Life Drawing in the Bay Area – Part 1


I’ve recently caught the ‘figure drawing bug’ again, and have been drawing non-stop since early February of this year. Since then, its been a personal mission and obsession to attend as many figure drawing workshops as possible in the San Francisco Bay Area where I currently live. This is a field report of my recent drawing journeys.

These reviews are of the recent workshops I’ve attended, organized by day. There’s also contact info for anyone who wants to draw at their local workshop, and support the Bay Area life drawing community. This report is currently ongoing, so check back for more updates, artwork and reviews.


Mountain View @ Finn Center
230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View, CA 94040
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 pm / Fee: $10

I first found this workshop on Febuary 22nd, and I had a blast here. There are horses and tables available. There is ample space and the Finn center is a beautiful location. Best of all is the single source lighting set-up which is ideal for quick sketch and is my personal favorite. So far, the best lighting set-up I have seen in the South Bay/Silicon Valley area.

10 min pose from Mountain View, 3/8/10. Charcoal on paper.

Santa Cruz @ Santa Cruz Art League
526 Broadway, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 426-5787
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 pm / Fee: $16

I attended this workshop on a cold, rainy night, which made through the winding roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains an adventure. The room is quite small. The model stage is surrouned by tables. There were easels available, but no horses (drawing benches). Being Santa Cruz, the vibe was very laid back, which reminded me of San Diego.

The only downsides are the crowded room arrangement and the poor lighting. The $16 drop in fee is quite high in comparison to other open workshops. Overall, it was a good, first time experience in Santa Cruz. I recommend this workshop for those in the South San Jose, or Monterrey County area.

5 min pose from Santa Cruz, 2/8/10. Charcoal on paper.


Palo Alto @ Palo Alto Art Center
1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Time: 7:15 – 9:45 pm / Fee: $5

This was the very first workshop I attended since moving to the Bay Area in 2009. It was also the first time I drew from a model in over a year. Yikes!

This workshop is very well known and the studio fills up quickly. Partly because of the central, Silicon Valley location and the low $5 drop-in fee, which is a great deal.

The room itself is huge, but the massive tables surrounding the stage take up a lot of space. Because the tables are so big, seating gets packed and awkward. There are few horses and easels available for those who prefer to draw on boards. The lighting is ambient, which tends to wash out the shadows.

Despite the downsides, I really enjoy drawing here. It felt good to be drawing with such a large group of artists. If you plan on joining us, take my advice and get here early.This is a regular spot for me, so you’ll definitely see me there.

20 min pose,  2/2/10 (first drawing session in over 1 year). Charcoal on paper.

20 min poses,  2/16/10, charcoal on paper.


Sunnyvale @ Cogswell Polytechnical
1175 Bordeaux Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 pm  / Fee: $5

I first discovered Cogswell’s workshop in mid-March.  This workshop is only the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month. Since it is organized by their animation department, short poses are their forte. 5 minute poses are the longest.

The figure drawing room is quite nice. They have horses, easels and plenty of space. They also have really nice lighting equipment, but it was not used well this night. For a short pose night, it worked out ok. Overall, I recommend Cogswell if you’re in the mood for short poses and gestures.

They love short poses here. 2 min poses, 3/17/10, charcoal on paper.

Lighting was terrible this night, but I was able to squeeze some decent 5’s. 5 min pose, 3/17/10, charcoal on paper.

San Jose @ Alameda Art Works
Studio #11, 1068 The Alameda, San Jose, CA
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm (time may vary) / Fee: $10
Contact: Deanna, 408-390-5430,

Alameda Art Works was the 2nd workshop I attented in the South Bay Area and I was very happy to find a Wednesday night of drawing. This studio is the home of local artist Deanna. The studio space was quite small and the lighting was ambient. Because of the limited size there was only room for chairs which were provided.

Despite the small size, I really enjoyed drawing here. Deanna was very welcoming and gracious and it was well worth the $10 drop in fee. Please note, that day of the week and room # may vary. If you plan to attend please contact Deanna in advance for more details and updates.

5 and 10 min poses, 2/3/10 (2nd drawing session after 1 year of absence). Charcoal on paper.


Campbell @ Stone Griffin Gallery
411 East Campbell Avenue, Campbell, CA 95008
Time: 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month, 7:00 – 9:00 pm / Fee: $15

I was first attracted to this workshop because it was very close to my office. Because of the convenience, I was able to bring a fellow Concept Artist from the studio with me on this outing.

The drawing session is held in the gallery itself. There is not much room and there is no stage for the model. Tables and chairs are provided, but it is not an ideal set-up for figure drawing. They did have single source lighting, which was a pleasant surprise and created some nice light and shade. The $15 drop-in fee for 2 hours of drawing is relatively high and the space is quite cramped. Overall, it was an enjoyable night and besides Mountain View, is the only workshop in the south Bay Area that lights the model well.

5 min and 10 min pose, 2/11/10, Charcoal on paper.

20 min head drawing, 2/11/10. Charcoal on paper.

San Jose @ San Jose State University
SJSU, Art Building, Room 312, 1 Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192
Time: 6:30 – 9:30pm / Fee: $3

I recently discovered this workshop through a new friend made at the workshops, and now I’ve gone 3 weeks in a row since then. The organizers are the SJSU Illustration Club, also known as Shrunken Head Man. They currently run 3 workshops a week, so please visit their website for a complete listing of additional days and times available.

The Art Building is located at the East end of campus near the Student Union Building. Room 312 is huge and there are plenty of horses available. The stage is placed against the wall with track lighting on the model, which tends to wash out the shadows. Despite the lighting conditions, this room is well set-up for drawing from the model.

I had a blast drawing here. I enjoyed the energy of the room and being around the students. Even though there is plenty of space, it’s been filled to over- capacity every week I’ve attended, and it fills up fast so get here early. One of the challenges I discovered was parking and finding the room itself. I recommend street parking within 1 block of campus, or the public pay garage on 7th street. Overall, I highly recommended this workshop which has quickly become a regular spot for me.

5 min pose, 20 min head drawing, 3/4/10. Charcoal on paper.

2 min poses, 2/23/10. Charcoal on paper.


Like I said, this is an ongoing report and I have a few reviews to write and a lot more artwork to share.  For further information please contact the workshop organizers/ and or venues.

A very special thanks to for his incredible and comprehensive national listing of classes, open and instructed workshops. Please visit his site for a well organized and detailed directory listing of life drawing locations in your area.

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12 thoughts on “Life Drawing in the Bay Area – Part 1”

  1. This is great! I come home summers from Art Center and had trouble finding life drawing sessions
    Thank you!

    My brother James Flaagan works with you at Cryptic. Hope to see you around!

  2. Thanks for this research. I just moved back after 6 years and glad to see many of my old sessions are still going strong.

  3. Thank you! My regular session at the Triton Museum has closed for the summer and I’m really itching to draw- this is wonderful, thanks!
    I know there’s one on Tuesdays at the Los Gatos Museum too..

  4. awesome stuff! the tuesday session where moved! I was just wondering where they went. if anyone has some info I would be very grateful. Thanks! keep drawing!!!

  5. Cool Thanks! South Bay is pretty active. Mountain View is the best by far. And they have the nicest crowd that draws there.

  6. Jim Smyth teaches a class at the Palo Alto Art Center on Friday morning and a Quick Figure Sketching class Friday afternoons. He is a master of the figure. Short poses 2 – 10 minutes. Room isn’t great, but being around Jim makes up for it.

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