Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

TIL: Even adults can "earn" participation awards ;)

If I can't pat one, maybe I can learn to draw one?

I don't even really know where to begin.  Okay - well I'm definitely chuckling that I got a legit participation award for a free online course.  But hey, I'll take what I can get ;).   And it made me and some of my friends laugh, so obviously it had SOME benefit.   And, to Jael's point - somebody, somewhere, for sure has this participation award on their LinkedIn ;-P

So, as those who follow this blog will know, I've been playing with the idea of learning to draw, and recently discovered that "coloured pencils" isn't as simple a concept as I'd thought.  And while most of the YouTubers tend to use primarily "normal" (in my head) coloured pencils (eg wax or oil based - not that I knew either were a thing until very recently), the pros who do primarily animals seem to like pastel pencils.  Which are, of course, even more expensive ;). 

But I like animals...   I don't remember how exactly I ended up there, but I found the Colin Bradley School of Art -- and he had a free "for complete beginners" class that only needed 6 pastel pencils to create an impressive looking tiger.   Hmmmm potentially I could justify that for a new experience (they're about $3 each!  At least at the only place I could find to buy them individually - which was conveniently less than a 20 min walk from work on a week I had to go to the office anyways).

Well.  The top thing I learned is this is NOT the medium for me.  Ugh.  Sad.   Which is a shame cause I LOVED the class.  And while he does have a handful of classes for coloured pencils, the things I'd really love to draw are all pastels.  Blah.

So - first of all - things I loved about the class.   It is friendly, patient, calm.  It's kinda like sitting with  a storybook grandfather teaching you the basics (if your grandfather happened to sound and teach like  David Attenborough lol).  Patient, relaxed, and once in a while unintentionally made me laugh (eg "you don't have to follow my way."  *pause*  "But I suggest you do.").  They tell you up front what you'll need, including the exact brand and colour of pencils, paper, etc (easier to follow if you have the same materials).  I'll admit, I only got the pencils - mostly cause none of the rest was easily available around here, but I did at least get "pastel paper", if not the specific brand, having learned my lesson about impact of paper before!   I believe the whole site is run by the artist (who my guess would be in his 80s?   Said he didn't start learning to draw until he was in his 30s) and his either son or grandson (I think son, but not 100% sure on that) who seems to take care of the online portion of the business while the artist does the drawing and teaching component.

He provides a sketch to start you out and suggests printing it directly onto the paper (like with an actual printer) which was my first indication of the difference in medium because, of course, you can't erase those lines!   However, A - my pastel paper wouldn't fit in the printer, and B - I also would like to actually learn how to draw so...  I did my best to copy his example and sketch it myself.  I used a grid, so that certainly helped.  It wasn't perfect by any means, but I would argue it was close enough (hey - when I took a pic of my finished work, my phone identified it as a tiger, so I'm deeming that a win!)

Probably kinda hard to see, but my attempt at copying his sketch.
So that I could *start* lol.

Now - this course is 1.4h long.  I know from prev YouTube to double or triple the time depending.   This one...  We're not even going to discuss it.   I was likely an hour in before he started (aka with getting the sketch in place!)  Probably a good life choice to go back to learning some sketching basics first!

I came to learn pretty quickly why pastels wouldn't be for me...  The first thing is, part of learning to draw was a hobby I could do on the couch while C was watching TV.   Pastels kinda need a desk.  I already have lots of "in my office" hobbies - piano, Spanish, handstands...   So that in itself wasn't a strong start, but could certainly be worked around fairly easily if it were the only blocker.   The next was enforced structure.  Because of how smudgy pastels are, you really do have to fully complete one section at a time.   There is no agile to this approach ;).  You can't stop in the middle and have a usable project.  So I'd have part the was amazing and I loved and part that I hadn't even started yet.   I'm not great a lifetime commitment projects ;). I'm here full for the quick wins.  I have a lifetime commitment stabby that I'm working on - one is enough!

Great ears!  But that's a lot of work to still have the rest look like...  Well this ;)

One thing that made this course more of a course than just a follow-along video is the nature of the picture lends itself to repetition.   So he'd teach how to do one ear, and then let you go off and do the other.   Teach how to do one type of fur, and then let you extrapolate that to the rest.  Super frustrating if you just want a pretty picture at the end but actually awesome for teaching you to figure it out.   And after the face, it was pretty much a DIY approach with a "you don't need to watch me do this, I'll meet you back here when you're done". Again - great for learning, less good for successful results 😂    Although I certainly could've replayed the video from before to help refresh that for sure.

I think the above picture is about where I stopped on day 1 (or day 2 actually - day 1 was the sketch, day 2 I started with colours).  I was now a couple hours into a 1.4h video ;)

The eyes were my favourite part by far.   I'm so amazed at them, I loved doing them, and they were totally worth the effort for the results.  It really helped me to pay attention to details of colour and the impact of shading = realism/depth.  And I know that's really 101 level, but come on - I AM 101 level lol.

Even after all was said and done, the eyes remain my favourite part.

They warn about smudging, and keeping a piece of paper over any work you've already done.  What I didn't clue into was the paper itself could cause smudges 🤦‍♀️, so I found that an added degree of stress that wasn't necessary for a complete beginner ;).  Now normal pencil crayons do the same, but nowhere near the same degree.

The layering of colours I still don't entirely understand why it works in areas that you don't need or want to ever see all the colours, but I definitely appreciate that it does ;)

Part way through a technique was introduced that I could *not* replicate.  SO far beyond my skill and capability level it was laughable.  So I gave it a go, but yeah.  A definite miss.  And combine that with a complete inability to get my pencils sharp (apparently the trick is whittling them with a knife - which, thanks to C, I have a knife.  Alas, I have no skills).  And now smudgy paper and colours being flattened, my frustration level was definitely growing.   The smudgy paper was easy enough to manage once I knew about it - so that's simply a newbie mistake.   Skills it's fair not to have on day one, but still sad :( 

And then I had to disappear for basically two weeks for work.   lol so when I came back, I finished off what I could, decided not to include the background mostly cause I didn't have the patience for it today and I wanted it done, and partially cause I'd have to tape the paper and I wasn't sure that would be a good life choice at this point ;)  Whiskers were pretty much a complete fail lol.   I got one or two that I think looked right, but man are they a risky edition - the same skill I had 100% failed throughout the whole drawing, but has to be done fast, in one stroke, with confidence or it doesn't work AND risks a complete redo of significant parts of work (plus side, I now know it's reasonably easy to redo pastels - far more than coloured pencils).  So not sure how I'm feeling about that atm, but I'm calling the tiger done.    

I'm gonna take this as a win for a first effort!

First experience with pastel pencils taught me a LOT, I *loved* this particular school and would 100% sign up for their paid stuff too if it were graphite or coloured pencils.  But likely again some day.  We shall see :).  After all, they did give me a participation award!   Nobody else has done that in decades ;-P.  But I can't imagine how long one of the LONG videos would take me!  lol.  This was pretty close to the shortest option.

I'm not even kidding! ;)


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