An Artist’s Sketch


Winter, an artist’s sketch in charcoal,
so clearly etched against a cloud-filled sky ~from Winter by Lynn Emberg Purse

artsuppliesWPFor the past few years, I’ve been taking non-credit courses in subjects that interest me as a way to recharge and challenge my creative juices. This semester I’m taking a studio art class in drawing, something I haven’t done for many years. I was a bit nervous – could I still do this? – but as I began to haunt art stores and buy supplies, apprehension was replaced by growing excitement. I remember the gathering of artistic tools from my college days and the delight I felt in drawing and painting classes. Sketchpads, pencils, charcoal, erasers – a potential treasure trove!


10th Grade Still Life

We are using Betty Edward’s classic book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, as a way of bypassing the logical linear part of the brain and getting to the visual side that supports the creative process. The process of shifting perception in order to see and record what is there is markedly different from creating symbolic shorthand, like a child’s drawing of a house or stick figures, to represent what we think is there. I remember discovering that perceptual shift  in my tenth grade art class while sketching this still life. I suddenly realized that if I looked at it in a certain way, I could reproduce it on my paper. I became obsessed with drawing and painting and continued to take classes in college; I only dropped the practice while traveling when photography became more practical.

There are lessons to be learned from this new challenge. I wasn’t sure if I could still draw but I realized as soon as I began the first exercise that I’ve never really stopped using my visual skills, whether in photography or gardening. According to Edwards “Learning to perceive is the basic skill that the students acquire, not drawing skill.”


A color shot of the trees and sky

Ironically, we don’t work with color in this class until spring, about the same time that color returns to the natural world. As someone who feels that she is banished from colorful Oz every winter, I quietly laughed at the weird synchronicity of using pencil and charcoal in the season of brown and gray and white. Looking through bare trees into a gray sky, I feel as if I’m living in the monochromatic world of Dorothy’s Kansas. Yet, if I look closely enough, I find color in leaf and lichen and a few daring flower buds. I will content myself with reconnecting to a familiar and beloved art form, embrace the artist’s sketch, and look at the world with fresh eyes. Enjoy a few scenes from the winter garden – click on any photo to start the carousel. (All photos ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved).

The painter draws with his eyes, not with his hands. Whatever he sees, if he sees it clearly, he can put it down . . . Seeing clear is the important thing. ~Maurice Grosser, The Painter’s Eye

37 thoughts on “An Artist’s Sketch

    • Thanks, Jason. It feels good to be drawing again and it is starting to influence my photography as well. It’s tricky finding time to do the work right now, but I’m not in the garden so this is a good alternate visual workout 🙂

  1. I saw that wonderful still life teenage still-life of yours. 😀 Good memories. I’ll be showing a few in a few months.

    Enjoy the art- rediscovery and love!

  2. A bit late .. .but finally made it. 🙂 … Loud cheers to seek non-credit learning opportunities. Recharging for sure, but in your case, I imagine you’ll find parallels with drawing and music.

    • Hey, Frank, thanks for stopping by! Yes, I’m all for non-credit, i.e. life long learning. Grow or die? In fact, as perhaps you predicted, I am already considering parallels between the artistic visual lessons from the Betty Edwards book and how it might relate to aural creativity for composers. Always something to learn, which is one of the essential elements of joy 🙂 Thanks for your presence, always.

  3. One of my favorite books…truly forces you to “see” differently. As to the colors of winter…I think their subtle shades provide a welcome respite from big, bold spring and summer – and make us appreciate them even more when they finally arrive. Beautiful drawing and photos!

    • Thanks, Audrey! Great to know that someone else sees the value of the Edwards book; I’m thinking of ways to translate her ideas for teaching music composition. It is snowy and starkly lovely here, but honestly, I prefer the big bold spring colors!

      • Translating the concept to music… a brilliant idea! We’ll have some big bold colors to send your way in another 4-5 weeks, I’m sure. Especially if this wonderful rain keeps up! Yeah…El Nino.

  4. Your skills continue to amaze me–you have been well blessed! Today also a learning experience after looking up Zentangles as well. I do continue to enjoy what you do with your photography.

  5. Well, you and I are on the same wave length to inspire our creativity, but I started with an adult coloring book of exquisite flowers and my medium is colored pencils! Baby steps . . . 🙂

    • Eleanor, I saw some of those gorgeous coloring books when I was buying art supplies – I was very tempted. Apparently, colored pencil sets have been selling out because of the popularity of these books. Enjoy, it sounds like so much fun!

      • It is a great stress reliever. I am writing my third book and need to be able to stand up and get the cobwebs and stress waves out of my head. The coloring book does the trick.

  6. How inspiring to nurture your creativity in every way you can, Lynn! I’ve been playing with visual art a lot more the past few years, too, and, in winter, I do a lot of experimenting with cooking and baking, as well. I think being an artist is a way of moving through one’s life, a certain perspective regarding the flow of one’s energy in every pursuit, with an appreciation for the original, the possible, valuing patterns and designs and combinations of matter and metaphor…it’s an awareness accessible to all of humanity, and I so wish it were more emphasized as a life path than “the way I can make the most money,” or the horrible practice of ranking oneself and others as winners/losers; better than/lesser than; in/out…Can you tell I value a liberal arts education? Ha! Thank you for sharing all the ways (and they are so very important) that you make the world lovely. 🙂

    • Kitty, I always think of you as an artist, whether it is your photos of wild creatures or your garden or the river near your property, or the way that you write so evocatively and from the heart. And I love your definition of an artist “as a way of moving through one’s life” – so true! And now you have your new “art room” to support your creativity – are you using it yet? Thank you for taking the time to comment – you are a treasure!

  7. Lynn, as I spied on my artist daughters’ college drawing exercises, I learned a little more about all the colors in the shades of grey. Like you, I yearn for color this time of year. Does the teacher play music in the class? If not, I might suggest it. Music gives me color when life is somewhat monochromatic. Of course, you know this, as well you know which music to suggest.

    • LInda, how interesting that you were able to study your daughter’s drawings and see all of the subtle shades. That is something that definitely appeals to me in drawing and also in the B&W photography that I used to do when I had access to a darkroom.

      Music is definitely part of this class; as we move forward, we have to pick our own music to accompany us as we draw our homework assignments; that should be interesting. I’ll have to find music that is better for meditation or yoga, otherwise I will be paying attention to the music instead of the drawing! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  8. I confess to being jealous that anyone can put pencil to paper and create more than what a one year might scribble. No matter how often I think I could or might, my brain and hand never quite seem to agree. So, I’m taking a writing course this winter!

  9. What a great extension of your interests!
    I started drawing a few years ago – zentangles – though it would be more accurate to describe mine as black lines on small pieces of white paper, with no great skill or talent!

  10. I am now bitterly jealous. I do the words bit, I do the music bit a bit, and am also bitten by gardening – but drawing and painting are more than a bit beyond me. Most baboons have more natural skill at it.

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