Category Archives: Student Work

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:

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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:

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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.

Girls Want to Have Fun… Drawing!


Whether they’re working on beginning level skills or preparing a portfolio for college, Melissa, Anna, Amber, and Sarah have one thing in common: the passion for drawing. They’re relentless when facing the challenges of improving their skills. The pencil drawing, shown above, is by Santa Cruz high school senior, Melissa Maldonado. Please scroll down to enjoy their work as well as their thoughts on drawing. Click images to enlarge for details.

Melissa Maldonado

Age: 17  Home town: Scotts Valley  City of Birth: Sonora, Mexico  Interests: Drawing, baking, doing makeup  Favorite Music: Instrumental music gets me into the drawing zone  Pets: Cats named Kike and Bella, and a fish named Pedro  School: Louden Nelson Community School, Santa Cruz  School District: Santa Cruz Office of Education

As a teacher, one of my most gratifying experiences is when a high school student starts the year thinking they’re not a drawing artist. They’re even reticent in picking up a pencil to try; then at year’s end they’re talking confidently about drawing and trying new techniques. Melissa Maldonado is one of those students.

Melissa did some drawing when she was 10 years old but stopped for a number of years. She didn’t get back into it again until high school, during our Drawing Lab classes at Louden Nelson Community School. She quickly picked up basic skills in measuring proportions during the Level 1 lessons. In the ensuing months she gained more control of her line work and her realistic drawings improved dramatically.

Melissa’s approach to drawing complex objects is simple. “First, I study the thing I’ll be drawing. After that, I just throw in shapes; then I start adding details.” For most people that’s easier said than done. For Melissa it’s all about practicing, and it shows in her work.

She’s inspired by looking at other artist’s work and is amazed at how they can create the illusion of 3 dimensions in a drawing. Melissa prefers to use pencils when drawing from observation, both from photos and real life. As she’s invested more time in lessons, drawing has became an important part of her life.

“Drawing relaxes me. When I’m dealing with a hard situation I grab a pencil and a piece of paper and draw whatever comes to mind. Drawing takes me to a whole different world and I love it!”

Melissa’s Drawing Gallery:

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When asked what she would like to do in the future with her newfound passion she replied, “I want to try acrylic paints, maybe water colors, and more pastels. Maybe in the future I could be an art teacher for younger kids.”

How’s that for answer from a 17-year-old who still thinks she’s not an artist? Hmmmm…. After taking a look at Melissa Maldonado’s drawings, what do you think?


Anna Soetaert

Age: 17  Home town: Santa Cruz  City of Birth: Santa Cruz  Interests: Drawing, painting, ukulele, baking, soccer, volleyball, softball, and hanging out with friends  Favorite artists: Wayne Thiebaud, Gregory Euclide, Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall  Favorite music: Bon Iver, Death Cab for Cutie, Regina Spektor, Ben Howard, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, The Postal Servive, The Beatles  Pets: 14 year old dog Rosie  School: Santa Cruz High School

Anna Soetaert and her mom started drawing in our Drawing Lab evening sessions during the winter, 2012. It was quickly apparent that the high school senior means business when it comes to drawing.

Anna has been drawing ever since she can remember. “In kindergarten I would always be hanging out at the craft table, drawing away.” People have always seemed to compliment her on her work, so she’s always thought of herself as an artist.

When asked what sources have inspired her drawing she replied, “When I was little, I would often draw experiences. I remember going to the Nutcracker Suite and being amazed by all the beautiful dancers. When I got home I sat for hours, drawing each individual dancer.”



She continues to draw on a daily basis. “I’m always drawing in the margins of my papers at school. Drawing is one of the few things that seems to come naturally to me.” In the picture, shown above, Anna is drawing along side her mom who is also an excellent sketcher.

Anna  has spent many hours in the Scribbles Institute studio learning to block in dominant angles and shapes while measuring proportions of still life objects. She also became proficient with materials such as graphite and charcoal.

While attending our Drawing Lab sessions Anna applied to a number of colleges, including Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. So we focused her evening and weekend sessions on strengthening her observational sketching skills and building her portfolio. It was exciting to hear that Anna was accepted to Cal Poly where she’ll study graphic design.

Anna’s Drawing Gallery:

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Next fall, as she packs her bags for her stay in San Luis Obispo, Anna will be taking plenty of drawing supplies. And as she faces the rigors of college studies I’m sure that her childhood passion for putting pencil to paper will help her maintain a positive outlook. Because, as Anna says while smiling confidently, “Drawing is a lot of fun.”

Two to Watch for Fall 2013

When students return to our high school Drawing Lab classes next year, Amber and Sarah will be leading the way as we start the new semester of lessons. I look forward to their creative intensity and positive energy as they expand their drawing skills. Keep an eye on our website for these two gifted sketchers!

Amber Mitchell

It’s been exciting to see Amber open up to drawing in a big way while studying at Star Community School in Santa Cruz. The creative Santa Cruz local will be attending Natural Bridges High School next year and is excited about resuming her work in drawing from observation. Amber’s favorite artist is Glen Arthur and she likes to draw to music by Living In Question. She’ll be continuing with her observational charcoal drawings and color work on the iPad.

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Sarah Crandall

Born in Healdsburg, California, this energetic sketcher will surely stop folks in their tracks with her powerful drawings. Sarah attends Natural Bridges High School where she’ll be unleashing her energetic artist’s temperament in earnest. She also enjoys playing guitar, singing, and painting. Her favorite music genres include bluegrass, hip-hop, and indie bands. Sarah enjoys drawing fantasy compositions and will continue with her observational charcoal drawings.

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Sketcher Spotlight: High Schoolers Matthew & Daryna Draw Their Stories to Life


Japanese manga comics are a popular form of entertainment and creative expression. Two of our high school Drawing Lab students wish to take this form of artistic storytelling by the horns and draw their way to having an audience of loyal readers. Matthew Acuna and Daryna Reyna have spent the 2013 spring semester starting to build college level portfolios with Rob Court, drawing coach. They were given assignments such as creating character model sheets, story layouts, and studies in movement and expression.

Both Matthew and Daryna are prolific storytellers, highly skilled drawers in various media, and they fill sketchbook after sketchbook with fantastic concepts. They can quickly shift from manga to a traditional drawing style that accurately depicts real life objects and scenes–a rare skill with young artists. Furthermore, when adapting their ideas to digital media, drawing with a stylus is second nature to them.

Let’s take a look inside the creative minds of these two budding manga sketchers.

Matthew Acuna

Age: 17  Home town: Salinas, California  City of Birth: San Diego, California  Interests: Music, art  Favorite Music: Linkin Park  School: Rancho Cielo Youth Campus, Salinas  School District: Monterey County Office of Education

Matthew Acuna is on the fast track to breaking into the competitive arena of comics. Along with attending school, aspiring visual storytellers, such as Matthew, can rise to prominence by building a fan base on the Internet, entering manga contests, and attracting the eye of manga editors and publishers.

With confidence Matthew says, “I’m a self-taught artist… my teachers are the things I see on TV and the Internet.” The self-learning started for him at age six. “I saw my uncle draw and I wanted to do the same thing.”

Working mainly in pencil and pen Matthew draws every day. At school he is seen with guitar case in one arm (he enjoys music) and sketchbook in the other. Between classes at Rancho Cielo Youth Campus and at home (his parents are very supportive) Matthew constantly fine tunes complex plot lines involving several generations of families. “The story is about the adventures of many characters all in pursuit of one thing… true peace,” says Matthew.

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Above left is a model sheet of Matthew’s protagonist and to the right he is sketched on an iPad.

Although Matthew is honing his skills for a challenging career in animation and comics, he also shapes his metaphysical musings with a sketching pencil. “Drawing helps me see beyond the limits of reality… to imagine what could be possible in the universe.”

When it comes to Matthew Acuna’s future as a visual storyteller, the universe patiently awaits his first chapter.

Matthew’s character model sheets and expressions gallery:

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Matthew’s penciled story layouts, concept sketches, and digital drawings:

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Matthew’s stories unfold for fans online: Click here

Daryna Reyna

Age: 18  Home town: Watsonville, California  City of Birth: Gilroy, California  Interests: Art, anything creative!  Favorite Music: Industrial, techno, metal, indie, oldies  Pets: Dogs  School: Natural Bridges High School, Santa Cruz  School District: Santa Cruz County Office of Education

When Daryna was 5 years old she drew on the walls in her house. Since those early years she has considered herself an artist. At age 18 she continues her quest. “I am a self-taught artist. I first started when my father drew a rose tattoo and ever since I wanted to be an artist just like him.” She also has her sights on becoming a mangaka artist, which usually refers to the one who authors manga comics.

Daryna draws obsessively. “Drawing is my way to express myself in so many ways. Without art I don’t know who I’d be.” She goes on to say just how important this passion is to her. “Drawing improves everything in my life. It improved my social skills, my personality, and it gives me a path to my future.”

Daryna’s skills with ink pens and colored pencils are superb, as shown in this hand drawn Christmas card. Her expressive line work and color combinations are a joy for the eye to behold. Her brave protagonist bounces through romantic scenes, moments of vulnerability, and all out hand-to-hand combat. Daryna’s edgy graphic style and keen sense for layout composition bear the hallmarks of a successful manga artist.

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Above left is an inked model sheet of Daryna’s protagonist and to the left we see one of her her powerful sketchbook concept drawings.

Along with developing her creative skills and stories, Daryna is intent on building a future fan base. “Art is and always will be a part of my life, until the day I die. I want to have fans who write me saying how I’ve inspired them to draw. I’m willing to stay up each and every night to write back to all the fan mail I receive.”

If you ever get a chance to meet this spirited young artist in person, you will immediately want to be at the very top of Daryna Reyna’s email list.

Daryna’s gallery of character development sketches:

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Daryna’s gallery of concept development sketches, character poses, and facial expressions:

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Daryna’s gallery of exquisite sketchbook pages and colored pencil and pen drawings:

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Comparing Apples to Dolphin Skulls: Day in the Still Life of Drawing Lab Students


Variety is the spice of still life drawing. Whether drawing apples, oranges, or skulls, students in the Scribbles Institute Drawing Lab were very engaged this winter. Our in-depth sessions allowed students time to study composition, form, and techniques from a wide variety of objects. The apple shown above is by Jennifer, one of our Level 3 Drawing Lab participants. Using only primary colors (red, yellow, blue) she layered and blended Prismacolor pencils to achieve vibrant colors.

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Above left, Jennifer uses graphite to study the form and textures of a dolphin skull. To the right, she uses Prismacolor pencils to draw an apple.

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Still life composition is an important aspect of our studio sessions. Above left, Tuesday blends tonal values with vine charcoal. To the right, Cheryl, one of our youth sketchers, learns about contours and form while drawing squash and a shell.

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We enjoy mixing up our still life compositions with a variety of objects in the studio. Richard, Judith, and Karla enjoy the challenges of drawing a ukelele, flowers, and a classical arrangement of a plaster bust with vase.

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In the photo, above left, Anna goes for capturing a likeness of the white mug (always more challenging than it looks) and ripped cardboard. To the right, Gina locks in on an accurate take of a more traditional still life composition.

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During our ‘Bring Your Own Object’ sessions students bring all sorts of interesting things to draw such as Kermit the Frog and perfume bottles, shown above.

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Whether our students are drawing in charcoal or on an iPad, they learn solid strategies for depicting accurate realism as well as spontaneous abstract expressions of real life objects. And when it comes to enjoying time during our lively Drawing Lab sessions, life is anything but still for participants. Want to join us? Click here

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