More is Not Always Better

More is Not Always Better
As many of my readers know, I just started teaching my very first drawing class at my studio this week. I created a 5-session course to help beginning artists learn skills that will help them create realistic, detailed portraits they can be proud of.
Since I normally am a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” kind of guy, I figured I would do better and create an intricate, elaborate lesson plan with 50-some drawing exercises (a little exaggeration) and that the students could knock them out in about 10-15 minutes. No problem, right?
Man, I am glad I only had one student.
It took me and and my student way, way longer to do these exercises than I had anticipated.
We had 5 exercises planned for the first two-hour session and only got the second one partway done!
Time to regroup.
Instead of trying to create several mediocre drawings, I am now shooting for the students in my class–well, in this case, one–to create just two really great drawings. And I”ll teach him every trick I know.
But so far, my student Tim, who is a professional taxidermist (you need some art skills to paint fish and deer mounts) did a good job on his first portrait attempt, based off a photo of young woman. Here it is in progress, after a little over an hour’s work. Not bad!
My student, Tim P., working on a pencil portrait

My student, Tim P., working on a pencil portrait

We start by using the grid method to gain proficiency in drawing what you actually see instead of what you think you see. Did you know Michaelangelo used this method to sketch in the composition for the Sistine Chapel? If it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me!
In the coming week (today), we will shade this drawing in. After that, we’ll have the student create a drawing from one of his own photographs, and fully shade it in with tone and value. That way, he will end up with a fantastic drawing that is personally memorable to him, and something he’ll be proud of!
In an upcoming post, after I teach it in the class, I am going to share with you in depth, how I approach shading and value in a portrait sketch, and hopefully give you some tips if you like to draw.
But for now, I’m learning more is not always better. Sometimes it’s better to teach a few things well, than to teach many things poorly. And the same thing goes with learning, too! I am learning how to teach art–this is new thing for me.
We are all a work in progress.

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"I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands."

Inscribed6a 500px

"Inscribed," Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo

One day, when I was discouraged I read a verse in the Bible, in Isaiah, 49:15-16, where it says, "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands." This verse brought such encouragement, that I created this original work of art to share the incredible love of God with others, including you!

Get a free 8 x 10 copy of this drawing that you can use to print, share, or as wallpaper!

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  1. Though I wanted to be in this class, I see how it can be a real blessing for both you and student. I appreciate both the grid and your comment about doing a few things well. No sense in spreading ourselves so thin that we are not happy with the outcome. Thanks for doing these classes Matt and I hope to join you sometime.

    • Matt Philleo

      Thanks, Shelia. We just had the second class tonight, and my student did very well. He finished up the drawing, watched me shade in my drawing, and then shaded in his, all in the space of 2 hours! Very proud of what he accomplished! After the painstaking part of drawing the lines, he said he really had a lot fun shading it in. I’d love to have you in the upcoming class too. Will keep you posted about that!


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