What I taught in GyeongJu Sketch Festa 2023

I'm writing this to share my first workshop teaching experience.

Despite teaching on Youtube and through online courses for many years, I've actually not taught any workshops in person until recently at the GyeongJu Sketch Festa 2023. It was certainly a fun experience and I learned a lot too.

The main difference between learning through on-location workshops vs online courses is there's definitely more interaction, more learning from one another and you're on a live stage you have to react with. Urban sketching is best taught outdoors because it is an outdoor activity. It's one thing to learn the drawing techniques in the comfort of your home, but once you're outdoors you have to deal with people, weather, finding a good sketching spot while taking care of your belongings.

My workshop on travel journaling

I guess urban sketching and travel journaling can be referred to interchangeably. It's about going to places and sketching what you see instead of just taking a photograph. With sketching, you can remember more vividly the places you have sketched including the things you did not draw.

My goal really is to inspire the students to be excited about the journaling process with their own experiences and stories, and also let them know that there's a huge group of like-minded sketchers around the world.

My students have a varying degree of experience with drawing and creating art. A few are total beginners.

It is possible to teach someone to draw in a day, but to draw well takes a much longer time. Right from the start I knew it's not possible to teach someone to draw better under just 3 hours. So instead I wanted to teach the students how to make mistakes and learn from them, which will make them learn and grow faster. And I do that by teaching the students to create simiplified thumbnails for scenes that they may develop into a more detailed scene later if they want to.

When it comes to making mistakes, there are a few important things to know.

  1. Making a bad drawing does not mean that you're lousy at drawing. It just means the drawing is bad so make a new and better drawing by changing up certain things.
  2. By drawing something over and over again, you gain confidence over your skills and yourself.
  3. The more mistakes you make, the more mistakes you know not to make.

I've always liken the drawing process to be similar to playing a musical instrument. When you play the wrong note, you practice again. There's no need to get hang up over the mistake. And drawing just like music, has to be practiced often to maintain your craft.

Before sketching a complicated scene, I would sometimes use a pencil the mark out the composition first if I have a pencil, or create some small thumbnail drawings. With each drawing made, you can identify difficult aspects of the scene, such as challenging perspective, how to handle details, getting the best composition and so on. The little mistakes that you make during this thumbnailing stage prevents you from making the same mistake when you're drawing with detail later on.

While teaching, I could see some students still hold on to their old way of drawing, e.g. drawing too slow, spending too much time on details. There was a student who drew only one sketching during the 15-minute assignment I gave. If more sketches were drawn, there would be more scene compositions you can compare with.

Many like to spend too much time to making the drawing look good. But you actually learn more if you make more drawings with the same amount of time. It's like like learning calligraphy, you have to write more to write well.

The second part of my workshop is on using colours.

The best way to have your colours work well together is to use a limited colour palette of yellow, red and blue. If you can't create a colour you want with those primary colours, that's the time to add another colour for mixing.

Using a limited colour palette makes colour mixing so simple. If you only have one yellow and blue, there's only one way to mix green. If you want to create a green you can't get with the yellow and blue, then you can try another yellow and blue.

Another tip is to always have yellow, red and blue in your scene. For example, when you already have yellow and red in your scene, you'll need some blue too. The proportion of yellow, red and blue does not matter as long as there's always these three colours in your scene.

What's the difference between drawing from photo vs on location

That's a question asked by one student. And this is quite a common question.

When you draw from a photo, you're limited by the image captured by the lens and its distortion. A wide angle lens will always distort the vertical lines of buildings into slanted lines when those lines are near the edge of the photo. When you look at a series of buildings with your eyes from left to right, all vertical lines will remain vertical.

A camera lens can also make things look further away than it actually is, or nearer than it actually is.

Also if there's something blocking your view, you can't just walk around or peep from the side to see what's behind when you're working with a photo.

And lastly, it's the experience of drawing on location that really adds to the experience. I was sketching in a market and was told to move aside because the stall behind me was opening for business. You will not get this type of experience when working solely from a photo.

How to draw people quickly

First draw people that you know aren't going to leave soon. If someone walks into the train, draw that person first. If someone sits down at a seat, draw him/her first. A person who just sat down is less likely to leave compared to the person who has been seated there for an unknown time.

2nd tip is to draw the head, then the hands, maybe feet. If the person leaves or moves after you've drawn the hands, you can easily fill in the body posture by connecting the head to shouldlers, elbows to hands. This is better than drawing the body halfway and the person moves to a new posture.

It was great fun teaching in person and I really enjoyed it.

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