I’ve been a fan of Marc Taro Holmes and his art nearly as long as I’ve been trying to learn how to sketch. His style is more loose and painterly than most sketching styles and reflects the fact that he’s a formally trained artist. But as much as I’m a fan of his art, I’ve become more a fan of his teaching abilities. This came first to me in the form of his The Urban Sketcher, which remains my favorite urban sketching book.
More recently, Marc’s two Craftsy courses, People in Motion and Travel Sketching in Mixed Media exceeded all my expectations for online courses. Sadly, I find online courses mostly lacking, primarily because they typically assume the student knows nothing and they are filled with yet another description of red/yellow/blue color wheel discussions, what a contour drawing is, and how to hold your pencil in the air to measure things… that I’ve seen over, and over, and over.
Not so when Marc steps onto my computer stage. He explains his materials and then launches into discussions of drawing and painting that assumes you know that the pointy end goes on the paper. He does so with clarity that must be experienced. He assumes you want to draw stuff. He assumes you want to paint stuff. And he provides multi-step processes to do both. There are plenty of other places to learn about the color wheel; you’ll not find such discussions in Marc’s workshops.
Maybe most important is that he not only describes the process but he explains why he does what he does and what he’s thinking as he does it. He makes it crystal clear what you’re supposed to be learning and why it’s important. Each time I listen to one of Marc’s workshops I learn something more.
So, I was thrilled to find that Marc, in association with ArtistsNetwork.tv, have released four new workshops:
- Urban Sketching: Drawing and Painting in a Travel Journal
- Urban Sketching: Panoramic Landscape Painting
- Urban Sketching: Drawing Birds
- Urban Sketching: Drawing People in Places
My understanding is that if you are a paid subscriber to ArtistsNetwork.tv you have access to all four of these workshops as part of your subscription. They are also available directly from North Light as DVDs or you can buy them as downloads. I bought two of them via downloads as I’m an instant gratification kind of guy and besides, there’re cheaper that way.
I expected that the concepts Marc teaches in his book and via the Craftsy courses would be the same in these workshops and I was correct. Any thought that this suggests that they are repetitious, however, would be wrong. One fundamental difference is that these workshops are done on location, so Marc discusses his urban sketching tactics as well as discussing his 3-step drawing and 3-step painting processes. Also, because you’re spending so much time with him there are numerous little tips presented as he draws and paints.
The Drawing and Painting in a Travel Journal workshop takes place in a Cincinnati cemetery/botanical garden and he begins with the major work of the workshop, an old gothic cathedral/mousoleum. Marc walks us through his three-step drawing process, discussing his motivations and thoughts along the way. The videography is outstanding with just the right amount of close ups of the drawing while allowing us to see the subject as well.
I particularly liked the painting portion of this as while I’ve seen his tea/milk/honey approach described, here I got to see his actual mixes, what brushes he uses, and how he worked around the painting. I have a bunch of new things to try and practice.
Once done with this painting, Marc begins to walk the grounds, stopping to do some quicker sketches in an attempt to capture the essence of the place. At each stop he discusses location sketching, what’s important, and what may be less so. He sketches statues, monuments, and even the busts of a couple of Cincinnati’s founders. While his fluency with a pen is humbling, it’s also inspiring.
This workshop runs 100 minutes and in spite of its nearly two-hour length, it seemed to be over too soon. It’s a workshop that, like his Craftsy videos, I’ll watch several times.
I’m one who believes that ‘urban sketching’ isn’t limited to drawing buildings, cars and people, and Marc seems to agree as his Urban Sketching: Bird Drawing takes place at a raptor rehabilitation center. Marc describes his process of drawing and painting birds using similar techniques to his building and people sketches but here he emphasizes the unique nature of drawing animals, creating textures, capturing moving objects, etc. Here I feel I got a lot out of Marc’s early pencil organization stages as he indicates not only the shape of the animal but also some of the major shadow shapes. He draws several poses simultaneously as the bird is in near constant motion and he shows you how to work back and forth between them, ultimately generating a group of poses. Marc makes this look easy but I find it difficult to shift my brain/eye between poses as the subject moves between them. But Marc’s workshop should help when I try it again.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to learn from Marc Taro Holmes, do yourself a favor and pay the little bit of money required to gain access to these online workshops. I’ll leave you with that thought as I’ve got to go buy the other two workshops.