Category Archives: Drawing in Life

Santa Cruz High Schoolers Take Doodling During Class Very Seriously

Doodling is very much a part of life in school. Students the world over indulge in this meditative activity, often during class. As a drawing coach in high schools, I encourage doodling as a way to explore spontaneous expression and creative problem solving.

This year I encountered Corey Chrysler and Arastas Duran, two students who are crazy serious about doodling. I wanted to see what would happen if I nudged them both toward creating abstract and surrealistic compositions. In the image shown above, what started as a lesson in drawing realistic proportions of a skull ended in a brilliant abstract riff by Corey. Below, the two 17 year-old sketchers share their thoughts and “random nothings”.

Corey Chrysler

Age: 17  Hometown: Santa Cruz  City of Birth: Santa Cruz  Interests: Music, skateboarding  Favorite Artists: Alex Grey, Vincent Van Gogh  Favorite Music: Misfits, Suicidal Tendencies, Atmosphere, A Perfect Circle  Pets: Bobo the cat, Bully the bull dog, Cali the king snake

Corey is a mild-mannered teenager who takes time to ponder his next drawing. Then with iPod earplugs locked in position and playlist selected, he drops into the doodle zone. Musical rhythm can be seen in a lot of his highly imaginative drawings. A strong influence in his work comes from close to home. “My dad has drawn around me all my life, so I’ve always been drawing off and on.”

Other than our Drawing Lab lessons at Louden Nelson Community School, Corey is pretty much self-taught. Even with this year’s burst of surrealistic and abstract drawing he remains humble. When asked if he considers himself an artist Corey simply replies, “Artistic yes. But artist, no.”

Drawing is a creative outlet for Corey. “It makes school worth showing up on time for. Art helps me express myself on a daily basis. I don’t think I could go long without starting some kind of art project.” And when asked how drawing improves his world he replies, “Drawing gives me the chance of surprising myself and that can make my day!”

Corey pays attention. He watches the news and listens to a lot of music for the inspirational triggers that get his work going. When taking time to study Corey’s pencil and charcoal drawings you begin to see images of topics that interest him, ranging from world peace to “random nothings and sometimes trees.”

Corey Chrysler knows the challenges of learning to draw and offers words of wisdom to those viewing student work, “Art is subjective so never tell anyone that they can’t draw something great.”

Draw on, man.

Corey’s Drawing Gallery:

corey-DSCN0791 corey-DSCN0770 corey-DSCN0793 corey-DSCN0771



Arastas Duran

Age: 17  Hometown: Santa Cruz  City of Birth: Santa Cruz  Interests: Doodling (of course!), meditation, gardening, psychology, philosophy  Favorite Artists: Hasn’t been able to choose, doesn’t think he ever will.  Favorite Music: Jazz  Pets: Cares for 3 rabbits: Lionel, Biscuit, and Bananacakes; 2 cats: Ophelia and Pheobe

Arastas Duran’s earliest memories of doodling date back to his early years in elementary school. When the classroom lesson wasn’t interesting Arastas says, “I’d draw to focus myself so I wouldn’t disrupt classmates.”

Ever since his childhood desire to doodle, Arastas has been able to channel his drawing into a form of meditation and problem solving. “I find that drawing, done correctly, can help me think about things and process them more smoothly. I find myself doodling at times when working on a math problem or writing an essay. Yet, if I’m not careful I can begin to draw an essay.”

During the past few years he has taken his drawing more seriously. An avid sketchbook drawer, lately Arastas has devoted his efforts to drawing on his iPhone and digital tablet. Inspired by nature and his love of music, his intricate labyrinths of intense line work reveal his spontaneous drawing method. He says, “I can have a sort of flash or glow of an image or a movie-like process in my mind’s eye. I sometimes guide the image to create a pre-structure to base the drawing off of, like a formula.”

Arastas’ Drawing Gallery:

arastas1 arastas2  arastas4

This meditative process then triggers deep emotions that are translated by his drawing. “I think I usually get inspired by feelings, not so much as what causes the feelings, but the interpretation/processing of the feelings. Drawing seems to be the best translator I can operate with ease.” He adds that, “When I draw from imagination, anything goes. I like to try and sync my movements with feelings, the environment, thoughts, and music.”

Pages from Arastas’ sketchbooks:


Arastas Duran knows he will always draw but doesn’t see it as his main occupation in life. “I have the itch to help those in need, those who suffer from harmful governments in society. I have no idea what the future holds, so I don’t presume.”

In closing, when asked how drawing improves his world, Arastas Duran replies, “I think it helps me learn how to express myself and it’s like a muse to me. I constantly find myself in awe when I draw, especially when others draw. I have time and time again been reminded that improvement is infinite.”

To view more of Arastas Duran’s work on Deviant Art click here.

Sketcher Spotlight: Gianna Goodpaster



Gianna Goodpaster is a Santa Cruz teenager who doodles, draws, and paints. What sets Gianna apart from other students is her quiet, self-determined journey of creative exploration. After viewing the extreme variety of media she experiments with, we’re compelled to jump on board just to see where her extraordinary journey will lead in the future.

(Click on images to view larger details.)

In fact, Gianna is a daring shapeshifter when it comes to artistic styles. During the past couple of years, having her as a Draw to Learn student required me to keep a wide assortment of tools and subject matter on hand. Whether doing study sketches in charcoal, highly detailed ink renderings, or vivid pastel compositions, she shifts creative gears effortlessly. Gianna’s impulse to create is apparent the moment she walks into the classroom. Quickly choosing her materials, she sets her iPod; then explodes with unpredictable, irresistibley cool drawings.

I often use Gianna’s drawings as inspiration for lessons at high schools and in my studio. Largely self-taught, her expressive lines and powerful tonal work resonate with other students–true signposts of becoming an artistic powerhouse in the future. But for now Gianna Goodpaster is quite content in relaxing with her cat and creating art.

Interview: Busy preparing for graduation from Natural Bridges High School in Santa Cruz, Gianna took time to answer questions for our Sketcher Spotlight. Enjoy catching a glimpse of her exciting creative journey! (Click on images to view larger details.)

Age: 17
Home town: Fresno (Currently resides in Santa Cruz)
City of Birth: Mountain View
Interests: Besides doing art I like to go to music events and go adventuring in the woods.
Favorite artist: Adam Scott Miller
Favorite music: I like a very wide range of music. Right now I listen to a lot of electronic music.
Pets: I have 4 dogs and 3 cats in my household, but only one of the cats is mine. His name is Little Man and he is three years old. I also have a dwarf bunny named Saddam.

When did you start drawing and when did you first consider yourself an artist?
I started drawing as soon as I could pick up a crayon just like all of the other kids. I however started drawing much more often when I was around 13. I’ve never thought of myself as an “artist”;  I’m just somebody who creates art more frequently than most.

How did you learn to draw?
Besides learning basic shading skills in middle school from art class, nobody has really ever helped me learn to draw. I’ve always just learned how to draw things from pictures or from repetition.

What are the sources of inspiration for your artwork?
My main inspiration comes from spiritual beliefs, dreams, and daydreams.

How is drawing important in school and daily life?
Drawing is pretty much the only enjoyment I’ve ever gotten from being in school. As for my daily life it is one of the only things that helps me relax, and is the most effective way of relieving boredom.


What are your favorite things to draw?
I doodle faces of women quite a lot. When I’m not just doodling though, I don’t have anything in particular I draw. A lot of my art is just swirls with lots of colors with some sacred geometry.

Which tools and techniques do you prefer?
When I doodle I usually just use a black pen, but sometimes I like to use oil pastels. I mostly just paint with oils though. I like to just paint colors flowing or swirling into one another, and then after it dries I put shapes and other things over it.

What do you see doing with drawing and your future?
As of right now I don’t have any plans to do art as a career. I’ve sold a few paintings here and there for more art supplies, but I don’t know how much I would want to do it as a career. Not having creative freedom and following deadlines doesn’t sound that appealing.  So for now I’m just doing it for enjoyment.

What is your process of making art from observation and imagination?
I draw from observation so that I can learn how to draw something without having to see it physically. I make most of my art on my bed, even my paintings. I usually set up all of my painting supplies on my bed, put on music, and sit with my cat as I paint.

How does drawing improve your world?
Drawing is just one of the only things I really like doing, and it’s always nice to create something beautiful for yourself or for somebody else.

Drawing on the Job: Ever Wonder Who Draws Those Cool Hand-Made Signs in Restaurants and Grocery Stores?

Originally posted 8/19:
Hand-drawn, artistic signs make our wait at the deli counter or navigating the produce department a more pleasurable experience. But who are the unknown artists behind the countless chalkboard and ink signs we see in our neighborhood grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops?

Above photo: Erin Piester draws signs that are functional and fun to look at

Combining the Love for Drawing, Lettering, and Retail Service
Sometimes incorporating elaborate drawings of vines and veggies or just a simple flourish of lettering for the day’s price on tomatoes, Erin Piester’s signage abounds in the isles of Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The 30-year-old pastel artist studied nutrition and dietetics and works as a landscaper, but her drawing skills come to life during mornings spent creating the colorful signs at Guido’s.

Above: Erin’s thoughtfully drawn, creative signs can bring a smile to a customer’s face.

Author Steven Heller writes, on the New York Times blog, that Erin “has raised a mundane craft to alluring art.” He goes on to say that her soothingly naturalistic yet engagingly abstract signs “are so joyful and jolly that you don’t mind the often high prices — which are usually rendered in white chalk.”

Chalk It Up to Success

Above: Claire Watson’s menu boards display the power of solid drawing skills.

Claire Watson has taken her love of chalk art to a delightful extreme. While working in restaurants Claire started drawing chalkboard menus. What started as a side job became a bustling little enterprise called Chalk It Up Signs and Graphics, located in British Columbia. Her husband crafts the wooden frames on the smudge-proof, hand-illustrated menu boards hanging in markets, pubs, and retail establishments across the globe.

According to her company website, Claire recalls, “I’ve been pumpin’ out signs full time for about five years now, about 400 in total. But it started about 12 years ago. Working in the food and beverage industry, I was the one who wrote out the menu boards.”

Nowadays, in her busy studio, music plays and the espresso machine is always on as the self-taught artist has diversified with new projects such as fabric banners, brochures for clients, illustrated ESL children’s books, and her own pastel art exhibits. Focused on balancing family and work, Claire Watson has attained a lifestyle that many of us sketchers only dream of. She says with confidence, “I get to design and draw every day.”

So, next time you’re waiting for the morning brew at the local java house, toss an extra tip in the jar to show your appreciation for those whimsical hand-crafted signs on the counter; they may have been created by an enterprising young employee, honing their drawing skills for a colorful future.

I’m always looking for examples of how people use drawing in their everyday work life. If you use drawing on the job please contact me, I’d like to post your story on this blog. –Rob

Jeff Bridges Has a Fun Little Secret: He Loves to Draw!

Originally posted 9/09:

It’s easy to think of our kids coming home from school, sitting down and drawing fun little pictures. But we never think of mega big-time adult celebrities coming home from a hectic day on the job, sitting down and… drawing fun little pictures.

Acclaimed actor Jeff Bridges, well known for his roles in movies such as The Big Lebowski, Fearless, and The Door Under the Floor, loves to steal away and draw to his heart’s content. In fact, his cool drawings are a big part of communicating with fans on his personal website. Jeff’s whimsical sketches and doodles reveal the core requisite for drawing enjoyment as an adult: a direct connection with his inner kid.

He considers himself an amateur artist (he did the paintings for Fearless and the book illustrations for The Door Under the Floor). “For a long while I wasn’t sure I was going to make acting my main focus professionally. I was interested in music, painting and other creative pursuits.”

Jeff Bridges did get serious about acting, and we’re glad he did. But as an unabashed sketcher and doodler, he’s an inspiration to grownups everywhere, who’d like to come home after work, relax and have fun with a pencil and paper–starting tonight.