Category Archives: Natural Bridges School

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.

Natural Bridges Sketchers Explore Form and Color

Natural Bridges students are rolling into the second quarter of our Draw to Learn program with focused, outstanding work. In the photo, shown above, Briana works on a color pastel drawing after the artist Piablo Picasso.


In the above photos, students from last year continue with their interests in subject matter and media while new students learn about lines, shapes, patterns, form, proportions, positive/negative space, and tonal values.

Shown above, Natural Bridges sketcher Gianna continues her studies of plaster casts of faces and hands.

Students learn how to use charcoal to depict 3D form while looking at real life objects. Above left are Briana’s pencil studies of a pumpkin and larger finished charcoal drawing showing contours and shadows. To the right are realistic drawings of a pumpkin by Jade.

As students move from beginning level skills to exploring color and experimenting with various media, we’re beginning to see amazing results. Above left is Grace’s work-in-progress drawing of a peacock using soft pastels. Above right is Briana’s soft pastel drawing after a painting by Picasso.

NB Sketchers explore subject matter and drawing techniques. Above left is a character design sketch by Emilio. And to the right is a tightly rendered drawing by Jade showing accurate proportions and detailed line work.


We tried a fun assignment in abstract drawing and using lines as a language to express human traits and emotions such as anger, human energy, depression, and joy. The photo, above left, shows how Erik used the artist Kandinsky to launch into an abstract drawing. Above right is Frank’s abstract composition and his line studies of human traits.

And now… for the gallery of awesome drawings by all of our students…






















Natural Bridges School: Form, Contours, Color, and Abstract Drawing

It’s so cool to see the Natural Bridges sketchers experimenting with different drawing materials and trying new creative directions in their work. Some students, like Grace, shown above, are working with various kinds of charcoal; while others are exploring graphite and pastels. Drawing from observation and imagination is still the lesson mix for everyone as newer students focus on lines, shapes, and form. More advanced students are honing their skills in accurate, realistic proportions and abstract compositions. Also, a group of NB students is exploring Manga concept sketching in the classroom and Saturday workshops at the Scribbles Institute studio/classroom.































Natural Bridges School: Weeks 11-14: Getting Real With Charcoal and Pencils

Originally posted 3/11:

While drawing from real life with charcoal and various pencils, advanced NB sketchers pushed into new skill levels for their work. The result? Spectacular, to say the least!

Images shown clockwise, starting upper left: Thairie smears, smudges, and erases his way through a drawing of a plaster cast;  Gianna puts a delicate touch to contrasting shadows and highlights while drawing in charcoal from a plaster cast; Gianna’s drawing shows how she started with accurate contour lines and proportions before carefully adding lighter and darker tones; The plaster cast drawn by Thairie shows accurate proportions and perspective, bold contours, and tones for shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.

Shown at left is a superb charcoal study of a plaster cast hand. The drawing shows very accurate details and proportions–a full hour of intense concentration! The artist is NB sketcher, Katia.

Students are finding their own voice in their drawings as they focus on projects that move them toward creating their future. From fine art to graphic design and video game design, students explore different materials and subject matter.

Drawings from observation: Gianna’s large-format charcoal drawing of a dolphin vertebra (above left); Taylor’s pencil study of scaling proportions with a grid, contours, and tonal values (above right)

Abel got into studying how artists used perspective drawing and various sketching techniques. He drew from masters such as M.C. Escher (above left) and Vincent Van Gogh (above right).

Students starting the new semester moved swiftly through lessons on using lines, shapes, tones, and contour edges while measuring accurate proportions. Above left is Grace’s toucan, and to the right is Bobby’s dragonfly.