Friday, September 17, 2010

Mike Sibley artist's workshop

I traveled out of town last weekend for five days to attend an artist’s workshop up in Solvang, CA. Mike Sibley works in graphite (pencil) and I have admired his work for years. This was his first trip to the western US from England, and I was thrilled to be able to attend. I booked it back in February!

You’d think that since I’ve done pencil art for years myself, particularly black and white, that I wouldn’t learn a whole lot. You would be wrong. He gave me an entirely new outlook towards how to use the pencils, and how to create backgrounds (the hardest thing!), fur, eyes (the most important part of any pet portrait), and especially composition. His work is so minutely detailed that he spends up to 250 hours on one piece of artwork.

I’ve never had that kind of patience, but there I was, spending 6 hours on a 4” x 5” section of a picture. I love detail and realism, and on the last day, he gave us a project where we could practice all the techniques we learned during the first two days. The art above is the work I did on the last day. He gave us all the same sketch and turned us loose to see what we could do with it. I’m itching to try it in color. 

It was very intense, and we were exhausted by the end of each day. I even had to go out and buy a stronger pair of reading glasses, because my eyes got tired after 6 hours a day drawing. 

But the time flew by, and I loved every minute of it.  Mike and his wife Jenny are funny, friendly and you can tell they genuinely enjoy their work. Mike took the time to give every artist plenty of attention, and his critiques were honest and helpful. I also enjoyed hearing his various adventures over the years with publishers, selling prints, copyright infringement, donating art, and all the other business challenges that come up every day when you are an artist.

If you have a chance to attend a workshop, I highly recommend it. You don’t have to be an animal artist to learn a lot. His book is fantastic, too (available on his web site).

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