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.

Sketchbooking: Time For Playing With Pencils and Letting Your Eye Fall in Love

As I prepare for the Scribbles Institute Sketchbook Workshops, what better place to start than with my own sketchbooks.

Paging through decades of drawings quickly unlocks specific memories. The way the sun cast a shadow on a summer day in rural Mexico, or the emotional roller coaster of love and loss in suburban California. Each drawing reveals the history of impassioned urgency to capture the essence of my subjects with quickness of line. Youthful notions of exacting realism give way to unleashed experimentation in style and techniques. When making and “reading” sketchbooks, the joy is in the details.

Sharing the Mysteries of Observation and Imagination
Sketchbooks are personal, detailed accounts of daily experiences and daydreams. Pages alternate between drawing what is seen, imagined, remembered, and felt. “Visual journals are created in a secret language of symbols. Intentional or not they are private maps only their makers can follow,” writes Jennifer New in her book, Drawing From Life: The Journal as Art. “Rather than describing the stuff of the day, they are often made from it.”

As in my younger years, I continue to be enthralled with the famously esoteric sketchbooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Their pages contain random sketches for paintings and inventions, intricate visual studies of human anatomy, and scientific meditations alongside mundane food items jotted down for a grocery list. Although my sketches and written notes are private recordings of the world outside and inside my skull, sharing the “secret language” of my books with others is extremely liberating. When exchanging sketchbooks, conversations take us to mysteriously wonderful places.

Letting Your Eye Fall in Love
Sketchbooks help us to rediscover and engage in natural and manmade environments that surround us. Going outdoors, hunting for pleasing compositions, and drawing from life is a big part of sketchbooking fun. Artist and drawing teacher, Frederick Franck describes his pure delight in seeing. “My eye was in love! I had to celebrate this love and so…I drew.”

Being able to quickly depict a tree swaying in the wind, a deer grazing in a meadow, or people walking on the beach is the essence and thrill of sketching. In his seminal book, The Natural Way to Draw, Kimon Nicolaides states, “The real laws of art, the basic laws, are few. These basic laws are the laws of nature.” According to Nicolaides, “You should draw, not what the thing looks like, not even what it is, but what it is doing.” Acclaimed writer and drawer, John Berger, distills the process of seeing and sketching down to the bare bones. “To draw is to look, examining the structure of appearances. A drawing of a tree shows, not a tree, but a tree-being-looked-at.”

Sketching Connects Us to Imagination and Playful Experimentation
In her drawing activity book, Picture This, long-time cartoonist Lynda Barry writes about what happens the day we realize we can’t draw and how it happens to almost everyone; when “the paper place for an experience” transforms into a “paper thing that is good or bad.” She remembers having to learn “how to draw in an ‘organized’ way that others could recognize and say yes to.”

Barry urges us to imagine and to keep drawing! “And if you are lucky and you can remember what drawing used to be to you, you may be able to find your way back to the place where the shapes are happening.” In drawing from observation it is useful to have a purpose for your work. In drawing from imagination, sketchbooks offer a less tangible view of the drawer’s intent. Your sketch can be preparation for an abstract art project or a random doodle can become, in itself, the final art. Or are your sketches something completely unrelated to artwork? The artist Patricia Cain suggests, “not to ask ‘What is the purpose of this drawing?’ but rather ‘What do I come to know through making this drawing?'”

Do you have the desire to explore drawing from observation and imagination with Sketchbook Basics? Playing with pecils starts here.

View more of Rob Court’s drawings

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.

Sketcher Spotlight: Juan Arroyo

Originally posted 4/10:

Age: 17
Hometown: Salinas, California
City of Birth: Michoacan, Mexico
Favorite Music: Mexican
Pets: Dog

Although he doesn’t consider himself an artist, if you ask his classmates who the ‘artist’ at school is, they’d probably name Juan Arroyo. Juan attends Rancho Cielo Youth Campus in Salinas, California and is passionate about drawing. “Drawing is important for me because I love to draw what I have inside of me and what I imagine,” says the soft-spoken senior.

Whenever Juan wants to pass some time in school or at home he picks up a pencil and draws, and draws, and draws. His consistency all year long in drawing class is amazing. After finishing his daily lesson he effortlessly jumps into a drawing of his own, often straight from his imagination or from reference pictures. When asked what inspires him he simply replies, “Silence is the inspiration for me, sometimes music.”

The size of Juan Arroyo’s pencil and graphite drawings shown range from 8.5 x 11 to 18 x 24 inches. Click on images to enlarge for viewing.

Juan remembers drawing cars as a 9-year-old and it’s been non-stop sketching ever since. Equally adept at drawing from observation or from his imagination, his pictures depict historical scenes, symbolic stories, or surrealist compositions. One can see the strong influences of his Mexican heritage and the local street art scene in his work. As a sketcher, Juan is largely self-taught and enjoys experimenting with a variety of drawing media. His latest work with 4B and 6B graphite pencils on large-format paper captures the viewer with bold strokes and powerfully shaded tones.

Whatever Juan Arroyo is planning for his future after graduating from school, we can rest assured that his enjoyment of drawing will be a part of it. Before getting back to the elaborate drawing on his desk he quietly says, “I just draw for fun and because I like it.”