Dare to draw: unleashing the artist within

A dozen students from across the 5 boroughs (with one visitor from DC) met at the wooden bridge just east of The Pool in Central Park for a day of art.  Rebecca Schweiger, founder of The Artist’s Studio NY led us in a 3-1/2 hour workshop called Dare to Draw 101

After we all introduced ourselves and explained our intent for the day, Rebecca, known as the New York Art Whisperer told us about how she discovered art after taking a drawing class in high school. An accomplished painter with pieces exhibited in museums and galleries, Rebecca shared her thoughts about “art as a form of self-expression” and how we each can bring the passion to life by “carving out 10 minutes a day into our planners." Rebecca believes that everyone has a talent to draw, and with practice and a willingness to embark on the journey can truly discover the artist within. 

Free spirit, gentle soul – Rebecca had but one rule for us before we began, and that was to vanquish any doubt or self-criticism for the duration of the course (and hopefully to change our behavior for good). She encouraged each of us to accept our art as an extension of ourselves, and allow it to flow unhindered by our inner critic. 

Let the drawing begin! 

The class gathered around Rebecca, sitting on blankets and benches, The Pool with its flock of ducks as our backdrop. We each selected a drawing board, 2-3 sheets of newsprint, 1-2 sheets of white craft paper and sample pieces of vine and compressed charcoal with an eraser.

Rebecca started us off with line experimentation. She would give us words and phrases and  ask us to visually depict the motion with charcoal, applying pressure to test out the capability of the materials. Something about charcoal on newsprint is liberating, I found myself sketching lots of circles and curves, abstract visualizations of loop de loops. We then moved to shading, where each of us created a gray scale box (copyright Tom M. Casey, for image below) much like the paint chip squares you might find at Home Depot.

Next up: gesture drawing. Rebecca instructed us to pick a scene or object and quickly sketch it for a specified interval of time, before moving onto another scene or image. It was sort of like a speed round of Pictionary--minus the opposing players and guessing. These warm-up exercises were meant for us to meditate on what we see, to make connections with lines and detail so that we could adequately prepare for our final assignment.

Sketch Composition

For our final assignment we were instructed to choose a specific subject that spoke to us. Once we selected our subject Rebecca suggested using our fingers as a viewfinder to help frame its composition. We were given an hour to study and then sketch the subject. Rebecca encouraged us to use the vine charcoal to lightly frame the image in a gesture drawing before using the other materials to fill in detail and lines. She would come around as we were sketching to offer feedback and direction, with tips on how to fill in and add dimension to the scene and/or subjects. 

Choosing a subject

I strolled down the path and eyed a tree close to the edge of the Pool. The trunk of the tree rather than grow straight as its neighbors, grew at a crooked angle and reminded me of Disney's depiction of the old witch in Hans Christian Anderson's Snow White. Located just west of a small inlet where ducks and turtles lazily floated by, it was slightly hidden a a lamppost. I liked how the tree seemed to stretch toward the sky as if trying to reach through the surrounding foliage for the sun. You can see the work in progress of my sketch below. Rebecca likened it to Vincent Van Gogh's Tree Series.


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