I Can't Draw, and You Can Too! - Rancho La Puerta
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I Can’t Draw, and You Can Too!

Week of August 3, 2024

I have a secret to share.

If you’ve been telling yourself that you can’t draw since you were seven it’s not true.

Join me, and I will show you that you can draw! You can draw beautifully. Maybe not like Rembrandt or Picasso, but you draw exactly like you and that is a wonderful thing.

Your eye and your line can bring you tremendous satisfaction, if you just get out of your own way and stop telling yourself you can’t.

We’ll experiment with ideas of observed sketch in line and watercolor that will give you access to satisfaction in the drawing process. Once you’ve learned to be more kind to yourself about your results, you’ll find that your natural abilities will develop. You’ll learn to coordinate what you see with what you put on the page. You will find that your powers of keen observation will enhance your art practice, no matter how representational or abstract you want to be.

While this workshop will include techniques to enhance your ability to see and draw, the focus is on discovering your innate strengths, and developing your level of satisfaction in the process.

A line is a dot that goes for a walk  – …or so said Paul Klee…looking at simple compositions in still life, let’s observe the proportion and intersection of the various objects, and how they sit in a three dimensional world. Now let’s craft a line that follows the shapes to create an image of what we see.

Introducing point of view – when the Renaissance reintroduced perspective to the art world, the viewer was invited to experience the artist’s point of view. From Michelangelo to Warhol, from the Pieta to Marilyn Monroe we’ve been entranced by this idea. Now let’s develop our own point of view and see how it in turn affects our images.

Portrait Roulette – there is nothing more daunting, nor more satisfying than drawing a person through observation. Play Portrait Roulette and you’ll  have an opportunity to observe the complexities of human expression and see how to simplify these complexities into a coherent likeness. We’ll explore what is important and what is not. Instead of an academic exercise in proportion and form, we’ll use observation to see where our hand can lead us.

The Color Green  – green is the most common color in the natural world (thank god for chlorophyll). But trying to capture the nuances of a green world it is easy to get bogged down in a boring mix of blue and yellow. Let’s practice a method of observed, relational color, and see what we can express with a very limited palette of paints. Together we’ll discover that while Blue and Yellow make Green, bringing Red into the mix opens up a world of possibilities.

This series is designed for every person who has a desire to draw, but has found traditional teaching techniques to be intimidating, confusing, or boring. Let’s have fun together, and discover that I can’t draw, and you can too!


Tom BirminghamTom Birmingham is an artist, photographer, and teacher who has lived and worked in Big Sur, California for over 30 years. He has recently located to a home near the Long Island Sound in Connecticut. As a founding director of the Big Sur Arts Initiative, Tom has provided instruction and enrichment in the creative arts in a variety of mediums. For ten years he taught art in the summer children’s theater program, StageKids. He has taught photography and drawing at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, and for years he and his wife, Erin Lee Gafill taught painting and sketch on their annual retreats to Italy.

Tom was the director of the Big Sur JazzFest, founding member of Big Sur’s Hidden Garden’s Tour, and currently manages Studio One – Big Sur.

More recently, Tom is the founder of 26Letter Press, a small publishing company dedicated to printed materials celebrating and inspiring creative expression.

In the summer of 2020, Tom designed the museum exhibition and accompanying book, Color Duets – Kaffe Fassett | Erin Lee Gafill, which was the headlining show for five months at the Monterey Museum of Art.