View from the gate

This is the first post under the Sunday sketchbook category. I plan to upload a sketchbook entry every Sunday.

I did this sketch at the Atlanta airport, while waiting to board the plane on a business trip. This was done with ballpoint pen on a travelogue sketchbook.

I had fun observing all the activity that happened while I was drawing and hope to have captured some of that.

Adriana Burgos, sketchbook entry, 2014, ballpoint pen

Adriana Burgos, sketchbook entry, 2014, ballpoint pen

Sketches from nature

I grew up in Costa Rica, a country with great biodiversity. My father was an agronomist and as a child I lived in a research center in a beautiful tropical valley. I spent a lot of time outside  and have always been quite the environmentalist.

It should come as no surprise that as an adult I enjoy camping and love sketching from nature when I have a chance. Drawing from nature on site is a perfect way to connect with a specific place.

Georgia’s natural resources are inspiring as well. Here are a couple of my sketches from a recent trip to Magnolia Springs State Park (one of our favorite spots to camp in). These were done with sepia copic liner.

Sketchbook drawing, Adriana Burgos, April 2014

Sketchbook drawing, Adriana Burgos, April 2014

Adriana Burgos, sketchbook page, Magnolia Springs April 2014

Adriana Burgos, sketchbook page, Magnolia Springs April 2014

On contour line drawing

One of the great things about teaching is that you never cease to learn. As an artist, I can choose to focus on the drawing and painting processes I enjoy the most. As an instructor however, I teach for specific course outcomes and encourage my students to gain a better understanding of the broad scope of drawing.

Over the years, I have grown to love the contour line drawing process. This is an approach in which the artist slowly records the inner and outer edges of an observed subject with a pure deliberate line. Many drawings by David Hockney, Henry Matisse, Egon Schiele, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Ellsworth Kelly, are great examples of contour line drawings.

It is the end of the second week of Fall quarter, and we have been working on contour line drawings from complex still lives in my Drawing I class. Although the emphasis of this unit has been on form and space, the question about drawing texture came up. I decided I would do some studies from textural forms myself to make handouts. Looking around for good subjects, I thought it would be fun to draw the pineapple that had been sitting on my kitchen counter and this was the result.

pineapple demo

Pineapple study, Adriana Burgos 2014, from the sketchbook

It was fun to interpret the texture and the radiating patterns of the leaves. I wanted to make sure the drawing did not look flat, so I relied on line variation to show the pineapple’s three-dimensional form.

To me, the beauty of contour drawing lies in the purity of line and its expressive potential. Great results can be achieved early on, from simply observing intently. The best subjects for contour drawings (even for beginners) are complex forms or setups. Botanicals, the human form, bones, urban-scapes, drapery, shells, shoes are ideal to work from. Complexity will allow the artist to get lost in the observation process and focus on developing keen perceptual skills. Over time, the practice of a variety of drawing methods and a deeper understanding of form has a positive effect on how much can be expressed with a single line.

I prefer working in a gestural manner for my large drawings, but enjoy exploring many approaches in my sketchbook. Below is a selection of contour studies from my sketchbooks.

Exploring silverpoint

Silverpoint is one of my favorite mediums for small format drawings. I began using it almost 11 years ago when my oldest son, Nicolas was a baby.  My work is usually large and gestural but when I became a new mother, I adapted my studio practice to my new circumstances. I could no longer plan extended times in the studio, so I began a series of small observational drawings of Nicolas while he napped.

Format affects the choice of media and working small required a change of drawing tools, I took this opportunity to explore silverpoint (a thin piece of silver with a sharp point). Old masters worked with silverpoint among other drawing mediums before graphite was invented.

Silver will make a mark on a surface if it is prepared with grounds such as gouache, acrylic or rabbit skin glue; there are even prepared grounds specifically for silverpoint on the market. With time, the drawing tarnishes and turns a beautiful warm grey.  I have worked on gesso boards, 5 ply bristol prepared with gouache and most recently on plike paper, which needs no preparation. One of the advantages of preparing your own grounds is that you can tint it. Many old and contemporary  silverpoint drawings have been done on tinted grounds.

Most of my silverpoint drawings are observational.  In my figurative and still life drawings, my focus has been on reinforcing form and space with line. When drawing landscapes, I have been interested achieving an atmospheric quality and capturing a sense of the place. I find it convenient and fun to work with silverpoint “en plein air” (on site) because my paper fits easily in my sketchbook and I carry very few tools, yet I can take my time to develop the piece.

My latest drawing, “The Encounter” (below) is a narrative piece in which I resumed the process of working from numerous references. I can see how my perceptual drawings have influenced the handling of space. This piece is the first of a new series of small format narrative drawings as studies for larger pieces. Look for posts on the progress of the series in the coming months!

“Encounter”, Adriana Burgos, 8.5″ x 11″, silverpoint on plike paper, 2014

Why blog about drawing?

Drawing has always been a central part of my life. Here I am decades ago, working on a figurative piece. To the day, I am still fascinated with figures in motion and continue to learn from artists who inspire me.



Here I am, age six drawing in our porch.


I was inspired by my oldest sister Sara and wanted so badly to draw like her!

As a child, my passions were playing outside, reading, drawing, nature and all kinds of sports. Throughout elementary school I dreamed of being a writer, I sort of still do….

My pursuit of a Fine Arts career was driven by my love for drawing and aspirations of living a creative life. In my formation as a graphic designer at the University of Costa Rica, drawing was emphasized in the program. In my painting practice, preparatory sketches (from thumbnails to fully developed value drawings) are important and lately my studio work is mainly composed of drawings.

drills sketchbook

Sketchbook 2- page spread. Drawings from direct observation during karate class.

sparring drillswp

“Sparring Drills” 2012 38.5″ x 29.5″ charcoal and pastel on paper. This drawing was based on the sketchbook page above.

I am currently a professor in the Foundation Studies program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Working with a diverse group of students allows me to reflect on the role of drawing in different art and design fields, without forgetting that it’s an activity that helps individuals develop further as human beings.

This blog will include my reflections on drawing as an artist, instructor and constant learner.  I would like to post weekly on this blog and reinforce my studio practice through writing. As I continue on this journey, I am ready to share my insights and connect with other people who practice drawing in one way or another. I am also very excited about the prospect of fulfilling my writing dreams through blogging!

Thank you for visiting.