Do your best, bring it to life

The COVID-19 pandemic has put libraries nationwide in uncharted territory. We miss our customers, we miss interacting with them, and we miss hosting programs that educate and inspire.

We've created this blog series, Stories from Before, chronicling the stories of customers who ♥ all the Library offers, be it Storytime or Summer Reading, Books By Mail, English Language Classes, and much more. We hope these uplifting stories can help us all get through these challenging times and think about a brighter future.

Do your best, bring it to life: Drawing Camp inspires budding artists

Teens buzz with excitement as they get ready for their third day of Drawing Camp in the 101Space at Joel D. Valdez Main Library.

They pull out their kits, which include a sketchpad, wooden drawing figures, pencils, charcoal, and erasers. Not only do they get to use these at the camp, but they get to keep them, courtesy of the Friends of the Pima County Public Library.

The camp is led by Library Associate Ryder Wilson, who has a natural talent for connecting with youth and helping them discover and explore new interests. Down-to-earth, friendly, and enthusiastic, Ryder helps coordinate many of the summer camps the Library offers.

On this day he opens with a question… “What did you all think of yesterday? Did you learn stuff?”

A chorus of praise erupts: “It was fantastic!” “Definitely! Ryder, you’re awesome!” and “I love what we did yesterday!”

The day before, the eager tweens, ranging in age from 10 to 12, had worked on shaping, texture, value, composition, and how to use charcoal. Ryder explains that today they’ll be working on using pencils.

Mathias, Micah, Zachary, Ashleigh, Mollie, Savan, Bella, and Sula grab their pencils. “Today,” Ryder begins, “we’re doing a chimera challenge where we each draw different parts of one big creature.”

Bella exclaims, “This is one of my favorite things to do! Once my friends and I made an awesome sea monster when we were camping.”

“Ready, get set, go… start with the head!” Ryder instructs and, in unison, heads are down and pencils are moving. Micah asks, “Can I draw a demon?” Ryder shouts out, “A demon, an eyeball, a horse… whatever you want. This isn’t science class, it’s drawing!”

Bella jumps in, “This is going to be very, very weird!”

They each draw a part, fold the paper so it can’t be seen, and pass it to the person next to them. This goes on until all the creatures have made their way around the room. A little while later, the chimeras are finished and, as Bella predicted, they are very weird, but also bursting with creativity.

Their drawings include a monster with tentacles for hair, an amphibious creature with chicken legs, a horned beast wearing a dress, a four-eyed animal in cowboy boots, and a cat on top of a three-fingered monster doing a headstand.

After this exercise, which was clearly a hit, they each select an object and start by drawing an outline of it. They choose from magnifying glasses, Legos, headphones, and an assortment of other items, including a mechanical mouse and a gourd.

Ryder guides them with questions. “Is your object taller than it is wide? Are you paying attention to the lines?”

Focusing on his gourd, Micah says, “I don’t like gourds. They’re just wavy and boring.

“Maybe so,” Ryder replies. “But they’re super important. They have a lot of complicated lines to master.”

Attempting to draw a 3D-printed skull, Mathias remarks, “This is hard, but I want to keep trying.”

Ryder responds, “It’s not about good or bad, it’s about whether you drew it. You’re the artist; you’re in charge! This is your world, you just need to do your best to bring it to life. Focus on the details you think are the most important.”

The camp continues for three more hours as the budding artists learn about lines and three-dimensional space, shading, and creating depth. They are engaged, having fun, and making friends. One thing is for sure: when Ryder asks tomorrow if they had fun, it’s likely the room will erupt with praise once again.

Teens, learn to draw with these books!

Sketch your Stuff

Drawing Lab for Mixed-media Artists

Drawing Tools & Materials

Introduction to Drawing

Portrait Drawing

Creative Illustration & Beyond