Drawing an acorn in ten seconds without lifting your pencil or looking at your drawing pad does not result in a beautiful illustration. Instead, this drawing technique – called a blind contour – helps you focus on the acorn, not on the mechanics of sketching. "I like to use a blind contour as a warm-up for observing," said Burke environmental educator Tim Stetter. Stetter and fellow educator David Williams recently led ten adults and three teenagers in a half-day workshop at the Burke titled Closer To Home: Words and Pictures to Get You There.
After Stetter led the class through a few other drawing exercises, Williams asked the participants to list ways of writing about and describing an object. One after the other, participants compiled an impressive list of descriptors, including color, texture, size, name, and location. "Now, you have 30 minutes to make some observations outside the museum, and try using both drawing and writing," said Stetter. He encouraged everyone to make notes on weather and to make specific observations about sounds and sights.
"I didn't have enough time," said one student who returned 35 minutes later. "I was surprised by how much I found when I slowed down and paid attention." Many students echoed her sentiment.
Following a short break, everyone headed out for a short campus tour. Highlights included how the London Planetrees lining Memorial Way lean into the street for sunlight and a sequoia sapling planted next to the stump of an old sequoia toppled by lightning. Many participants stayed after class to continue discussing what they had seen and how they could incorporate what they had learned into developing a better connection to where they live.
One participant added "I had a fantastic time Saturday! Thank you for your efforts to pull this together. I could have spent an entire week with you both. I thought you designed it well: a foundation class on nature observation for a diverse audience."
Stay tuned for future workshops on making a connection to place, whether in your own backyard or in the wilder parts of Washington.