Tag Archives: composition

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.

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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Getting Abstract: Experimental Drawing Workshop For Adults


One Saturday morning, three women set out to conquer fear of drawing from the imagination. Like brave creative warriors with swords in hand, they embarked on a 4-hour adventure into uncharted territories of the mind. In fact, they were holding long wooden dowels with various drawing media attached, participating in one of several exercises in our first Experimental Drawing Workshop for adults. And judging by the work produced and the smiles on their faces, the journey was successful.

The workshop emphasizes drawing as a medium to investigate the power of creative thinking while opening new doors to self expression, problem solving, and conveying ideas. As with all of our Scribbles Institute courses, the value of the Experimental Drawing Workshop is what you come to learn about yourself through the process of drawing. We moved away from our usual strategies of observational drawing and dove into the depths of creating spontaneous, non-representational compositions.

As we sipped our chosen morning beverages, we began creating non-representational, abstract drawings. We depicted human emotions and traits by using only lines, shapes, patterns, tones, and color as we tapped into modes of unconscious thinking. After a lunch break we continued with a fun collaborative exercise using wooden dowels for drawing on large paper laid on the floor. We then moved to another round of non-representational drawings, this time eight abstract compositions, each depicting a specific music genre we listened to.

Now deeply wired to the abstract drawing mode, we moved to the big drawing boards, turned up the music and let loose with large-format mixed media compositions. It was exciting to see Judith, Pamela, and Bev overcome the urge to express ideas with realistic, representational imagery and develop their own visual language through the rhythms of line work and tonal values. With a new found confidence in non-representational, abstract drawing, they are ready to set sail on future journeys to exciting, new worlds of the imagination.

Want to explore drawing from your imagination? Register for our Experimental Drawing Workshop.


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…