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Tools for Observation

Thank you for being a part of the Art Toolkit community! If you haven’t already joined our newsletter, please consider signing-up to hear about upcoming workshops, demos, and news about new supplies to help you make art anywhere, anytime.

As a thank-you for signing-up, I’ve created this Tools for Observation video series. I hope these videos inspire you to get outside and make art!

– Maria Coryell-Martin

1. Supplies

Throughout my career as an expeditionary artist, I’ve experimented and refined my kit and found portable and compact tools that are easy to bring with you anywhere. In this first video, I’ll share some tips for supplies. I believe that art is a powerful tool for exploration and observation and that it’s essential not to take your results too seriously. And above all, have fun!

2. Sense of Place

A blank page can be super overwhelming! When I sit down in a new place, I like to find ways to slow down and take in where I am.

Drawing is really about observation. I’ll take notes on what I see, paint a color swatch, or do a few quick sketches to align myself with where I am. Don’t forget, it’s your page, your space, and it’s all about practice, not perfection!

3. Contour Sketching

Now that you’ve gotten your observation brain warmed up with gesture sketching, let’s slow it down and observe the lines that make up the objects that you’re studying. Contour sketching is a powerful tool for observation, asking questions about form, light, and place. In this video, I’ve outlined what you should be looking for in your subject, and how to add in the details you see.

4. Gesture Sketching

Gesture sketching is the best way to capture the big idea, allowing your pen to dance around the page without getting too bogged down in the details. This skill is an especially fun way to capture wildlife, your kids, or anything else that maybe isn’t good at holding still while you observe it! Drawing in this way lets you get out of your head and allows your hands to do all of the hard work.

5. Composition Tips

The Rule of Thirds is a standard way to set up a composition, regardless of the type of medium or art you’re making. Along with framing your study, I outline a few other ways you can measure distances and keep everything in proportion while you work. I also have a fun tip for how you can improve your composition with just your bare hands!

Learn more

I hope you enjoyed this mini-series! You can view demos I’ve done with other artists and information about upcoming workshops on the Workshops & Demos page, and find many more tips and tricks on my Expeditionary Art blog.

Happy painting!