in the beginning…is the line

“Drawing takes time. A line has time in it.”
-David Hockney

In this first assignment based on inner and outer contour, beginning students draw a complex natural object. Our college campus grounds are full of pinecones. They walk by them most every day. Now, I ask they study one.

They work a number of days on this one drawing. I particularly note the group’s patience and concentration as we move through the process. They arrive on time, grab their pinecone and draw. They appear careful observers from the start.

The first critique of this new year goes well. We talk about the quality of the lines,  general composition and all various challenges it took to compete these striking studies.

Here are a few…

Angelica’s Pinecone

Gisela’s Pinecone

Julyssa’s Pinecone

Aday’s Pinecone

Alex’s First

Luc’s The Pine Cone Maze

Juan’s Pinecone

Janera’s Pinecone

The class includes a group of returning students ↓ who get to pick their subject matter and work in mixed media. Basically they pick up where they left off last semester. Naturally they include various elements of design in their compositions including value, though they need to emphasize line/edge.

And they do a fine job holding the afternoon critique.

Edith’s The Dried Flower

Angel’s Duality : Typo Phobia

Angel’s in-class assignment ↑ is in mixed media drawing while her homework is the same seed pod completed ↓ in marker. Good idea Angel, I could start assigning this set up to future classes.

Angel’s Lotus Pod : Duality, marker

Seb’s Avalanche

Eamon’s Now That’s What I Call Pod Racing

Aine’s Artichoke

Basically students learn to look closely and see their subject matter. I ask they always  consider the lines they use to describe what they see. Most of them (Drawing 1) do this with a variety of fine markers and no eraser.  All the while coordinating eye, hand and brain…process is key.

Good start everyone!

2 weeks of practice – texture, structure and depth

Students are outdoor the last 2 weeks (yes, it is warm!) working on plant forms. And for homework they complete a self-portrait. The latter assignment they use media of choice.

Critique is a good one. I think I can say they know more about themselves and they know more about each other, after all this work.

Two words that surface again and again: commitment and practice.

Daniela’s Fig Leaves

Jen’s World

Larrisa’s Plant Forms

John’s Foliage

Daniela’s Cactus

Darrien’s Practice

Nohemi’s Study

Kellani’s Leaves and Things

Brittany’s Plants

Josue’s Leaves of October

Dustin’s Learning Curve

Brittany – Self Portrait

Nohemi’s Portrait

Cesar’s Gamer tag: oh so Yeezus

Dustin’s My Style

Daniela’s Self Portrait (media – real make-up)

Josue’s Self-Portrait


Two Years Later

John’s Dream Finishers

Collin’s Geometry

Kanyata 12 21

Darrien Self Portrait

Sofia’s Essential Oils

charcoal and pastel – final work


Here is one good group of students. I know I said this before – they came in, focused, and drew – day after day after day.  Overall, I’d say they were a quiet group. They laughed a bit here and there just to relieve tension, I suspect. They never hesitated to point out which works they liked best and clearly express why.

Our last day of class was no exception. They came in with extra excitement and then we proceeded to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the work. We talked about how the semester played out for each of them.

A challenge I do have is teaching various levels of drawing students in one 2 hour and 45 minute class session. You’ll see examples from all the levels and you’ll note that some of the work might be unfinished.  I teach realism. They learn to look and they learn to put down what they see.


Susan’s Tortoise, mixed media on (we never knew what kind of) paper


Gwynn’s Flower Rag Boogie, pastel on BFK


Gwynn’s master reproduction, a Georgia O’Keeffe, pastel on BFK


Jessica’s charcoal still life on BFK


Sofia’s Glass Bottles on BFK


Yari’s Terrific as Terrific gets, charcoal study on BFK


Fabiola’s Friday Night, charcoal study on BFK


Deja’s Pearly Whites, charcoal study on BFK


Gabriela’s Still Life on BFK


Jennifer’s Rope, charcoal study on BFK


Ehteli’s Absract, charcoal study on BFK


Jennifer’s Great Knot, value study


Sofia’s Accidental, value study


Ehthlei’s value study


Bravilio’s Faint Memories of Freedom, value study


Dustin’s value study

Class is over. Grades are in.

I have a feeling most of this group will continue to draw throughout the summer.


the self portrait

In a portrait, you have room to have a point of view and to be conceptual with a picture. The image may not be literally what’s going on, but it’s representative. – Annie Leibovitz


In general, this group does not talk very much. But their self-portraits communicate plenty. That’s all I’m saying about this post…


Inner Vision by Gwynn


Neomi’s Self Portrait


The Best Time of the Day by Deja


Self Portrait by Andres


Self Portrait by Jennifer


I Hate Self Portraits by Monica


The Younger Son by Matt


Memory by Fabiola


Self Portrait by Dustin


Una Mujer, Una Nina by Yari



Portrait by Ehthlei


by Gabriela


Through My Eyes, Portrait #2 by Gabriela


Connection by Bravilio


Self Portrait by Nati


Escape by Jessica



a portrait study and a landscape

You know how you feel somebody looking at you, and you turn, and somebody actually is? It’s the same at an art gallery. You’re looking at one portrait, turn around, and there is a work of art directly behind you. Because it’s all energy. Every single thing has energy. – Marina Abramovic


Students go outside to draw landscape for this last marker assignment. We have rain on and off for the couple of weeks we are out there. The outdoor drawing teaches many things, most especially focus. Some students like the experience, others do not.

Their final homework for the semester is a self-portrait. I know they have all the skills necessary to complete one. And they have freedom to use materials of their choice.  It’s really a challenge most everyone enjoys. People share humorous things, people share personal things. They all express something – it’s what a portrait allows.

Here are some works from today’s critique:


Kiria – Stressed Out


Mary – Me


Casey – Portrait 2015


Ricardo – Nothing Stays the Same


Gwynne – Missing Person


Daniela – Danii


Alfredo – Self Portrait


Henry – A Face Only a Mother Could Love


Andrea – Self Portrait


Susan – Dan (silver point)


Kiria – Leafy Embrace

IMG_8074 7.11.40 AM

Gwynne – Aloe


Casey – Little Tree


Andrea – Aloe

phoenix college ART department holiday sale

It’s the season…
If you’ve never been to the Phoenix College Holiday Art Sale – it’s time you go. Next week students and faculty will participate in the annual event. You’ll find art that ranges from the traditional to the unusual,  all of it hand-crafted.

The sale includes ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, glass, paintings, prints, photographs,  and more – the fine and the creative. Phoenix College is located on Thomas and 15th Ave. You will find the art department on the North end of the campus, next to easy parking. The Erich Ficshl gallery is on the second floor of the art building.

WHAT:          Annual  HOLIDAY ART SALE
WHO:            Phoenix College
WHERE:       The Erich Fischl Fine Arts Gallery ART231
WHEN:         December 5th and 6th

Wednesday and Thursday
11:00 am – 7:00 pm

The sale is open to the public. All sales are cash only. A percentage of the profits go to support Fine Arts programs at the college.

Tim Hernandez – Ceramic Platter (and wall piece)

Click → Map.  Contact the Phoenix College Art Department for more info.

I’ll have my coasters in the sale as well.

a fine line

Line is a rich metaphor for the artist. It denotes not only boundary, edge or contour, but is an agent for location, energy, and growth. It is literally movement and change – life itself. (Lance Esplund)

….and we’re off.

New semester, new students, new contour studies.

The first critique went the entire 2 hours and 45 minutes. They did get a short break. It was productive and energy was high and maybe tense now and again.  Most everyone had something to say about the process, the marker, the pine cone, and / or my directions. I know I’ll miss some stuff but it went something like this…

It was not easy.
It was so hard.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to do this.
I loved it.
I didn’t like any of it.
I have no patience.
I was surprised by my patience.
I am happy with the drawing.
I like it…yeah.
I’ve never done something like this.
I usually have more…you know…not so many rules..

I especially appreciate that last comment.

The first assignment is a contour study of a complex object. Some students do more than inner and outer contour. They start to add texture.  I don’t believe in stopping progress so I let it them go a bit. The nervousness for the majority of the class comes from the complexity of the subject-matter and the use of marker.

The assignment is such a valuable lesson, working slow and careful and developing patience. Learning to see the edge and translate it into a smooth flowing line and finally creating a flowing composition.

Here are a few samples of some of the completed works.

Kristine’s Pinecone

Manny’s Stepping Stones

Melissa’s Rejuvenated Pinecone

Ale’s Focusing

Sergio’s Pinecone

Kyle’s Calibration

The second semester students have other concerns, though they still have to emphasize contour lines.

Isi’s Delicatus

If they’re inclined they can take the general lesson out into the world –  slow down, think carefully, do mindfully.