Tag Archives: sketching

My Brief History of Sketching Trees

As a young child, you likely learned to draw a tree by using a few circular shapes to symbolize masses of leaves supported by a narrow rectangle to depict the tree’s trunk. And if you were in a creative mood that day, a few angled lines could be added to suggest its branches.

1992 San Clemente, California. Winter branches outside my studio window. 9B pencil.

Of course drawings of trees could vary widely depending on where you lived as a kid. Tall triangles symbolized towering conifers. Or a long and curved line topped with serrated, curved shapes became a palm tree. It was easy and fun to draw a tree.

Unfortunately, the joy of drawing trees—and everything else—is abandoned by many kids as they become immersed in the rigors of writing, math, and reading. Most people leave childhood drawing behind to pursue life’s more grown-up callings. But not me.

2017 Santa Cruz, California. Fall leaves in the parking lot outside my studio. Micron pen, watercolor.

Drawing became my livelihood and a continuous source of joy. And as an adult, trees have remained one of my core subjects of interest. Various species of trees have been tapping their roots in the pages of my sketchbooks for several decades. It is like having my own forest of drawn memories bound together.

Following are some of my sketched moments with trees…

Continue reading My Brief History of Sketching Trees

The Art of Studying

Showing off our finished drawings to family and friends can be gratifying. Enthusiastic viewers appreciate your techniques and may even understand that you spend many hours practicing to improve your skills. But hidden to their eyes is your dedication to doing studies—a most misunderstood aspect of learning to draw from observation.

In the tradition of the Renaissance artists, Naomi (shown above) learns the importance of studying as she practices using the system of perspective drawing.

Rachel maps out the contours and tonal values of a still life for her charcoal study.

Early Egyptian, Greek, and Italian Renaissance artists and artisans used drawing to study their subjects. They made countless study sketches to solve problems, prepare artwork, and map out elaborate architecture.

By doing study sketches, students at the Scribbles Institute learn to block in dominant shapes of their subject, sketch accurate contours, and confidently work their way toward drawing final compositions.

But as we learn the art of studying, there can also be a lot of “unlearning” during the process. Continue reading The Art of Studying

Sketches In Paradise

Waking up to a misty Payne’s Gray sky that engulfs coastal Santa Cruz is common at this time of year. On this particular Saturday morning, I was hoping for summer sunshine that would keep our paper dry and help us to see and sketch crucial shadows.

Anticipation ran high as I packed my sketchbook and a lunch. A small tribe of my most ardent studio students was gathering for a workshop at one of my favorite outdoor sketching locations, Wilder Ranch State Park. Continue reading Sketches In Paradise

Getting to the Finish Line

After your first session or two with me it becomes clear—while spending hours practicing my block-sketch-draw method, we often find ourselves in a tortoise and hare race.

As you jump ahead to attempt drawing perfectly finished lines, I slow you down to keep your line work light and open. As you slow down to finish a specific area of your drawing, I come along and have you bounce around the entire composition, comparing the size of one shape to another, correcting the distance between an angled line and a curved one, and so on.

This constant process of comparative and relational measuring can prompt students’ inward screams, “When will I ever get to finish a drawing?” Continue reading Getting to the Finish Line

Drawing Italy: (Part 1) Wherever You Go, There You Are

rome-sketch
Studies from inside and outside the room at Hotel Italia, Rome

After months of anticipation, the moment of departure finally arrived—I was jetting to Italy with the purpose of diving into its culture and drawing in my sketchbooks. During the long flight, arcing over Iceland toward Zurich and Rome, I pondered Robert Henri’s advice in his book The Art Spirit:

“The sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes—no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests. He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook.”

That would be me; a sketch hunter for a month-long adventure in Italy.

Continue reading Drawing Italy: (Part 1) Wherever You Go, There You Are