Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sketching at Subways

This summer I have been teaching at Elite Animation Academy (8933 Conroy Windermere Rd, Orlando, FL 32835). One of the classes was sketching on location. My main goal was to get students excited about carrying a sketchbook everywhere they go. Students were in the range of 11 to 15 years in age. The challenge with some of the younger students and even the older students was to get them to look up from their digital devices. It is disheartening to see how disinterested most students are in things other than packaged digital entertainment. My mantra became "You have to look to see." Most students just sit and watch their hand put lines on a page finishing an abbreviated notion of what was in their head.  My uphill battle was to get them to look up and spend time to look at the world around them.

One student was particularly stubborn in that he would turn his back to the subject I had assigned to sketch, and never look up preferring to reproduce a stiff anime character he had drawn many times before. I had to play the part of the bad cop shouting about the wonder of being fully connected with the world when sketching. It was a battle of wills as I fought for his creative soul. I kept at him all morning and just before lunch he relented and started to look up. When I was maybe 11 years old I knew I had a talent, but felt it was never fully utilized. I knew where this student was coming from and sweet kindness was not the remedy.

After lunch my class went to Subway to sketch. he sat off on his own in the one good spot for getting a view of people ordering sandwiches. I explained that he should draw people as they came in to order sandwiches but he would only have a few minutes before each person walked off with their purchase. He was suddenly excited and fully engaged in the process of drawing from life. He recognized the challenges and excitement of trying to catch a moment in time. From across the room I sketched him as he had this awakening. He created an amazing sketch that afternoon with expressive figures ordering food. He added astounding detail right down to the hair on their arms. They were angular and fluid in just the right measure and for the first time perspective tied the scene together.

The next day he relapsed a bit by again falling back on drawing the stiff Anime figure. After lunch we again went out to a restaurant to draw. Again he stepped up his game and focused for the entire two hours. He was drawing a man a table away as he ate his sandwich. That man became curious about the sketch and asked to see it. He then offered my student a $10 gift card. My student was incredibly thankful and cashed in the card for a soda and sweet treat. On the drive back to the studio he was extremely excited about the prospects of drawing on location. It was a joy to see him ablaze with the desire to sketch.

On the next day he again relapsed into sketching the same stiff Anime figure. Now that the class is over he needs to decide for himself if he wants to be excited about the everyday events that happen around him. He also expressed a desire to be a doctor which is a fine ambition. I left him with a quote from Mary Oliver that I hope he takes to heart...

"Instructions for living life, Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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