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.

Slowly and bravely each of us strayed from the group to find solitude and settled into observing our subjects of interest.

Instead of worrying too much about perfectly finished drawings, we simply focused on having an intuitive engagement with the world around us. A successful day is one spent immersed in process and less concerned with outcomes.

That’s not to say that our sketchers didn’t pull together some amazing compositions!

The spirit of our day at the City Hall Gardens prepared us for our next sketchbook adventure in the country.

Drawing in the Country: Wilder Ranch

For a complete change of scenery we journeyed to the outskirts of town and up the road to Wilder Ranch State Park.

Several more of my longtime students met at the park’s entrance. After setting up base camp (shown above) everyone spread out to hunt for compositions to capture in our sketchbooks. 

Since this sketching crew was fully vaccinated we all agreed that masks weren’t needed outdoors. This workshop took place before the Covid variant reared its ugly head in mid-August. (Our first workshop in 2021 took place at Mission Plaza Park.)

With all the fascinating things to see at Wilder Ranch, it took a while to get positioned and begin sketching our observations. 

It’s so cool when out-of-town students return to draw with us. Southern California youth sketcher Ryan and his family participated in our Drawing Lab studio sessions a couple of years ago. This summer, while camping in Santa Cruz, they joined our Wilder Ranch sketchbook workshop. Ryan (shown above) wasted no time in going out on a limb to draw details of tree textures. He used his studies of trees for a mural of a tree that he painted on his bedroom wall.

We had a nice mix of youth and adult students helping each other throughout the day. As the afternoon came to a close we enjoyed sharing our sketched recordings.

Whether exchanging pleasantries at a picnic table or finding solitude in the trees at Wilder Ranch, our day in the country gave way to the angles and rhythms of the city for our last workshop of the summer. 

Drawing In Town: Abbott Square

The more I explore downtown with friends, the more I realize how little I know about its sketchy hideaways. Since Santa Cruz has become my drawing studio, Abbott Square has now become my office for meeting students.

The square’s convenient location sits next to the Museum of Art & History (MAH). It’s within walking distance to the city’s historical and modern architecture, a short bike ride to the redwoods, and a pleasant stroll to the beautiful coastline and bustling Boardwalk—a sketchbook artist’s paradise!

Our workshop series started out maskless, but toward the end of summer the Covid variants crept back into city life. we began to opt for masks. But our little sketching crew remained fearless in facing the challenges of urban sketching.

In the morning we pretty much had the square to ourselves, allowing time to do some warmup sketches before the summer lunch crowd arrived. 

Sometimes, when immersed in sketching urban scenes, you either draw people or they draw you. Judy sketches Mike (shown above), while he sketches people conversing with other people.

Ah, the thrills of being an outlaw urban sketcher. While “loitering” with a cup of morning java, Mike got into a steady rhythm and sketched the morning scene at Abbott Square. His results…

…show the benefits of attending our sketchbook workshops. We practice placing dominant angles and shapes on the page to set the stage for adding people and buildings.

Our summer sketchbook workshops offer participants the benefits of sketching in town and in the country.

Locations such as the Santa Cruz City Hall, Wilder Ranch, and Abbott Square serve as the creative launch pads for sketchbook exploration as we all learn the importance of drawing with friends. 

Want to join us? Check out our latest workshop lineup.

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Rob Court

Founder and drawing coach at the Scribbles Institute, Rob helps adults and kids learn basic drawing skills for work, school, and enjoyment. He is the author of a number of how-to-draw books.