A couple of weeks ago, I saw an announcement for a free drawing class for absolute beginners mentioned on a home-school mailing list that I subscribe to, and I thought briefly about joining it. I’ve never been able to draw, even as a kid, and this skill is one that I do feel the lack of. It would be nice to be able to sketch things and have them be at least vaguely recognizable by others.
I had followed up on the e-mail announcement enough to find the announcement on the web page of the store where the free class was being held (Lenz Arts):
Drawing for Absolute Beginners
Saturday, December 5, 1-3 p.m.
The easy-going and encouraging Rob Court, local drawing coach from The Scribbles Institute, will be conducting a hands-on introductory drawing class for people who are scared of drawing. He’ll cover how to hold a pencil, drawing from observation, and basic composition. This is a session for rank beginners!Class space is limited. The class is free but there is $5 deposit which will be refunded in the form of a store credit when you arrive for the class. (“No-show = no dough!”) Students are required to have a 9×12 sketch pad and 2B, 4B and 8B drawing pencils. Students may buy a sketch pad at 30% off for the class!
Yesterday, when I found that I would not have a huge grading load this weekend, I called up Lenz Arts to find out whether there was still room—there was, so I signed up for the 2-hour class.
My wife loaned me some drawing pencils (she can draw and has taken several art classes in the past, though none recently), and I bought a sketchpad (Caslon XL recycled paper) at the store when I got there. I also bought an 8B pencil, which it turned out I did not need—having just a 4B pencil would have been enough for the class.
Because I had seen the announcement on a home-school mailing list, I was expecting to be in a class with a bunch of kids, but it turned out that I was the youngest student there—the man sitting next to me volunteered that he was 80 years old and the two women were probably in their late 60s or early 70s (I didn’t ask). I was the only one there who had not taken art classes as an adult, but we were all beginners at sketching.
The advertising blurb “easy-going and encouraging” turned out to be accurate—Rob managed to keep us all relaxed, while providing useful but non-judgmental feedback. There were only four of us, so we got a fair amount of attention.
In order to get us to loosen up and draw more freely, he had us all use an overhand grip on the pencil, rather than the tripod grip usually used for writing. I found it a bit difficult to get light lines with the overhand grip and a 4B pencil, so I switched to the underhand grip (which he also showed us) for a couple of the preliminary sketches—that made it easier for me to do the light initial lines.
The lesson consisted of five drawings of gradually increasing complexity. The first three reminded me a lot of the Ed Emberley drawing books for kids (some of which we had bought for my son when he was in elementary school), but the fourth one was more detailed, and the last one was a sketch from a photograph.
None of the sketches I made were “good” in any objective sense, but the class was fun and I learned the beginnings of some pencil skills. If I get some spare time, I might take more classes from Rob in future. I understand that he has a regular weekly session for adults on Wednesdays 6–9pm (for kids 13–17 years old on Thursdays), as well as “Draw With Your Kids” programs and more specialized weekend workshops. One of the specialized workshops is on iPad Drawing using the Paper 53 app, which is a relatively new medium.
According to the rates page on his web site, his small group classes cost $150/month (4 2-hour sessions) and his 3-hour workshops $45, so his classes usually run $15–$19/hour. That means that today’s 2-hour free lesson was worth about $30–$40. That’s quite a bit more expensive per hour than the $171 I would pay for a 3-unit drawing course at Cabrillo College, which meets 6 hours a week for 13 weeks. Of course, the class sizes are larger at Cabrillo and I would have difficulty getting into them (they fill up quickly). I can’t afford the time to get to Cabrillo for classes anyway—except perhaps in the summer. I’m not even sure I can afford the time for 2-hour evening courses 4 weeks in a row.
He also has a few free meetups a year: Sketch Tribe Santa Cruz and iPad Drawing Meetup. Like the free class at Lenz Arts today, these are primarily a way to introduce himself to new customers for his classes.
Rob Court also has a blog Drawing Well, which he posts to intermittently.
Bottom-line: I would recommend Rob Court’s classes for kids or adults who have the time and money to spend on them.