Dorie Petrochko (DP) is one of the Connecticut Natural Science Illustrators (CTNSI) art class instructors. She is also the President and one of the founding members of the art classes at the Yale Peabody Museum. Part 1 of this interview series highlighted her art classes that focused on drawing and painting birds. Learn more about Dorie.
The interview was conducted by A. Pirozzoli (AP)
(AP) What is the greatest obstacle the student will overcome in this course?
(DP) Avian anatomy. Learning how a bird perches, feeds, lands and flies in terms of its anatomy is very challenging, and even more challenging is translating that into a drawing or painting.
(AP) In general, what do you believe is the most important factor for a student to understand about art?
(DP) The most important factor to understand is that a work of art is constantly in flux. The dynamics of a painting or drawing can change, just as our moods can change. The more creative experience one has, the more one can control the medium and feel successful with it. This takes time and patience.
(AP) What areas of difficulty will the student need to deal with when using these materials?
(DP) Students often find making the transition from a graphite drawing to a watercolor painting very difficult.
Good initial drawings are essential for bird painting because they serve as preliminary guides for the final work. Often, with birds, students rely too much on photography so it is important to start with loose sketches from live birds or videos. Starting a painting without reference sketches can be dangerous because understanding and planning are very important to successful results.
Watercolor also presents a challenge for students. Working with small watercolor wash studies of birds in their habitat is recommended to gain familiarity with the medium.
(AP) What is the personal interaction between the instructor and student?
(DP) There is plenty of interaction between instructor and student as classes are usually small and there is ample time for individual instruction. Each student comes away with the satisfaction of learning techniques necessary for continuing their studies at home.
(AP) What do you find the most effective way to encourage a student who is struggling?
(DP) I try to encourage a student to simplify his/ her work and to work at a comfort level that helps him/her build confidence in the creative process ( i.e. choosing a less complicated subject to portray such as the head of a bird rather than the whole bird)
(AP) What painting or artwork are you personally working on currently?
(DP) I am working on a mixed media study of three Leafy Sea-Dragons which are related to seahorses.
(AP) What is the goal of the work?
(DP) To create an ethereal sensation that one would experience from being underwater with floating seaweed and suddenly observing very strange creatures- Leafy Sea Dragons, a species of seahorse.
(AP) Are there any new art trends or techniques you are applying?
(DP) If you want to call mixed media a new art trend. It is certainly non-traditional in natural science illustration. I am juxtaposing an abstract background with representational images.
(AP) How important is it to your craft to be creating art on a regular basis?
(DP) It is my lifeblood and my salvation. I have been an artist my whole life and it will always sustain me. There is a constant challenge in every work of art I produce, therein lies the love and respect I have for the creative process. Our lives are in flux, as are works of art. It is so important to be creating art on a regular basis to maintain a work rhythm that translates into a “style of working” that defines the artist.
Missed PART I? Click here to read Part 1 of this interview with Dorie Petrochko.