Tag Archives: teaching

West Australian Society of Arts Demonstration

white_bowlI had the pleasure of demonstrating to the members of the WA Society of Arts for their August meeting.  I was asked to go back to the basics of drawing.  Thanks to Tim Sewell who took notes and the following summary was published in the latest newsletter 🙂

Demonstration notes August meeting.
Our demonstrator for August was one of our own, Karen Frankel. Her subject drawing the very essence and foundation of all two-dimensional art. Although her father was a commercial artist Karen was self-taught and made use of the readily available materials at home. She cannot remember not drawing and it came easily to her. She has
taught drawing skills for 15 years and was passionate to show her students just how easy it is. She realised however that many do not find it so straightforward.

Karen is very clear that drawing skills are not a matter of inherent talent, talent is overrated, science has established that practice is the key, as it is for a musician or sportsperson. Yet drawing has a mystique and people will readily disown any ability or aptitude. Karen has taught over 1000 students to draw, a matter of justifiable satisfaction. She took us back to the basics; how to see. Our natural tendency is to ‘know’ what something looks like, our brains are programmed to impart that information. The secret of good drawing is to try to overcome this, to look at objects as a Martian might, with no preconceived ideas. Also draw because it is enjoyable process, if it is not, why bother? Forget any imagined end result, adults especially expect far too much too soon.

Karen’s materials for her demonstration were a pad of white paper, a 2B pencil and a putty eraser. Her subject matter for a still life, an apple, a mug and a bottle all painted white, illuminated by a simple desk light in order to focus on values and shadows. The first stage is to execute a ‘thumbnail’ sketch to establish the values, the shapes of tone, the cast shadows, accurate replication of the objects is not the purpose. Squinting or looking through the eyelashes helps eliminate too much detail. Use the pencil at arm’s length as if against a sheet of glass to measure relative distances. Negative space is particularly important because this one area where the brain does not have a preconception, a skyline is a very good example of a negative shape. Mistakes should not be erased but used as guides to getting it right next attempt. The putty eraser, which can be moulded into any shape is used to lift the tone. A tonal range of 1 to 5 is enough. Objects should be defined by tonal variations not a line, unless of course that is your style a la Cezanne! It is a very natural tendency to want to define subjects with a line.

Having made the sketch, it can be used as the basis for a larger more finished work. Karen explained a process of scaling up using an extended diagonal line across the sketch. First gently indicate the positions of the subjects referring to the sketch not the objects themselves. Establish the big tonal shapes, perhaps the darkest darks first so that the limits of the tonal range are established. From this framework the completed work can be established. Karen also discussed the secret of drawing a circle. A true circle is a rarity because unless your viewpoint is exactly at right angles to the centre of the circle it will in fact be an ellipse.

Drawing an ellipse is a well-known hazard. A way of simplifying the process is to turn your work so that a vertical  acts as the centre around which the ellipse is then drawn loosely at arm’s length as often as is necessary for success. This is far easier than attempting to draw an ellipse which is at an angle to your eye line.

This was a very useful demonstration and a timely reminder of the basics of establishing a composition whether for a drawing or a painting; Karen’s enthusiasm for her subject is infectious!
Tim Sewell


Your first drawing – an apple

This is a a test page to show the first video demonstration for my up-coming book

“Get Drawing”.  You will be able to link to this page from the book by using a QR code small_qr  or by clicking a link in the e-book.

If You’d like to be invited to the book launch (early 2019) or be told when the book is published, or very any other info, I’d be delighted to have you on-board for the ride.

Please email me on karen@karenfrankel.com


Teaching and Talking

This face was drawn by only looking at the subject and not at the paper in blind contour style.
This face was drawn by only looking at the subject and not at the paper in blind contour style. Karen Frankel

A while ago I ran the second class of an 8 class drawing course during which I introduced the students to blind contour drawing. I often come away feeling energised from the classes and that day I had one more example of just how much I enjoy sharing my passion for drawing and art.

I have come to understand that I feel as passionate about sharing my art knowledge as practicing art itself. I bubble over, sometimes uncontrollably, in my enthusiasm to fill my students up with information. To excite them and to inspire them to find their own artistic space. I strive to open their eyes not only to the world in front of them but to the extended pleasure of the process.

“Don’t care what it looks like” and “Dare to stuff it up” are strange comments in a drawing classes but these are some of the words that I repeat to give students permission to have a go and learn and grow.

I love to laugh and tease and try to do so only when I feel that I am trusted. I feel that it is important that each student is valued and learns to value themselves and their work in a discipline that often brings out much self-judgement. However, I also appreciate it when my students feel comfortable enough to return that teasing in kind.

While the students were concentrating on a blind contour drawing of their own hand the room fell quiet. As I walked around the room I commented on how quiet it was and that it demonstrated how difficult it was to use both the left (talking/language) side of the brain and the right (intuitive/creative) side of the brain at the same time. A short time after the hand exercise, I was demonstrating an extended version and used the blind contour line method to draw a plant. About 5 minutes into the demonstration one of my students commented “Gee Karen, you don’t seem to be having any difficulty talking and drawing at the same time!” I had been talking non-stop! Well, I packed up laughing. Another student (who had done a term with me many years ago) piped up “Karen can talk underwater with marbles in her mouth!” Said and received with love.

So, to all my students – past, present and future – It is all of you that inspire me to share and talk and talk and talk. I give you what I know with openness and pleasure. You all give me so much in return.
Thank you