Sunday, January 27, 2013

The "Art" of Teaching

I am of the belief that everyone is capable of producing a good sketch or drawing if they just learn a few basic skills and are willing to devote a small amount of time to practice. Nature is the perfect subject, and in many parts of the world, sketching from nature is a staple of a good education, as respected a subject as math or language. Of course you don't have to be able to draw to keep a nature journal, but I think it adds to the enjoyment of the student and makes a sketchbook much more pleasing if you can produce an accurate account of what has been witnessed in nature. Working from a photograph is not the same as working from life. You need to get out there, feel the wind, hear the birds sing, or bring the "out there" inside. I've been keeping nature journals for many years so I'm sharing some pics from older sketchbooks this time. They have brought me enormous joy, educated me, and jogged my memory making them the most important work I've ever done.

I had the pleasure this week of teaching the first session of a three part workshop on keeping a nature journal. When I asked my students what they were hoping to get out of the workshop, responses varied from getting closer to nature, God and spirituality. Every religion agrees we are deeply connected to the earth, yet many of us have forgotten, becoming so wrapped up in technology and the busyness of daily life. This is now called, Nature Deficit Disorder. a problem for children and adults alike. My goal is getting people to remember the joys of spending time outside and recording those feelings. By drawing, you focus and use all your senses, really experiencing the moment at hand. The connection to nature is palpable if you just step outside.

Many of my students fear they can't draw at all or feel they are out of practice and may never get the skills back. Some had the unfortunate experience when they were young of having a teacher who was more concerned with their own ego rather than helping their students learn. I love sharing what I know and once again, in this current class, I found that every single person could indeed produce a lovely sketch, something they can be incredibly proud of. Many already have a unique style all their own and others will develop one. I have to ponder what they would be capable of if they decide to pursue their art, and I think what we would be missing if they chose not to allow us to glimpse the world through their eyes. We are historians, all of us, when we record the world around us. Nature journal entries are valuable for a number of reasons - documenting weather, species activities, places that may disappear in time. The advantage for the artist is learning to see what's really there and being still, meditating and calming the spirit. It's about being in the present moment.

So over the next two weeks I'll be watching these artists grow and give birth to sketches and drawings and writings that celebrate our earth. And they will prompt me to wonder what else I might be capable of if I just try.

"Enlightenment" a Zen Master has said, "is simply this: When I walk, I walk. When I eat, I eat. When I sleep, I sleep."


  1. I can attest to the joy of this practice. E. M. Corsa convinced me I could, indeed, learn to draw...and she taught me how to see so that I could translate onto paper that which I was seeing. Drawing nature from life in turn has made me a better photographer. And both, I think, have made me a better person. I'm so glad you are finding more avenues to share this love and this practice with others! Eve

  2. Thank you so much Eve. Everyone has talent. You just happen to have gotten a larger portion than most!