sketching the longheu girls’ school

On November 10, 2018, over fifty people came to the P+V open house, exploring this historic site through sketching. In the morning, Handshake 302 co-founder, Zhang Kaiqin held an introduction to sketching workshop for 15 children and 5 adults. In the afternoon, a group of young artists, joined the students for an open afternoon of discovery through sketching. Over the course of the entire day, participants experienced why sketching is important.

Zhang Kaiqin began the sketching class with an introduction to “the real world.” Step by step we explored the elements of the real world, such as people, animals, plants, and emotions. How do these elements appear in a sketch?

The first step to a great sketch is simplicity. We drew a square on our paper. Teacher Zhang asked us to choose a section of the P+V classroom to draw. Within that section, we chose three objects to sketch in three minutes!

The next step was to draw three more boxes on our paper. Inside each box, we repeated the first step from different perspectives—close-up, bird’s eye view, and from the back. This time we had five minutes to complete the exercise.

Why were these steps necessary? Because our first perspective wasn’t necessarily the most interesting. Once we had four different perspectives, we could choose which sketch to deepen through more attention to detail and finally the addition of color.

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After we talked about our sketches, Teacher Zhang handed out fresh paper. She gave us twenty minutes to repeat the process again, this time on our own. We left the class room to find our corner of the P+V compound to sketch.

After we finished our sketches, we came together for a final sharing. What did we learn?

Sketching is fast, rough, and inspiring.There is no “correct” way of sketching. Instead, we realized that by analyzing a space, choosing three elements, and making a quick sketch, we had the basics for representing the P+V. In fact, we could recognize the P+V in every sketch and some sketches—of a footlight or of a doorway—helped us to see “history” in a new way.

We also learned that sketching is for everyone. Everyone who picked up a pencil and a piece of paper could sketch because the most important part of sketching is to just do it. When we followed Teacher Zhang’s four-step process, each of us created a one-of-a-kind sketch of the P+V compound. In other words, sketching is more than a “skill set,” it is a practice.

Lastly, sketching is fun! Elementary school students who found classroom art classes boring, expressed surprise that they enjoyed this “class.” Several said that what made sketching fun was the freedom to choose what to sketch without pressure. In other words, as human beings, we want to engage our world through art because it makes us happy.

That afternoon, students returned to the P+V to continue sketching this historic compound with professional artists and amateur sketchers. For the span of a blissful afternoon, we sketched, we chatted, and we made new friends. 

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