Saturday, June 6, 2015

From Farm to Plate Workshop: Documenting the Slow Food Movement in Chatham County, NC

The Slow Food movement was started in Italy “by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in the 1980s, with the initial aim to defend regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life.” “Today Slow Food represents a global movement over 160 countries.” “Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it, and good for the planet.” (Quotes are from the website. See more at:

In the Triangle area of NC, the Slow Food Movement is a well-established culture, & blends easily with the thriving Slow Money, Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Energy, & Buy Local movements that energize the community here. There are more sustainable & organic farms per capita in Chatham County than anywhere else in the state.(More artists & craftspeople, too!) You will also find solar panels everywhere in this rural countryside with rolling hills. (See below for references.*)

Crops under the solar panels at Piedmont Biofarm, Pittsboro, NC (detail) © 2015 Stacye Leanza

Come practice your reportage skills as you document the journey our “Slow Food” takes to get from the farm, all the way to your restaurant plate, & the dedicated people who do the work all along the way. Artists sympathetic to these causes will find this workshop a great way to express their views! Those who like the challenge of reportorial drawing will appreciate the variety of settings & activities we will draw. Those who appreciate great local food will love what's on the menu!

Our assignment: We are pictorial journalists (aka: reportorial illustrators), traveling with the people & crops grown at Granite Springs Farm, & Piedmont Biofarm, two sustainable farms in Chatham County, NC. Over the course of 2 days, we'll follow the produce as it is harvested and goes to the local farmer's market. Then we'll visit a restaurant that buys from these local farmers, & draw “behind the scenes” in the kitchen. Finally, we'll put down our sketchbooks & dine on their local creations.
For our final drawing session on Sunday, we'll visit the kitchen of our own Italian country chef, Giancarlo Toso, at Blue Heron Farm. He will offer a cooking class (homemade pasta!), as he prepares our Harvest Meal. Workshop participants may opt to join the cooking class for part of the session.

Our meals: Throughout the workshop, we will dine on delectable food from local cafes, such as Angelina's Kitchen (Greek), & Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe (Indian). All eateries serve meals made with produce, dairy, &/or meat bought from local, sustainable farms, like Granite Springs & Piedmont Biofarm.

An important part of the Slow Food movement is savoring the meal. We will get to witness this first-hand as we share a couple of meals with our farm hosts at Blue Heron Farm. Our own Italian country chef, Giancarlo Toso, will prepare our Sunday Harvest Meal with produce from Granite Springs, & other local farms. There will be time to relax for a bit after the meal. So, do count on a lot of scrumptious food to complement the drawing!


Learning goals:
One of the most important things about Reportage is learning how to tell the story efficiently & effectively. It is a constant editing process. I will guide you through the editing process throughout the workshop. The specific lessons listed below will help you with speed, accuracy, expression, & story-telling.

1st session: Using “Blobs” to compose your picture, & draw people in motion.
  • Page Composition (Who's in charge of your drawing??)
The concept of using “blobs” to compose your picture requires you to distill your scene into very general shapes. These “blobs” are easy to adjust, because they have no sharp outline. By using this method, you can compose & adjust your composition relatively easily. Adding detail becomes easier afterwards. 

Here (above) is an example of a composition that has been “blobbed in”, then adjusted with slightly darker color. If you look closely, you can see that light lines have been added.
Here (above) you can see that more detail has been added, as well as more color, & darker & brighter lines.  

(Click here for complete Blob Demo & explanation: 

  • Gestures & body-language
When people are moving quickly, there are only seconds to record the essence of their pose. “Blob” gestures (aka: mass gestures) can be done in a few strokes. And, if you are observing their body language closely, these gesture drawings can be very expressive! Another good thing about blob gestures is that – if you get lucky – your subject may stick around a few seconds longer, so you can scratch in a few lines of detail. Below (left) is an example of the traditional “blocking in”. Observe the faint, general lines beneath the darker, more detailed lines. On the right, the colored shapes were “blobbed-in” first, adjusted, then the dark line added. Note that the line diverts somewhat from the colored blobs.

2nd session: Multiple images; Zooming In & Out
  • Multiple images at the same time
People working tend to repeat a series of motions over & over. We can use this to our advantage, by drawing 2 pictures at the same time! I've drawn white circles around the 2 images (below) to show they are 'insets', separate from the rest of the composition. The subject switched back & forth from the 2 positions.

  • Zooming In & Out
You are drawing a picture of someone when you notice the exquisite expression of their feet. But your picture is too small to do justice to the detail. What to do?

3rd  session: What's Your Angle? How to tell the story visually (We'll be touching on this throughout the workshop.)
  • First – find your story angle.
What jazzes you about what you see? (You may want to follow a particular person, a particular crop, or activity.) Your angle may become apparent to you after you've been drawing for awhile.
  • Second - tell your story visually
Learn & practice continuity & sequencing skills, so that your pictorial “essay” makes sense to the viewer. What's important to include about the people, the action, the crops, the setting? What can be left out? This is (partially) subjective! Based on your own interest & delight.

4th  session: Using color & line to unify, accentuate & polish up your work.
Tricks for creating a cohesive foreground, mid-ground, & background, so your drawings are not too busy, & 'read' well.

5th session: Q&A – We'll cover questions students have about the previous lessons.