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.

Doing Zoom video sessions with youth and adult students is productive and gratifying. But while drawing with students in the real world I’m able to walk over to a tree, point to the negative shapes between its branches, and explain how those shapes help to measure a tree’s proportions. Or I can observe the delicate pencil strokes a workshop participant uses to depict shadows cast on the ground by a tree. 

Our first sketchbook workshop and private coaching sessions of the summer took place at Mission Plaza Park, near downtown Santa Cruz (shown above). Working in small groups—instead of our larger in-studio groups—gives me more time to help each sketcher.

Fountain of Youth & Adult Sketchers

After doing some sketching warmups, everyone settled into our approach to drawing the fountain at Mission Plaza Park. Youth and adult sketchers learned to block dominant shapes and suggest the movement of water.

During our private session, youth student Odessa patiently sketched through the principle of relational measuring—comparing the sizes of shapes of the fountain to the shape of the pool surrounding it (shown above). 

Odessa’s finished study sketch shows accurate positioning and measurements of the fountain (shown above). Notice how she used a kneaded eraser to depict streams of water, making their way down the curved surfaces of the fountain. She even blocked in basic shapes of a man sleeping on a bench in the background. 

Verity (Odessa’s longtime friend) also participated in the private session—two longtime friends quickly became sketch buddies! Verity’s take on the fountain shows how we worked on depth of perspective and attention to page composition. She even included Odessa’s leg and shoe.

In my private session with youth student Amma, we moved through the steps of my Block Sketch Draw method: blocking dominant shapes, sketching contours and form; then finishing by drawing ink lines for details of the fountain. Notice her cool comics style for showing the movement of water (shown above).

I’ve had the pleasure to draw with Amma in my studio for several years. This was our last session before she leaves California for college. I look forward to seeing the amazing art she creates, and hopefully drawing with her again in the future.

Part of the fun at our workshops is when participants fan out to get different vantage points of the subject. At Mission Plaza park I enjoyed helicoptering around, making suggestions on everyone’s progress. Another day in sketchbook paradise!

After mapping out her composition, adult workshop participant Donna enjoyed laying down contour lines and exquisite details of a nearby lamp post.

Wilder Than Ever!

One of my favorite places to sketch with students is Wilder Ranch, located along the beautiful coast of Santa Cruz. Verity and Odessa spent two private sessions studying historic ranch buildings, fascinating trees, and various creatures—animal and human—roaming about. 

Wilder Ranch is a place where one can relax into drawing from both observation and imagination. As they sketched the big Victorian house, Verity and Odessa drifted into conversations about the fairies and gremlins who live in its rooms and basement. Future on-location sessions will definitely include designing characters and scenes for their imaginative stories.

Sketch buddies taking a break to assess progress on their studies of the Victorian house at Wilder Ranch.

Odessa’s beautiful take on the old house.

Verity’s fantastic sketch of the mysterious house where fairies and goblins reside.

We’ll be exploring lots of other cool Santa Cruz locations in our Premium Member sessions and workshops. Maybe you’d like to have one-on-one coaching or draw together with a friend in my private sessions. Want to join me?

The following two tabs change content below.

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.