Category Archives: Inspiration

Drawing With Friends

For the past two years the Variants have behaved like those annoying guests who refuse to leave, long after the party’s over. Even after we finally get angry, and push them out the door, they linger and lurk for an opportunity to mutate; then sneak back into our lives and go viral. 

But things are different now.

Our little drawing community is vaccinated yet cautious. We remain motivated and curious. Many of us have sketched together for a number of years—in the studio and on-location—and have become good friends.

Sketchy Reunion: City Hall

Over the years, our friendships have fostered a culture of learning and trust. We’ve learned new techniques and approaches for sketching our subjects. We’ve learned to trust our intuition and the lines we draw on the page. Each experience of drawing together becomes a valuable context for improving our skills. 

The first of three summer workshops was Sketchbook Basics at Santa Cruz City Hall. The courtyard garden area became a plein air classroom for reconnecting to our visual vocabulary.

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Frozen in Time: Cellphone Users as Models to Draw

With feet swollen tightly into Birkenstocks, he waited nervously for his name to be called. His rotund body was starkly juxtaposed with delicate fingers deftly scrolling a cellphone.

Except for a few empty chairs near this young man, the waiting room in the hospital’s cardiology unit was filled to capacity. I sat down just across from him to wait for my routine EKG. 

The man seemed to be frozen in time, immersed in phone screen content. Not once looking up, he kept that phone scroll pose for nearly fifteen minutes as I sketched him with my 9B pencil.

Cellphone users are excellent models to draw, but capturing their poses can still be challenging. Here’s my approach for sketching them.

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Getting Out & Getting Real

We are drawing again. And loving it! 

Since closing my studio a year and a half ago due to Covid, it is a joy to finally connect with students through on-location workshops and private sessions. We are escaping digital screens, getting outdoors, and getting real with our sketchbooks at various locations. 

“What’s the difference between drawing indoors while looking at a computer screen or drawing outdoors in real life?” I asked.

With outstretched arms gesturing toward a nearby tree looming overhead, Eva replied, “The thing you’re drawing is right here, right in front of you!” 

Instead of sitting in front of a screen, youth sketchers Eva and Naomi chose to sit in a wooded area near their homes for our drawing session (shown above). Just two good friends sharing a beautiful afternoon, learning to draw in nature.

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Awakening from the Great Hibernation

The world changed dramatically and became increasingly restrictive during the Covid hibernation of 2020-21. I still had a desire to bust out, to live a creative and productive lifestyle. But paranoia quarantined my brain. I opted for perpetual indoor slumber.

My daily routine eventually drifted into the doldrums: hit the snooze button; pull the covers over my head; go back to sleep.

Reset Button There are encouraging signs that Covid is in retreat. Spring is in the air and “jabs” are in the arm. I’m sensing a new season of cautious optimism. Hitting the snooze button is no longer an option. Fresh ideas bloom in springtime. 

I sketch a bear waking up from the Great Hibernation (shown above). Perhaps it’s a self portrait of my year-long procrastination. Sunshine through the window. Reset. Get out of bed. Go outside and draw like the wind!

As we look forward to future “pop-up” in-studio sessions and on-location sketchbook workshops in Santa Cruz and Monterey, I will continue working online with a small number of students in our Premium Membership program.

Optimism in the Springtime Air As pandemic restrictions for cities and schools recede, we’ll be able to laugh and draw and enjoy the bustle of sharing creative ideas with friends once again.

Drawing in Your Own Backyard

Not making this drawing would have been easy. For a couple of days I walked right past my friend’s basket of ordinary garden tools and nearby potted plants, not even giving them a moment’s notice. But little by little, this random backyard arrangement began to capture my fascination. And then it found its way onto the pages in my sketchbooks.

My eye began to wander to contour studies in the nearby planter.

During pandemic restrictions, you don’t have to travel any farther than your own backyard to start an exciting sketchbook adventure.

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Medical Procedures Can Be Sketchy

Okay, it is true. I carry a sketchbook with me wherever I go—even to the hospital!

Recently, I took time off work to deal with a few minor medical issues that I had postponed for quite awhile. I booked them all in the span of two weeks—what I will call my Club Med vacation. Of course, my sketchbook was in hand to record the experiences during the exhausting journey.

Unfortunately, I was unable to draw during the actual procedures—if I could have, I would have. But I did capture the following sketches before and afterwards. Continue reading Medical Procedures Can Be Sketchy

Respecting Children’s Drawings

Children have tremendous respect for drawing. They are in awe of anyone who draws a picture for them. For example, they’ll pay close attention when cartoons are sketched on a place mat at a restaurant. Children are equally impressed with simple drawings as they are with renderings of an accomplished artist. But do children get the same respect paid for drawings they make? Continue reading Respecting Children’s Drawings

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…

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