Category Archives: School

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.

I Can’t Draw

Originally posted 9/09:
It’s that time again–back to school! Today I’m planning drawing lessons for schools in Santa Cruz and Monterey, California. I’m also preparing for the inevitable group of students who will lay down the gauntlet at the very first moment of class, proclaiming outright, “I! Can’t! Draw!”

Indeed, I faced the first defiant outcry even before the first day of school. Last week, while discussing the drawing course with teachers at a small alternative education school, a student overheard her name added to the course roster. A look of horror crossed her face as she blurted out, “No way! I can’t draw.”

As she spoke I leaned over to look at the papers on her desk. I noticed she was doodling with a pen on a folder. It was a wonderful abstract doodle, composed of intricately woven lines and delicate shapes. “Perfect start. I’ll see you in class next week,” I replied.

Driving home, I remembered one particularly defiant high school drawing student last year. From the moment pencil hit paper Alex let me know, in no small way, that he didn’t know how to look at things then draw them. Each time he gasped in frustration, my return volley was firm encouragement. “Compare what you’ve drawn to what you’re looking at, keep looking for accurate proportions.”

Alex’s drawings

That was pretty much how it went as we continued drawing through the lessons, from simple cartoon characters to natural forms.

Then one day during class, while drawing from a picture by the muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, Alex glared up at me and quietly said, “I hate you Rob, and I hate drawing.”

I replied, “Yeah I know, but look at this amazing sketch you’re doing.” He smiled slightly and continued shading the background behind the figure of the woman.

And so it goes. This week, every drawing teacher across the land will rise to the challenge. Elementary and middle school teachers, drawing instructors such as Mona Brookes, and university professors such as Dr. Betty Edwards will step into their classrooms and hear the familiar ring of those three fateful words: “I can’t draw.”

Smiling patiently, they will say to themselves, “Ah, but you can.”

Interview: Drawing Wonky With Moofus

Originally posted 2/09:

Paging through the latest issue of Dwell magazine, I came across an architectural drawing by 11-year-old Milan Rodriguez. Dwell asked him to do the illustration. Not only did his wonderful sense of composition grab my attention, but I found his art world tag Moofus quite intriguing. I had to know more about this kid.

Clicking into Moofus’ website transports you back to the youthful days when imagination was king and drawing pictures unlocked the secrets of the world. Moofus’ cheerful colors and huge blue skies depict his surroundings and experiences in Sydney, Australia. Particularly impressive are his intricate urban compositions. His keen eye for detail and youthful curiosity is matched by his vibrant sense of humor.

Renaissance Kid

Moofus personifies the pure creative potential that is shaping the future of our planet. You could call him the quintessential 21st century Renaissance kid. Sketchbooks filled with drawings complement his adept digital illustration skills. He balances his discipline in school with soulful skateboard sessions. He receives loving encouragement and guidance from his mom who is an accomplished artist, and his dad who “is brilliant at maths.” Moofus is witty, compassionate, and very concerned about the environment. A percentage of his art sales is donated to International Animal Rescue. He started his website to sell his prints “because I wanted to help the bears.”

Drawing by Moofus: Night at the Opera


Moofus writes extensively about his art work. Commenting on the illustration for Dwell he notes, “It is made from recycled wood, steel and other things I could find. It has solar panels and grass roofs because I would like to have chickens on the roof and grow vegetables there too. A ‘root vegetable’ roof. That makes my mum laugh. Quite loud.”

My personal favorite drawing is “Night at the Opera”. Moofus comments, “This is done from a different angle than you’re used to. Its along from Mrs Macquaries chair, so the Opera House and the Harbour bridge are hiding behind the trees in the Botanical gardens. There’s a cafe in the botanical gardens that we sometimes go to. It has good chocolate brownies.”

Moofus Interview

I contacted Kate Banazi, Moofus’ mom, about doing an email interview. She promptly replied, “He’s at school right now, so I’ll pass this on for him to get cracking on for you, I’m sure he’ll be honoured that you’ve asked him.” A few hours later his answers to my questions arrived. Here’s Moofus, unplugged:

Moofus is a very interesting name. Where did it come from?
I thought it was a funny nickname and it rhymes with Doofus which makes me laugh.

Moofus and Mum

How has your mom helped you in drawing and creating art?
Mum has taken photos for me to draw when we haven’t got time for me to sit and draw them. Especially when there are people moving. She gets me sketchbooks, pencils, and pens! We have always drawn together since I was a baby, that’s because she’s rubbish at maths. My dad is brilliant at maths. All her friends are good at drawing too and my grandparents are both artists. Everyone has helped me with advice and tips.

In what ways do you use drawing for school projects?
I use drawings to make school work look different to other people. My high school is a visual arts school, so all our homework has drawing in it. It helps me remember things too with diagrams.

You use pencil and ink and the computer to create your artwork. What are the steps of your creative process?
First I draw it out on paper with pen or pencil, then it gets scanned, then I colour it in with photoshop. I like photoshop because I can change things quickly and I always learn something new.

How does skateboarding and music influence your artwork?
Skateboarding in the city helps me to imagine cityscapes which I love, and see things from wonky angles, usually when I fall over. I look up and see something that I never saw before, then the bruises don’t hurt so much. Music makes me feel and think crazy sometimes and sometimes calm; it always gives me ideas, sometimes makes me try things new.

What’s your favorite thing to draw?
Cityscapes with secret things hidden. I used to love drawing machines, boats and trains on rolls of wallpaper. They are dad’s and mum’s favourites.

What’s your favorite skateboard trick?
My favourite trick is a 360 FS Nollie. I can’t do it though! I have to practice more!

Luna Park by Moofus

Your artwork shows that you draw a lot from real life, especially buildings. Many kids your age have a difficult time drawing realistically. What advice to you have to help them make their drawings more realistic?
I get cross all the time because its not right and I’m only just learning that’s sometimes ‘good’. I have sketch books full of wonky things! I like wonky now! I draw what I see but can change it to make it look right. I draw from photos too to practice in my sketchbook. I am learning about perspective and line at school which helps.

It’s quite obvious that you’re a kid who’s having a lot of fun drawing. What part will drawing play in your future as a teenager and an adult?
When I am older I want to start my own skateboard company and design my own decks and clothes. I want to build my parents a house too, but they want it in my back garden.

Future skateboard design mogul? Artist? Architect? Who knows for sure. But one thing is certain, Moofus a.k.a. Milan Rodriguez has his priorities in line. He sums it up in his comments about his drawing of a beach house: “It’s a very Australian house I think and was built by an Australian architect called Harry Seidler. Maybe one day I’ll live there but I would put a skateboard ramp into the swimming pool that would be really cool.”

Moofus’ website and his mum’s website

Does Doodling Help Your Brain?

Originally posted 2/09

Lots of media chatter about Friday’s release of a study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology stating that “doodling aids memory.” Along with being mentioned on MSNBC, a number of articles and blog posts popped up on the Web. It turns out that your phone conversation doodling may be good for your brain.

US News and World Report says that doodling “may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist doing.”

NHS Choices, a UK health information service, is a little more cautionary: “In conclusion, this study suggests that doodling while listening is not necessarily a hindrance to remembering information that has been heard. Whether doodling can improve memory in real life situations remains to be seen.”

I just think it’s very cool that doodling + cognitive psychology is being taken seriously as a topic for discussion.

US News article>> Click Here

NHS Choices article>> Click Here