Field Sketching Workshop (3/23/2019)

Toward the end of March, I led a field sketching workshop at Stebbins, sponsored by Tuleyome. We had fifteen participants and the perfect weather for walking, observing and drawing!

I gave the participants six different exercises at various stops along the trail:

Exercise 1: Blind Contour – Find something nearby with a complex shape. Let your eyes follow the outline of the object and slowly draw as your eyes move along the contour. Your eyes stay on the object rather than the paper.

Exercise 2: Focus on Details – Spend time recording the fine details of something you can observe up close. Draw it from more than one angle.


Exercise 3: Landscape Thumbnails – Simplify landscape views into areas of light and dark. Look for larger-scale patterns: where are trees or shrubs growing on a hillside, how do shadows define ridges and valleys, how do dark and light change as you look even further into the distance?


Exercise 4: Things That Move – When drawing something in motion, watch it for as long as you can see it and only then pick up your pencil to draw it. Draw only the information you remember: basic shape, some notes about color or pattern.

Exercise 5: Color Notes – Look very closely and critically at the color in a near object and a distant scene. Try to define the colors as they really are, not as you expect them to be. Notice how the colors change in light and in shade, and how nearby colors can influence each other.

Exercise 6: Select Your Own Theme for the Hike Back – Some examples of ideas to focus your sketching trip:

  • Draw things that have changed since you last visited (flowers blooming, insects about, etc.).
  • Draw a map of your hike with landmarks and what you observed along the way.
  • Leaf shapes.
  • Associations between species: insects/plants, fungi/plants, etc.
  • What do you see that surprises you?


To download the PDF version of the handout for the workshop, click here.

Field Sketching Workshop at Stebbins