Category Archives: SCM Art Center

SCM Art Center: Level 1: Week 4: Contours, Proportions, and Getting Real with Charcoal

As we wrapped up the 4-week Draw the Moment course, Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center sketchers dove in and got messy with charcoal! The emphasis throughout the evening was to measure accurate proportions while making 3-tone drawings–dark shadows, mid tones, highlights–with charcoal. Students drew on large-format paper from actual objects. VERY productive session!

Shown above is Liz’s accurate charcoal drawing of a shell.

Before launching into drawing with charcoal, students took time to do several pencil studies. Above left are Tod’s studies and his charcoal drawing. To the right are Shonti’s studies of an apple, pumpkin, and charcoal rendered squash.

Liz’s pencil study of a squash, above left, and her charcoal sketch to the right show a keen eye for proportions and ability to adapt her skills to different media.

Experimentation was the focus of the evening and everyone put together a number of superb drawings. Above left is charcoal drawing of an apple by Shonti, and to the right are charcoal sketches of a squash by Tod. This crew is going to be exciting to work with when we continue Level 2 classes this week!

Be sure to check out the wonderful student work in Brenda Berg’s Mixed Media class at the Art Center. Here’s the link to her blog: Click here

SCM Art Center Sketchers in Action:

SCM Art Center: eXpReSsiOn sEsSiOn: Faces and Proportion

Originally posted 9/10: Recently, a few of our Level 2 students got together for an evening sketch session. With music playing, everyone got into the Zone to produce fantastic portraits. Kirsten (large image, top) maps out guidelines for facial features while working from a sketch by Degas. Helen (above, right) lays down guidelines for the proportions of her daughter’s face.

Working from a drawing by the painter Corot and one of my How-to-Draw books, Allison (above, left and right) sketches the facial features of the Girl With a Beret.

While I was out of town some of the Level 2 sketchers (Val, Helen, Kirsten, Allison) got together a few times to prep for our upcoming Level 3 session in October. Below are pages from Kirsten’s sketchbook showing careful studies of a skull made during those meetings.

After an intense evening of drawing, Allison finally laid down her pencil and breathed a gratifying sigh of relief… the Girl With a Beret (left) was finished at last! Excellent contour lines and proportions.

View more pics from this very productive eXpReSsiOn sEsSiOn…




SCM Art Center: Level 3: Drawing From Life: Exploring Composition, Contours, and Materials

Originally posted 1/11: Our Level 3 group focused on drawing objects from life during the 4-week course at Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center. We started by studying contours and textures of single objects, followed by a few very productive still life sessions. Students learned to map out big shapes and positive/negative space on their compositions; then they explored ways to use different materials in shading and showing textures.

Above left, SCM Art Center Sketchers exchange ideas about sketching objects; large image, top, Helen maps out her still life composition.

Above are Matt’s studies of a canine skull. By observing details of specific areas of the skull he was able to create a series of dynamic compositions.

Above left, Kirsten sketches contours on her drapery study; above right, intrepid sketchers “get into the Zone” as they create large-format charcoal and conte crayon compositions.

Matt’s surface and drapery study is shown above left and Kirsten’s still life sketches are above right.

Clockwise, starting upper left: contours and textures of a shell by Allison; Still life studies by Michele; Still life drawing by Allison; study of antique iron by Michele

Highlights from Level 3 sketch sessions:

SCM Art Center: Level 1: Week 4: Contours, Form, Textures, Light & Shadow

Originally posted 10/10: Fall is in the air! What better way to learn about drawing contours and form than to sketch pumpkins, Indian corn, and apples. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with this group of sketchers the past four weeks. They swiftly moved through lessons on drawing with lines and shapes then positive/negative space and drawing after Van Gogh. I look forward to drawing with everyone again soon!

For our final lesson we started with sketches showing roundness and contours. We continued through the evening by drawing texture and studied light and shadows. Tonya’s pumpkin and squash (upper left) and Susan’s studies of a pumpkin (upper right) are superb examples of quickly capturing the form of things. The sketch by Adam (lower left) shows his study of texture and cast shadows.


Wonderful how you worked hard at refining your line work and sketching accurate proportions! Keep exploring positive and negative space and the world of textures. :-)



Amazing progress through the weeks! You really dropped into the Zone on all your sketches, especially the apple. Keep practicing quick studies while loosening your pencil strokes ala Van Gogh.


As I’ve said before, it has been a pleasure to see the transformation in your skills from the first time you put pencil to paper to these final study sketches. Keep your pencil strokes loose while mapping your composition; then nail down those final contours.