Drawing Class Fosters Community in Dogpatch

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Students in David Tenorio's drawing class at ARCH Art Supplies. Photo: Courtesy of ARCH
Students in David Tenorio’s drawing class at ARCH Art Supplies. Photo: Courtesy of ARCH

The Dogpatch Center for Arts and Culture’s life and botanical drawing class is attracting residents from throughout San Francisco to learn from different models, a skilled instructor, and one another. Classes run for six weeks, from 6 to 8 p.m., on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, taught by David Tenorio, an artist and assistant manager where the series is held, ARCH Art Supplies, located at 10 Carolina Street.

Students can attend six classes for $100, a single lesson for $25, or multiple classes. The early summer session began last month and ends June 6; the next series hasn’t yet been scheduled. Typically, there’s a gap of a few weeks between sessions. 

Hilary Cole, a finance researcher who lives on Third Street between 18th and 19th streets, said she decided to attend the early summer session after having a positive experience with a different drawing course.  “Drawing helps me sort out the idea of measurement and picture. I was previously a film student. I found trying to plan a shot was difficult. I wanted to draw to see if that would be helpful,” said Cole.

According to Cole, the previous drawing class improved her pictures. She said another benefit of the Dogpatch Center course is meeting people from the neighborhood. 

Anna Iurchenko, a designer who lives near Hayes Valley, took the drawing series earlier this spring to better document the City’s personalities. “Whenever I sketch people, I feel like they are too generic. I decided to take this class to better understand how to draw people properly. Whenever I see someone on the street, I really want to capture that. The rapid sketch exercise in which you do a 15-minute sketch allowed me to explore different styles and loosen up a bit. David teaches how to interpret what you see and understand what is going on with your subject,” said Iurchenko.

According to Emily Gogol, the Center’s executive director, the class is one of the first the organization offered.  “We started the class in June 2017, so it’s been close to a year. ARCH has a great space for visual arts classes and we had requests for a drawing course. We’re capped out at 12 students for each class,” said Gogol.

Live, clothed, models include individuals with professional modeling experience and neighbors that want to give the work a try. Students can employ any material – charcoal, pastels, pens, pencils – except oil paints and solvents. Use of these materials would require a more ventilated space.

Gogol said the class promotes art and culture in Dogpatch and brings people together. “We’ve had people I know who go out to dinner before or after the class. It’s a fun environment that’s very accessible,” said Gogol.

Tenorio has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Texas, Austin, with more than ten years of experience teaching art. For the past nine years Tenorio has worked as a freelance illustrator for fantasy books, board games, video games, and films. “Every night we teach there’s a sort of theme. I create a customized handout and have the model in a pose. Lesson topics have ranged from measurements and proportions of the human body to light and shadow. I think the number one improvement students see is having better proportion in their figures. In addition, their timing is better and their self-confidence increases,” said Tenorio.

Tenorio said that in his four sessions teaching the series he’s learned that every student has a different method or approach.  “I always take it as my responsibility to figure that out for each person. I look at how I teach and try to talk in a universal way. The students teach me a lot about how to make an engaging lesson,” said Tenorio.

Tenorio’s students have included directors, filmmakers, illustrators, and people with no prior experience in art.  “During and after class, I hear them have conversations about design, composition, and approach. The class allows us to have bigger conversations about art,” said Tenorio.

The class is held in a roughly 450 square foot workshop space in the back of ARCH, which provides the space to the Center for free and stays open late on nights the class is held. On non-class nights, ARCH closes at 7:30 p.m.  “After we were evicted from the Missouri Street location, we intended to build a workshop. In the chaos of moving, we found this great space on Carolina Street. It just so happened that Emily came in and talked to us about her organization. That led us to offer the space to the Center,” said Mac Warrick, ARCH manager.

ARCH has been located in Potrero Hill since 2000.  “We feel very embedded here in the neighborhood. We don’t get a tax write-off for donating the space. We’re hoping people who take the class will think of us first for tools and materials, or other fun items and gift items that we sell,” said Warrick.

ARCH employees created a dozen handmade wooden sketching benches for the Center’s students.  “We sell plywood for students and the public. We ended up with all these scrap pieces, so we found plans online to build the desks. We stained the desks all different colors, blue, yellow, and red, the same stains as the entryway for the workshop. The people that work here are very creative and good with their hands,” said Warrick.

According to Gogol, the classes’ early summer session sold out.  “We’re just going to keep offering it as long as there’s an interest. We’ve even had many requests for a nude drawing class. However, we’d need a new location to add a nude model,” said Gogol.

Warrick said ARCH declined to host nude models “mostly because it’s chilly. Maybe in the summers. Our workshop space is private. I think it’s something we’d be open to, even though the building is a little drafty here.”

Students can sign up for the drawing class at http://www.dcenter.org/arch.