ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Drawing Fundamentals and Zentangling

I know I've been a bit quiet lately.  I've been teaching quite a bit locally the last couple of weeks, and have one more class on Saturday.  However, my art class (Drawing Fundamentals I) finished today, and I wanted to share about it, as well as the Zentangles class I took a few weeks ago.  These are both things I've been wanting to do for a while.

I've taken a couple of drawing classes in the past.  In the first one, about 10 years ago, we spent 10 weeks drawing our left hand (or at least that is what it felt like!).  In the last one a few years ago, we were told to take a pencil and draw without much instruction.  What I loved about the class I've been taking since September is that we were introduced to a variety of materials (pencils, charcoal, conte, and ink), and we received instruction on how to use them, how to see and how to approach a drawing.  This class is a credit class in the Art Fundamentals certificate program at the Ottawa School of Art.  It gave me more meat than the "general interest" classes I've taken in past.  I've already registered for Part 2, which begins in January.  Fortunately I managed to only miss two of the fall classes due to teaching travel.

So we began by learning to draw shapes and shadow shapes.  Who knew that it might be a good idea to use more than one hardness/softness of a pencil in one drawing?  Who knew about using those blending sticks?  I didn't, but now I do, thanks to my instructor Mahshid Farhoudi.  Drawing below is a ball in a bowl.

We loosened up with some blind contour drawings (no looking at the pen and paper, only the subject) using a pen.  I found these quite fun. Students in the class took turns modeling.

We had live models for four of our classes.  We began with quick contour sketches using charcoal to capture the basic pose.
 We then tried a longer pose.
 I tried a self portrait.  The eyes still need more work.
 I think you can tell how much I liked doing quick sketches with ink and brush by the sheer number of them I've included below.  It is about capturing the light and shadows and the the pose. 
One of the big bonuses in this class is that we had two days of studying composition.  The Old Masters were, of course, masters at composition, so we were instructed to choose a couple of works by either Rembrandt, Rubens, Rafaella or Boticelli. 
I chose The Three Graces by Rubens. 
but ended up working with my other choice, "Moses Saved From the Water" by Rafaello:
It became apparent that many of the Masters works contain an entrance and an exit that leads your eye into and back out of the painting.  We studied how the eye is directed around the composition.  You can see in the photo below that I've traced lines and arrows showing the way the eye moves.

 We spent a couple of classes drawing draped fabrics.
and finished our last class doing another self  portrait.  I need to work on the eyes a bit more on this one.  Either that or I badly need some sleep! 
Two weekends ago my friend Sylvia Young invited me to her house to take a Zentangles class with Barb Round, a certified Zentangles instructor, from Campbell River, BC.  There were four of us (Sylvia, Nicole, Arlene, and I) and with Barb's inspiring guidance, we all turned out wonderful results.  You can also see that even though we were all given the same instruction, we produced different results.  For me the beauty of "tangling" is largely about the focus required and the way it calms and centres.  I've sat down a few times since to try some tangling, and found it very calming and meditative.   
So I have to say that the kind of stuff I learned in Drawing Fundamentals is hard (at least for me and at least at this point because I'm such a newbie), but the kind of stuff I learned in Zentangles is fun and relaxing.  I hope to work both into my life more regularly!  As with everything in life, mastering a new skill requires practice!
Is there something you've always wanted to learn?  How about making 2013 the year you indulge yourself?


  1. Elaine, you have done REALLY well! VERY impressive. Your drawing is excelllent. I am MOST impressed with your self portrait and like the new hair :-) Well done you! Glad you are enjoying Zentangles too. Gotta get back to mine .

    1. Why thank you Carolynn! The portrait was done with charcoal, which is a bit smudgier, but fun to work with. Everyone in the class turned out great work ... says a lot about the instructor!

  2. Elaine, your drawing is wonderful; you have such a great ability to see!

    I remain undecided about Zentangles. Can't get away from the fact that people in our culture now have to be taught/given permission/validated to doodle. Maybe it's just me, but I don't get the point...

    1. Hi Margaret,
      I didn`t take the class because I need permission to doodle. I`ve been a doodler for years, doodling my way through many boring meetings at work, and then when I wanted to learn free-motion quilting I became an even more avid doodler. I would never have mastered free motion without the doodling, and I stress the importance of doodling over and over in my classes. I am not as inclined to doodle now because I just don`t have much time to sit, and when I do sit I`m often on the computer. I think you've hit the nail on the head: "people in our culture now have to be taught/given permission/validated to doodle". In our crazy busy culture, where everyone is glued to their IPhones, people don`t just stop, and focus. I can tell you that I become very quiet and centred when I do the Zentangles (which is why they put the word Zen there and patented the process). I remember getting hooked on quilting way back when because of that same feeling ... it made the whole world go away and there was just me and the process.

  3. Elaine, how brave and sharing you are to post your drawings, especially the contour ones. Every drawing class I take reminds me that our eyes will capture what we see if we will just trust them. Yes, practice, practice, practice. Very good work! I can get into my R brain with sketching, but Zentangle keeps me thinking too hard about what marks to make. Which tells you that I'm not doing it right if it is not relaxing!

  4. Thank you Martha. Interesting issue with drawing vs. zentangles. I wonder if you took a Zentangles class with someone to give you prompts? I am playing with and adapting free-motion designs when I Zentangle, which I have not now done in almost two weeks. Yikes!


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