Nelson to teach Observational Drawing classes

ESCANABA – The public is invited to join area artist Brady Ray Nelson at the Bonifas Arts Center for a class in Observational Drawing set for Thursdays, Feb. 7 through March 7, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Nelson is known to area residents for winning prizes in the Northern Exposure exhibit at the Center, and for his participation in the recent show at the Bay College, Four Alumni Art Stars, which spotlighted new and recent works by former art majors Nelson, Michele Dugree, Brian Burroughs, and Zach Hall.

Asked about the title of the class, Nelson said “It’s a type of learning to see, I suppose. Yes, all drawing is observational, but my purpose is to teach students to observe the elements of a picture and learn to draw them. So we’ll basically learn to see – developing the artist’s eye.”

Nelson developed his own eye through trial and error.

“There’s no real simple way to learn to draw other than just to keep doing it,” he said. “I’ve picked up a lot of tips, tricks, and good advice along the way, and I believe I have the ability to save people some heartache and let them start getting into the real drawing. I have some steps to follow to help people instantly develop their eye.”

The class will include drawing techniques in different media – charcoal, graphite, and cont media. Nelson will discuss light, shadow and value, using the different media to explore different skills.

Asked when he decided he was an artist, Nelson replied, “As early as I can remember, about four or five, I was making drawings. I put art off for a long time and did lots of other things. I was in school for education and bought some paints. I went home, drew a portrait of my wife, and changed my major.”

Portraits are considered a difficult art, so why does Nelson specialize in this?

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I do it mostly because I can’t stop. The ball went rolling, and I couldn’t put it down. I was the most ambitious student in Bay’s Art Department. I was there at 8 a.m. when they’d let me in, and left at 2 a.m. when they kicked me out.”

Nelson’s website,, showcases some of the many portraits he’s completed since 2006. Some are of his three children, Lillian, Elaine and Raymond, but others are commissions he’s completed for grateful recipients.

“I have a studio now in Gladstone. I do my portrait work there and give some small group classes.”

How does the family feel about Nelson’s art?

“They love it,” Nelson said. “Since I’m a portrait artist, I do a lot of pictures of them. Those hang on the wall, I notice, while the school photos go into a drawer.”

Nelson loves it, too. “I’m doing, for the most part, what I’d like to be doing. Of course, I’d like a few more commissions and a vacation home. The portraits have fewer mistakes every time, so I’m getting better technically. I’m happy with what I’m producing.”

Who is the class best suited for? “My class should help both people who do and people who don’t want to do portraits. It’s for anyone approaching drawing for the first time, or for dabblers in many media.”

Cost for the 5-week class is $52, or $42 for Arts Center members, including materials. For more information, or to register, call 786-3833 or visit