Thinking through Drawing. Drawing serves many purposes such as communicating an important message, bringing a story to life, expressing a feeling, and for the enjoyment of making one's mark. Drawing is also a extremely useful tool for learning.

I'd like to introduce two artists who have used drawing to help make sense of their world through the study of weeds and trees. Then, you can embark on your own learning. 

Sarah Simblet, The new sylva

Sarah Simblet, The new sylva

Sarah Simblet is a graphic artist, writer and broadcaster, who teaches anatomical drawing at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at the University of Oxford. In collaboration with Gabriel Hemery she co-wrote "The New Sylva - a discourse of forest and orchard trees in the 21st century." I first was introduced to her work through the BBC series "The Secret of Drawing" Episode 3: "All in the Mind". (You can see her portion around 7 minutes into the video). I especially love how she compares two purposes of drawing. One for looking, seeing, thinking, understanding, gaining knowledge of something that exists in the world AND another for drawing an emotion or outward breath. Her illustrations for "The New Sylva" are simply outstanding and wonderfully accurate drawings of trees and specimens.


“When we draw, we teach, and when we study a drawing, we learn. If we take the time to study our own drawings, we learn even more. I do believe that the best way to learn to draw is by intentionally drawing to learn.”
— Michael Moore, artist

Michael Landy is another artist that is also quite interesting in his understanding and learning through drawing. Landy worked on a series of etchings he describes as "street flowers". Weeds are hardy, thriving in often inhospitable conditions with very little soil, water, or direct sunlight. They grow between paving stones and on the sides of highways where no other life can be found. I can spend hours in the summer working to remove them from my yard and garden. With this next workout we will celebrate these "street flowers!"  

Photo credit for banner image:
Michael Landy Creeping Buttercup 2002

The Workout

Take a walk outside. Bring your sketchbook and some pencils or fountain pen. Wander around a bit as you find the "street flower", or weed, that attracts you attention. Simblet, in the video interview, describes how she looks at the whole specimen, then the details, and then back out again. Sketch the overall shape of the weed and the main shapes. Then, determine what details are necessary to tell the story of the specimen you are investigating. What background details are important to the story? This workout can become a daily part of your life as you create your own nature journal of specimens.

Want more? Collect some books that will help you identify your specimens. Write the date, time and location of each drawing. Using the dry brush watercolor technique, sketch with watercolor instead of pencil. With this technique, a brush loaded with pigment (and not too much water) is dragged over completely dry paper. The marks produced by dry brush are very crisp and hard-edged. Think about keeping a separate sketchbook for your "street flower" entries!

Photo of street flowers growing amongst the bricks

Photo of street flowers growing amongst the bricks

quick sketch inspired by photo. 

quick sketch inspired by photo. 

Share your results on Instagram using #drawfitstreetflowers

Materials:

  • Sketchbook
  • Drawing Pencils
  • Watercolors and brushes