Tag Archives: character design

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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SI Youth Sketchers Build Character

After spending time building observational drawing skills in previous sessions, everyone was up for a fun summer session of character design sketching. While working from their sketchbooks and online references, the SI studio crew went right to work–if one can call it work. Afterall, drawing characters from their imagination is what these kids love to do. Rena (above photo) busts out a sketch of a very famous, villainous comic character. Below are highlights from the classes.

Megan explored a variety of techniques and studies, including using the light table (shown above), to bring a character that she designed to life.

Rena continued to refine her unique drawing style as she went big with her character studies.

Helen, shown above, learns to use tracing paper and layout paper to make progressive studies of her character.

The above drawings show Helen’s stages of sketching an antique iron (top) from observation. Starting with a rough pencil sketch she refined the line work with a tracing paper overlay before finishing with a ink line illustration of the iron on a layout paper overlay. Also shown are the stages of refinement of her character while using overlay sketches.

Our summer character design session was a very high-energy exchange of ideas and good creative times!

Helen and her mom brought in a totally fantastic dragon puppet that she made. Our multi-talented sketchers are always creating cool stuff!

Our youngest student, Gio, brought in a box of dragons that his parents scored at a garage sale. So we threw down an impromptu dragon drawing session for our last class of the summer, shown in the above pics.

Youth sketcher portrait: Come on, you can hold that serious game face for 5 seconds… don’t think so!

More highlight photos:

Want to join the SI Youth Sketchers? Info

SI Currents: Street Fair; Student Highlights; Girl On Fire

It’s summer in Santa Cruz and drawing classes at the Scribbles Institute are heating up. Adult and youth students continue to make great strides in drawing from observation and imagination. The drawings of one adult student, in particular, blazed consistently. And to keep the heat on we’re getting a booth in the Church Street Fair during the Cabrillo Music Festival in August. Scroll down for the latest SI Currents:

Girl On Fire

It’s been wonderful watching Gina’s work progress the past couple of months. Her level of concentration while making observational drawings (shown in above photos) amaze students in our evening Expression Session adult drawing classes. Gina has helped out as a studio assistant for our Draw to Learn program and First Friday Art Tour sketch parties. She just graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in psychology and enjoys playing the piano. This summer Gina is going to Cambodia to help school children in a remote village. She’ll be taking the Scribbles Institute lessons along with her. Kids in Cambodia will be drawing our favorite little crab and puffer fish!

In-Tents! Visit Us at the Cabrillo Festival’s Church Street Fair, August 4 & 5!


We’re very excited to be participating in the Cabrillo Festival’s Church Street Fair, August 4th and 5th in Santa Cruz. We’re having fun designing the booth (shown in above right photo). Please stop by to visit us at the Scribbles Institute booth and enjoy a weekend of music, culture, art, and lots of drawing. Hope to see you there! Event info



Adult Expression Session Highlights

Above left: Students (left to right) Shannon, Ratko, Richard, and Orsolya wrap up a fun evening of drawing. Above right: Expression Session students (left to right) Pamela and Kae work on blocking in and contour modeling in charcoal.


Above left: Ratko studies concept sketching techniques for his job. Above right: Bev practices gestural sketches of flowers.

Shannon, shown above, gets our ‘drawing machine’ of the month award for her focused work. She participated in our Level 1 Basics workshop and completed four, Level 2 sessions–all in three weeks! Her block-in studies of the hand/sphere show that she learned solid skills in observational drawing.

Youth Sketcher Highlights

Cody, shown above, is our newest SI youth sketcher. He is from Arizona and is visiting his grandparents while taking in our Concept Sketching summer session. Along with time spent doing cool drawings, shown above, he took a trip into to the City to tour the San Francisco Art Institute.

Our SI youth sketching crew: (left to right) Hannah, Helen, Megan, Ray, and Rena. And some of their character concept sketches.

SI Youth Sketchers Go Big!

Our SI youth sketching crew took their charcoal skills to huge scale with powerful results. In typical fashion, this stellar pack of teenage drawing machines continued learning solid fundamentals as they forge their own creative direction. Our feature photo, shown above, shows a spontaneous, mega-large format charcoal drawing by Rena. Total drawing time: about an hour.

Click on images to view larger details.


Above left, as the music blasts, our youth sketchers are deep in the zone as they go big with charcoal. On the studio floor are drawings from the previous week’s observations of flowers. For this session they had to use the flowers as a point of departure; then launch into a large scale spontaneous composition from their imagination. The photo to the right shows Rena as she begins adding tones to her line sketch.

Super-size drawing session. Left to right: Hannah, Helen, and Rena

The above photos show Megan learning to use a brush for creating tonal values. She decided to take one of her character drawings to the larger format with huge success.

Students spent a session learning about folds and drapery. Shown clockwise, starting upper left: Hannah and Helen block in large shapes; then add contours and shadows; photo of finished drapery study by Helen; pencil sketches of folds and movement for clothing by Hannah; the crew hard at work (fun) studying folds for their own characters.


We also had a super fun abstract session. Sketchers were given words for human traits or emotions that they had to depict using only lines, shapes, patterns, tones, and color. The photo to the right shows Helen’s finished drawing.

And now for some of the work by our youth sketchers during lessons…