The course is inspired by a correspondence course about drawing undertaken by 13 year old Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919) and taught by Courtney Clinton, Rokeby Artist in Residence
From 1891 to 1893 Rachael studied illustration with a New York artist named Ernest Knaufft (1864–1942) through the Chautauqua Society of Fine Art. The course cost $5 dollars a year and offered instruction in freehand drawing and the pen and ink technique used for book and magazine illustration at the time — with today’s inflation that’s still a bargain at $150.
There are six lessons in total and they are posted every two weeks.
- Below you can find the links to the first four lessons - and a note at the end about the two still to be posted.
- The posts include some simply wonderful drawings - of their time - which can be appreciated without reading the accompanying text. However that is also worth a read - particularly if you want to learn more about drawing.
- Don't skip the interesting historical documents - also worth a read!
WEEK 1: VISION
This is the link for Vision
Seeing Rachael’s drawings and writing side by side gives us a new way to think about the practice of drawing. In her sketchbooks, Rachael uses drawing to take visual notes. With her art, she is recording and testing her understanding of nature.
For this week’s exercise I invite you to start a sketchbook practice. Over the next two weeks, go for walks with a sketch book and make small sketches of the different things that you see. Try to do five botanical sketches a week.
Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, we are in this together! Below is a step by step guide to start your first sketchbook.
View this post on Instagram
In my first #RokebyDistanceDrawing lesson I invite students to start a sketchbook and develop a practice of engaged observation. Don't worry this doesn't require any deep breathing. ;) . . Through this exercise I want to challenge the idea of art as a kind of creative expression and instead present art as a kind of visual research. . . Most young artists assume that because they know the world around them they also understand it. When asked to put pen to paper and draw something as simple as a tree most flounder and draw a 🌲 not an actual tree. Many assume that this means they don't have any artistic talent. . . With first lesson my aim is to throw out this idea of talent and get students to start thinking about the connection between observation and drawing. . . Learning to draw is about training your eye. It means sitting in front of your subject for a sustained period and working out it's structure and mechanics. . . Of course the ultimate aim of art is expression but this research into observation will allow a young artist to better articulate and inform their ideas. . . For the lion's share of this course we will focus on training our ability to see. Near the end of the course we will shift our attention to creative expression. I can't wait for you to see how all of this time spent looking will fuel your creativity! . . Lessons are free and materials are kept simple (paper and pencil). Each lesson comes with step by step instructions! The course is hosted on the @rokebymuseum website! . . #artcourse #draw #drawing #sketch #sketching #sketchbook #artist #art #arttraining #creativity #artist #art #CanadianArt #canadianartist #vermontart #museumart #fineart #illustration #illustrator #outdoorart #landscapeart #pleinair
WEEK 2: COPYING
This is the link for Copying
In the same way that Rachael learned to work with magazines by emulating her father’s career, she learned art theory (proportions, shading, and line quality) by copying the works of accomplished artists.
View this post on Instagram
How did a young woman from a rural town become an important book illustrator in the 1890s? Join me as I chart Rachael’s artistic journey and share drawing exercises from the course she took as a teen. The Rokeby Distance Drawing Course is available now on the Rokeby Museum Website. . . In this week’s lesson I invite students to make a copy of a drawing by Rachael of her Father, Rowland (images 1,2). Through archival material from the museum’s collection we also explore Rachael’s relationship with her father - a prominent illustrator (image 3) and author. . . Rowland had a major influence on Rachael’s professional career. An active author he would often get Rachael to illustrate his articles and books. Before the age of 18 Rachael had a dozen published illustrations thanks to this collaboration. . . Understanding Rowland’s role in Rachael’s story, forces us to think more critically about the role of distance education in Racahel’s success. Rachael studied art with an important New York illustrator through a correspondence course. Having access to this education gave Rachael the tools to pursue her career. But seeing how hands on her father (and mother) were in her education and her early career reminds us that access doesn’t equal success. Rachael was able to take advantage of distance education because she had a stable and supportive home life. . . By sharing Rachael’s story I want to pull back the curtain on the modern conception of an artist as a genius. Generally when an artist has early success it is because there is a support system around them. I don’t think you need an author father to get your start as an illustrator. But I think it suggests that beyond education, artists need to think about finding some kind of apprenticeship to learn the business side of their trade. Making the artist's journey more transparent is hopefully a way to invite a wider range of people into the profession. #RokebyDistanceDrawing #DrawWithRachael @rokebymuseum . . #art #artist #illustration #illustrator #fineart #drawing #drawingchallenge #arted #onlineart #artblog #arthistory #artlover #contemporaryartist #artmuseum #draw #academicart #oldmaster #femaleart #femaleartist
WEEK 3: MISTAKESThis is the link for Mistakes
In this week’s post, we consider criticism from the perspective of the student. Learning to engage with feedback is a central step in the learning process. It forces us to ask new questions and look at our work from a new perspective. Once we get over our emotional response, knowing what is not working becomes a point of departure and can get us closer to our learning objectives.
I'm really enjoying seeing the art that participants from my #rokebydistancedrawing project are posting! https://t.co/BmMAp4VVSy pic.twitter.com/ChmS7UyWGX— Courtney Clinton (@courtclinton) September 1, 2020
WEEK 4: DRAWING FROM LIFE
This is the link for From Life
In today’s exercise, I’m going to walk you through making a copy, setting up your model, and doing the first stages of a portrait drawing. Next week we are going to come back to our portrait to do a self-critique and finish the work.
View this post on Instagram
Join me for part one of a two part portrait drawing lesson! Hosted on the @rokebymuseum website this free drawing course is open to anyone who wants to improve their drawing! . . This course is based on the letters of a 19th C drawing course that I discovered in the museum's collection. Each week I share not only a drawing lesson but also a chapter in the artistic journey of the 19th C illustrator, Rachael Robinson Elmer, who took the original course as a teenager. . . This week I show students how to use a drawing made by Rachael (image 3) as a reference for a self portrait drawing. First we will make a copy of Rachael's drawing. To help guide our self portrait we 'copy' the position and the lighting of Rachael's drawing. The details are different but the general placement of features and shadow will be the same. In this way we can use Rachael's example to help guide our work. . . This course is designed for people who want to learn to draw but don't have the means or time to do a course. Lessons are designed for independent study. In each lesson I show students tricks to help guide and self correct their own work. . . The project is inspired by Rachael who learned to draw in the 1890s living on a remote farm in rural Vermont. Through a letter correspondence with a New York artist she learned to draw and went on to have an important career as a book illustrator. With this course I hope to inspire people to take up the challenge of pursuing their artistic dreams! . . . #art #artist #draw #drawing #portraitart #portraitdrawing #portraitdrawings #portrait #selfportrait #fineart #illustrator #illustration #arteducation #artprojects #instaart #dailydrawings #tuesdaythoughts #tuesdaymotivation