Our first offering of Botanical Sketching in Ink and Watercolor wraps up this week. This popular series will be offered again this fall on Monday mornings, starting October 5. Learn more and register.
Blog post by Saffron Hefta-Gaub, summer communications volunteer
August 3, 2015
Today I showed up at the UW Botanic Gardens right at 10:00 am, to sit in on the first Botanical Sketching and Watercolor class. This class is to grow one’s skills in capturing flowers and foliage, with quick techniques and portable materials. Of course, the skills learned here can be applied to all sketching, our teacher herself isn’t an entirely landscape artist. The class looks to be of a fair price, though fortunately I got to sit in free.
When I walked up to the Gardens, I was a little confused and tried to follow signs to the class location. Thankfully, I spotted Jessica who guided me towards the greenhouses where the classes were located. When I was browsing events to attend, this one caught my eye because of my previous dabble in the art of sketching. I even brought my own sketch book, though I doubted I’d participate. Unfortunately I learned that the class was in pen, no pencil allowed, and pencil was all I had brought. Oh well.
The class was sold out, ten adults, all with some history/interest in art or gardening. Our teacher was Lisa Snow Lady. Yes, that’s her real name. Snow Lady. Pretty awesome right? She commented on that and I took note. I love your name Lisa! Our instructor was soft spoken and kind. Her education was at the University of Washington, in art, but she also had a certificate in Ornamental Horticulture. She introduced herself first before we went around the table to introduce ourselves. I actually didn’t introduce myself, apparently Ms. Snow Lady, who knew I was coming, told the participants about me before I showed up, because one of the ladies asked if I was the intern. Intern sounds so official! As for the names of the people in the class, they blended together, similar names from the same generation. Patsy, Pattie, Barbara, Bobby. I noticed one man biked here. He got me. I can’t drive, so I bike most places when I need to get there independently. I biked to my play when it was still going on. Speaking of the play, hope I don’t get too sentimental about it here, closing night was only three days ago. Let’s get to the class!
To start off she showed us her own work, as well as the work of students past and some art off the internet. Next we ran over the materials list that had been next to the check in list. Turns out Sharpies are amazing, great for sketching when watercolor washes will be used, as their ink won’t run. As for the holding of paint, pan trays, the plastic dividers like the ones you used when you were a kid, work great as well. Or paints in an Altoids tin can function.
After we finished the list, Lisa brought out a giant bundle of leaves for us to practice with. I say “us” but honestly I did nothing but observe and daydream. Lisa used the sudden bunch of green to point out and explain the difference in leaf shape, in the veins, and the different locations leaves can be on the stem. Though Lisa said she didn’t remember much from her botanical classes, the class was a study in both art and nature. Next were warm ups, getting used to the feel of the pen. Like me, most people use pencils, so drawing with a permanent, smoother writing utensil can take practice. These warm ups consisted of picking a leaf, and scribbling in it’s shape on scratch paper. I watched the black leaves that emerged from the other students’ pens and, even though they were sketches of sketches, even simple sketching is beautiful if you think about it. Next was blind contouring, a game I had played myself, which consists of not looking at your paper as you draw an object, or as Lisa described it, feeling the edge. People chuckled at the designs that emerged from their blind drawings. The next activity added to that, where one could look at their hand briefly, only to connect slips in the the paper. The key was to feel the edge of the leaf. The next add-in was focus on the veins.
While I sat there, listening to Lisa and not drawing unlike everyone else, I noticed another woman and I kept alternating yawns, in a completely tired and non-rude way. What, I’m a teenager who likes sleep, I’m tired every morning. I don’t know about the woman.
I am a teenager, and I try to be as interesting and polite as possible, but my mind still wanders and it seems in this post that aspect of my writing is shining through more. I attribute that to being tired during the class and not being able to participate fully. That is why, both in class and here, I’m trying to keep all thoughts away from getting sentimental about people I meet only four weeks ago, and the direction I know Buffy the Vampire Slayer is headed. Buffy is the show I’m currently binge watching. However, this entire paragraph has been about me and not the class so I guess I failed in that task. I apologize. I honestly did start to daydream about Buffy because, despite having art skills, I did not have supplies! I had a sketchbook, but not a pen. Stupid pens.
Finally my endless loop of silly thoughts were broken by the end of warm ups and Lisa’s call to go outside. We went out to the garden to observe the texture of the leaves and get some real drawing in. The gardens are absolutely lovely, with a beautiful fountain in the middle that kept my company when everyone else drew. However, before everyone scattered off to sketch, Lisa gave a quick demonstration on how she was able to draw using a permanent marker to make quick lines that formed a lovely bunch of leaves. From there, students went off and picked their own section of garden to sketch by themselves for half an hour. If only I had brought a pen I’d have been drawing too. Thankful it was a beautiful day so I wasn’t unhappy. A plaque with the phrase “unusual foliage” caught my eye. Unusual Foliage needs to be a band name. The class definitely seems like an interesting and worthy class if you love to sketch gardens, and bring paper and pen. I didn’t bring a pen. Everyone else did and they had a great time. Lisa went around checking in on people like a good teacher should. Now I realize, writing up these notes, that Lisa said she’d look out for the blog post. Whoops. Lisa, when you read this blog post know I loved the class. I was just frustrated with not sketching when I didn’t bring a pen because I thought it was against the Volunteer Write Up Crew code or something. Nah, it was really because I was too lazy to bring a pen. Is this whole blog post me complaining about a pen? I’m so sorry. Please sign up for this class, well, not this class because it’s already full, sold out, due to what a great offering it is. But Jessica notified me the Botanical Gardens are going to offer it again in the fall. Please sign up for the fall offering. I promise, anyone, no matter what your skill, can participate.
As soon as it was getting too hot we went back inside to finish up for the day. Lisa said the class did really well for their first time and I’m disappointed not to come again to see how much they develop over the next four weeks. The final thing I learned is that sketching is both easier and harder than you think. The final activity was cleaning up the room, and then I left. Another event complete. This job is fun. If you have a pen.