwhelmed. Same with Etsy. Start by listing a few things, then gradually add more and begin to learn about the marketing aspect of selling online. And Facebook, well, it’s easy, and frankly lots of fun!

APT: Thank you, Jane, for sharing your art, outreach activities, and business sense with us. Will you take questions from readers this month?

JL: Sure! I’m always willing to help out other artists when I can. I’m fortunate to have a lot of artist friends, who often advise and suggest things to me, so I’m happy to spread the info.

Ask The Artist with Jane LaFazio

This month Jane is taking your questions about sketchbooks, journaling, her online classes and how she teaches others how to capture their world on paper. Feel free to ask about mixed media artwork or marketing too.

What would you like to know?

Please submit your questions to Jane by January 14, 2011. Jane’s replies to your questions will be posted on Monday, January 24, 2011. Send your questions to education@artplantae.com. Please write “Ask Jane” in subject line.

UPDATE: See Jane’s Q&A with readers here.

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Now at Greystoke Cafe and Classes Near You > England:

Greystoke Cycle Café & Tea Garden

You may remember learning about the Greystoke Cycling Café & Tea Garden during an interview with Billy Showell. This rest stop for cyclists not only provides everything a cyclist needs, it also provides a full schedule of workshops taught by artists and other professionals. The schedule for 2011 includes watercolor classes for beginners and botanical/wildlife illustration Master classes too!

  • Introduction to Watercolor and Pen & Wash with Margaret Jarvis
    April 20, 2011; July 22, 2011
  • Watercolor Paints and Gouache for Botanical & Wildlife Illustration with Simon Williams – August 2 (botanical), August 3 (wildlife), August 11 (both)
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh Days with Colin Swinton
    June 16, 2011
  • Landscape on Textured Paper with Gouache with Colin Swinton
    June 17, 2011
  • Botanical Illustration in Watercolor with Valerie Oxley
    August 6, 2011
  • Watercolor Paints and Gouache for Botanical & Wildlife Illustration with Simon Williams – October 5-7, 2011
  • Botanical Illustration in Watercolor with Kay Rees-Davis
    October 13-14, 2011

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Updates at Classes Near > York:

Hollengold Farm / WH Art & Design

Wendy Hollender is an illustrator, author, and teacher. She teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Hollengold Farm, and the National Tropical Botanical Garden. View Wendy’s prints, cards, scarves, and books at DrawingInColor.com. See what’s new at Wendy’s Hollengold Farm.

One-day Drawing Workshops at Hollengold Farm – Saturday, October 30, 2010. Spend a day drawing the growing harvest at Hollengold Farm. Select a subject from the farm’s large organic garden. A farm-fresh lunch is include with each workshop. Draw in colored pencil and watercolor pencil. Workshops are held 10 am – 4 pm. Cost per workshop: $90, includes lunch. Register with Wendy at wendy@whartdesign.com or register online at DrawingInColor.com.

Botanical Illustration Workshop on Kaua’i with Alice Tangerini and Wendy Hollender – February 24 – March 6, 2011, The National Tropical Botanical Garden. Learn botanical illustration techniques while using graphite pencil, colored pencil, and pen-and-brush with ink. Alice Tangerini is the illustrator at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and Wendy Hollender is an artist, author, and teacher. Workshop fee: $860 (includes lunch). Airfare and lodging extra. To register or to obtain more information, contact Judy Roberts at NTBG, 3530 Papalina Road, Kalaheo, HI, 96741. (808) 332-7324, ext. 207.

  • Feb. 24 – Class begins with Wendy Hollender; tour of the botanical garden
  • Feb. 25 – Classroom instruction with Wendy Hollender and Alice Tangerini
  • Feb. 26 – Classroom instruction with Wendy Hollender and Alice Tangerini
  • Feb. 27 – Classroom instruction with Alice Tangerini
  • Feb. 28 – Free Day
  • Mar. 1 – Field trip to Limahuli Garden
  • Mar. 2 – Classroom instruction with Wendy Hollender and Alice Tangerini
  • Mar. 3 – Classroom instruction with Wendy Hollender and Alice Tangerini
  • Mar. 4 – Classroom instruction; group exhibition of student work
  • Mar. 5 – Classroom instruction with Wendy Hollender and Alice Tangerini
  • Mar. 6 – Field trip and picnic at Makauwahi Cave
  • Itinerary subject to change.

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ARTPLANTAE TODAY (APT): How long have you been a professional graphite artist?

I have been working professionally as a graphite artist for about 25 years. Having attended medical school in Italy for several years, it was a natural that my first professional jobs were medical illustrations. I then developed my portfolio to include natural science subjects such as animals and plants so that I could work in the field of natural science illustration. After the birth of my daughter, I developed an interest in portraiture and began accepting portrait commissions.

APT: Why have you chosen to work in graphite pencil? Why not watercolor, colored pencil, oil or some other color medium?

DC: Over the years I have worked with various color mediums as well. Since I am allergic to turpentine, I use water-soluble oils for color portrait commissions, and I like to use pastels for landscapes. For my earlier color illustration work I used colored pencils. But I have always had a fascination for using graphite pencils and find myself consistently returning to them. I love the sensitivity of pencils – when I draw with a pencil, I often feel as if I am “touching” the subject. I also love the simplicity of graphite pencils. Since I travel quite a bit, I can always have my “studio” in my pocket or bag.

APT: When you were working primarily as a natural science illustrator, what type of work did you do? (i.e., textbook illustrations, museum work, etc.)

DC: I have never been a “niche” artist and have always enjoyed working on a variety of subjects. Because of this, while freelancing as a scientific illustrator, my work included medical, animal and botanical illustrations. I worked mainly in publishing, for textbook companies and some newspapers and magazines. I also did some illustrations for the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

APT: You have authored three books and co-authored two books through Walter Foster Publishing, Inc. How did you become an author?

DC: Walter Foster Publishing had seen my work and contacted me about authoring the book Realistic Textures. Although I had never authored a book before, I was thrilled to take on the project. It was exciting to have the opportunity to share the skills I have developed using graphite pencils with people all over the world. It was a successful collaboration, so I was happy to author additional books with this publishing company.

APT: Tell us about your next book and how it differs from your other drawing books.

DC: I’ve just finished working on another book for Walter Foster called Shortcuts and Artists’ Secrets, scheduled to be released in Spring 2011. The nature of realistic pencil drawing is that it is a “slow” medium—it takes a lot of time and patience to do a detailed drawing. In this book I focus on some of the shortcuts that artists use to “speed” things up a bit. Some of the tips that I discuss are: creating a dark background quickly, using thumbnail sketches, and choosing the right pencils and papers to “make the job easier”.

APT: When in Italy for the summer, you study the work of the Old Masters. How does one study the work of the Old Masters? What can be learned from Old Master drawings?

DC: This is a topic that is very dear to my heart. When I first began attending art classes, I had a wise teacher who advised me to make a lifelong habit of copying drawings from the Old Masters. By copying their drawings, you begin to notice details of their artwork, and really appreciate the training and knowledge that these artists had. I have also made it a habit that whenever I am doing a drawing, to take a look at some old master drawings of the same type of subject, and study how they approached the subject. When I am Italy, I particularly love to go to the small towns and search out the churches and museums. There is such an amazing artistic heritage Italy, it’s as if art is in the air you breathe. I always recommend to art students that they go to museums whenever possible. Today we are lucky because many museums have websites, so it is possible to do “virtual museum visits” if there are no museums close by.

APT: In your books, you use different forms of graphite, in addition to the traditional wooden pencil. How can botanical illustrators use graphite powder, graphite washes, and carbon pencil to enhance their illustrations?

DC: I always recommend experimenting with different techniques to see what “feels right”. The three techniques that you mentioned are fun to experiment with and can be very useful for the botanical artist. I like to use graphite powder as a quick way of creating a base tone. For example, to create a dark tone for some leaves, it is very easy to use a stump to apply graphite powder to develop quickly a dark base tone. Graphite washes are created using water-soluble graphite or watercolor pencils. These create watercolor effects and can be used as a base tone as well. Carbon pencils are great if you need to create a very deep black tone—the nature of graphite is such that you can only get a dark gray, but never a deep black tone. The important thing to remember when using carbon pencils is that carbon pencils have a matte finish, while graphite has a shinier “finish”. So if you use both types in a drawing, you must use the carbon as a first layer, you cannot draw with a carbon pencil on top of graphite. Another thing to be aware of is that when you combine these two mediums, they will reflect the light differently in your drawing.


We are all fortunate to be able to learn from Diane who is currently studying the work of the Old Masters in Italy. Do you have questions about the drawing process, the different forms of graphite, or the Old Masters? Send your questions to education@artplantae.com. Your questions will be forwarded to Diane and her replies to your questions will be posted later this month. Please submit your questions no later than September 19, 2010.

Submit your question today!

Updated 9/30/10: Diane Cardaci Answers Your Questions

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Wendy Hollender’s new book, Botanical Drawing in Color: A Basic Guide to Mastering Realistic Form and Naturalistic Color, is a book for all artists. To celebrate the release of this wonderful guide to drawing plants, ArtPlantae will host a live Ask The Artist session with Wendy on
August 18, 2010.

Wendy will discuss her artistic journey from surface designer to botanical artist. She will discuss her favorite botanical paintings and how they inspired her to learn about botanical illustration. She will also explain the “well-kept secrets” of realism she was not taught in college as a Fine Arts major. Find out how this detailed guide to botanical drawing and color was created for artists at all levels.


  • Our April 2008 “Ask The Artist” with Wendy Hollender is the most read article of all time at ArtPlantae Today?
  • Botanical Drawing in Color sky-rocketed to the #2 position on the Nielsen Bookscan Ratings during its first week?
  • Botanical Drawing in Color is already in its second printing?

Learn from Wendy during a special Web broadcast.
Reserve Your Seat Today!

    Event: Botanical Drawing in Color with Wendy Hollender
    Date: Wednesday, August 18, 2010
    Time: 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. PDT
    Where: Online at ArtPlantae
    Cost: $10
    Bonus: Attendees will receive a coupon to save $10 on Wendy’s new book at ArtPlantae Books.

Can’t attend the live event because you’ll be in rush-hour traffic on a freeway somewhere? No problem. Registered attendees will be able to view a recording of this event.

Please note these system requirements

    PC-based attendees
    Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP, 2003 Server or 2000

    Macintosh®-based attendees
    Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer


Updated: August 13, 2010

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