Last semester I took three program classes and one Spanish university class. This semester, I’m taking three university classes and one program class so I’ve literally reversed my schedule. As I’ve mentioned many times, commuting is a massive part of the university experience, especially if you take classes at the University of Alcála de Henares. Oddly enough, the one class I’m taking at the program center also requires a good deal of commuting (although now that I think about it, the class name gives you a heads up: Sketchbook – Walking In The City). It’s one of the few program classes that meets outside of Monte Esquinza in different locations on a regular basis and it’s my favorite class this semester.
So, what is the Sketchbook class about? Well, it’s a drawing class open to all levels that takes you to a bunch of places in madrid. We’ve been to various museums, botanical gardens, art expos, and galleries throughout the city. The class meets once a week for a 2.5 hour session with around 30 minutes dedicated to instruction and 2 hours to free drawing. Each class session focuses on a specific technique and it is expected that our drawings reflect what we’ve learned in class. So far, we’ve covered proportions, lines, borders, types of lines, trees, contemporary art, cross-hatching, volume, toned-paper, collages and anthropomorphism.
For me, the hardest unit we’ve covered so far has been trees. I have no idea how to draw trees and trying to depict tons of leaves of different shapes and sizes drives me nuts. When we went to the botanical garden at Atocha, I had a difficult time focusing my attention on drawing just one plant. I kept trying to draw everything in the background and it ended up making my drawings look very messy and unfinished. Before the final review of our sketchbooks, I intend to go back to those drawings to polish them up and make them look like actual plants.
My favorite unit we have covered so far is toned paper. Instead of graphite pencils, toned paper uses compressed charcoal for shadows and a white chalk pencil for highlights. I find it much easier to draw with these materials and the texture of the toned paper gives a very refined look to whatever is drawn on it. While this technique is a little bit messy and the charcoal tends to smear easily, the end result is usually pretty good for me. To keep the finished drawing from getting smudged, we use a setting spray, but hairspray also works for this purpose.
Last week was the midterm for the class so we turned in our sketchbooks for review. I´m doing well for the most part, but I need to work on drawing plant life and incorporating darker tones into my work. Without super dark areas, my drawings lack volume, but it’s tricky because too much dark creates a very flat look if there is no gradation of color. Hopefully, I´ll find the happy-medium before the final review of our sketchbooks.