Since 2006, one of the pleasures and touchstones of my life has been studying natural history drawing. Once or twice a week I meet with others, from 9:30 to 11:30 in the morning, to draw at the home of our instructor, Julie Childs. Julie has been illustrating and teaching for over sixty years. She has taught hundreds and hundreds of people how to see, how to slow down and to patiently and accurately put to paper objects from the natural world. She is one of the finest and most effective teachers I’ve ever had.
Here is a brief history of the most recent drawing I’ve made under her caring eye. A story has to start somewhere, so we’ll start with a photo from early April, when our long and cold and snowy winter of 2014-2015 was finally ending.
By the end of May the corn and and squash were thriving in the open garden.
Four weeks later, young squash were swelling on the hairy vines.
Fast forward to early August, when the first of the squash matured.
Fast forward again, to September 28, when drawing classes started. I wanted to draw an apple, because I’ve drawn apples before, and love their colors, shapes, and details. But I wanted to draw a gourd, or a squash, too. So both apple and squash were chosen, and both set up on a cardboard box (for the right viewing angle), to draw.
The first step at Julie’s is to make drawing on tracing paper, where you can erase and repair at will, without spoiling a sheet of high-quality drawing paper.
The tracing paper drawing is transferred to bristol board. Boxes of colored pencils come out. Colors are chosen and tested on a smaller piece of board. The chosen pencils are kept together during the drawing process.
Drawing begins. I started by laying in shadows and lightly applying color.
Preparing the first drawing took about two hours. Each successive photograph in this series will show the results of two more hours of work.
The end is in sight. Colors are burnished with an unpigmented pencil. This step gets rid of places where the paper is still showing through the layers of colored pencil. Then come the shadows.
Almost done. The shadows get more work. Details are refined again.
And then the drawing is done.
There is nothing left to do but sign the drawing and to apply fixative.
The drawing was done.
And the squash was done for.
From the second story deck of Julie’s house I hurled that squash into the woods below.
I bit the apple in half and laid it out on a table on that deck.
The apple is for the birds.