Monday, January 27, 2014

Sneak Peek (A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of the "Back to Basics" Workshops)

our Lesson 3 subject (just as the clouds were stealing our light)

Producing an online workshop might best be described as "organized chaos": there's the logistics -- not only of drawing and sketching materials, but cameras, lighting, video editing equipment, and so on; there are lesson plans to write; weather forecasts to consider; shooting schedules to draw up; transportation to arrange; hours and hours of raw footage to edit; and deadlines to meet.

discussing materials options on camera

Fortunately, Texas is blessed with some remarkably mild winter weather (punctuated with brief -- occasionally dramatic -- periods of the nasty stuff.) So, while much of the northern hemisphere is shoveling snow, I have the option of alternating in-studio lessons with on location.

discussing a shot                                                            between takes 

Location shooting has involved scouting outings to find visually interesting subjects, to determine the best time of day to shoot (for the lighting), and to identify potential filming issues (for example, nearby construction or area traffic that will reek havoc on sound recording and necessitate time-consuming voice-over recording in the studio.)

scouting possible locations in December...

...when the light was perfect and the leaves were still on the trees

Studio lighting can be consistently maintained. So, it is possible for studio shooting sessions to run on for hours (sometimes late into the evening.) But lighting on-location is fleeting. Sometimes, by the time the crew has set up for a shot fast-moving clouds have robbed us of our light (and shadows.) And natural light is never consistent enough for more than two or three hours of filming on any given day. Often we return to a location 2-3 times to maintain consistent shadow patterns in the drawing and throughout the video.

a pair of "continuity shots" assure us that we'll be able to reestablish the 
same position and angle for follow-on shoots 

Of course, there are the unexpected occurrences that pop up too, incidents that either infuriate or leave the entire crew laughing wildly -- like the clueless driver who deftly navigated his pickup truck through a barrier of traffic cones during our second Lesson 3 shoot at the Fort Worth Japanese Gardens, pulled up between our film crew and the gate house I was obviously drawing, ask me for directions... to the Japanese Gardens!

I've written and illustrated four multi-page Instruction Sheets to supplement the lessons we'll be running in March.

annotated illustration for a lesson handout

Editing the Hi-Def raw footage has involved a lot of late nights (when it doesn't conflict with daylight shooting schedules.) I carefully went through hours of video clips (over 20GB of usable clips and uncounted quantities of rejected files) to create the final 19 minute, 16 second Hi-Def film for Lesson 1 (plus twice that for the two Lesson 1 "bonus" videos.) And, undeterred, I turned around and created a 34 minute, 53 second "blockbuster" on tonal drawing for Lesson 2.

an over-the-shoulder shot of a compositional framing demonstration

All-in-all though, we're having a delightful, highly productive time. And I hope you'll join me March 10 when the first lesson will go live on Strathmore Artist Papers' online workshop page. (And don't forget: participation is free, but registration is required to access both the free workshop downloads and the workshop chat room -- where you'll be able to share your work, ask questions, and mingle with your workshop classmates... and me.)

an  illustration for another instruction sheet

Hope to see you there!


Postscript -- Any time a workshop (live or online) involves working with a new line of papers or tools I like to take a little time up front to do some hands-on familiarization. So, before getting under way with the workshop shooting sessions I treated myself to a little one-on-one with Strathmore's "Skills" series -- exploring how far I could push the papers, and what kind of results I could expect to consistently achieve. 

fountain pen and watercolor over Micron pen 

Given how well it handles mixed media (including light watercolor washes) and its high page-count (100 sheets), the 5.5in. x 8.5in. Series 200 "Skills" Sketch tablet could be quite serviceable as a pocket field journal.