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September 25, 2009
Fifth-grader John Woolley, 10, sketches beyond his years
"S.F. GOURMET DOGS," by John Woolley / 10 years old
Interview by Rob Carey
USk Kandern (Germany) correspondent [blog]
As a fifth-grade teacher who loves to draw, I am always interested when I see students of mine who show a certain talent and special interest in the arts. As a young boy growing up, my school papers were often covered with doodles and drawings, to the annoyance of my teachers. It is for this reason I often encourage my students to draw when they are finished with their work, so long as it's not in the borders of their school work, that is.
Recently, I have encountered a frequent contributor to the Urban Sketchers Flickr pool who shows amazing talent. He is only 10 years old, and his name is John Woolley.
A quick perusal of John's sketches reveals his pure love of drawing. He draws almost everything and anything, filling sketchbooks and journals with sketches of animals, cars, buildings, kitchen appliances, bongo drums, fire hydrants, and motorcycles. He even drew a tooth after he had lost it. After showing some of my students samples of John's sketches, they were amazed a boy their own age had such talent. His sense of proportion and perspective, and his use of cross-hatching and composition are exceptional.
Having grown up in California, John's sketches include scenes from Lake Tahoe, Balboa Park, San Francisco, and Yosemite. Living now in Temecula affords him the opportunity to sketch at local wineries and horse ranches. I recently interviewed John about his developing talent in art for Urban Sketchers, and he was excited for the opportunity.
"TREFETHEN WINERY," by John Woolley / 10 years old
Q. When did you first start drawing and why?
A. About a year or more ago I went into a backpacking store and found up on the counter a little stapled booklet called Moonlight Chronicles. The book was free so I grabbed one and began looking through the pages. I got so into it that I stapled my own booklet, called it Backyard Journals, and began flipping through and began writing and drawing about my daily life. That’s how it all began. Soon after buying more “Moonlight Chronicles” from Dan Price I sent him some of my drawings. He liked them a lot and wanted to put me in one of his Chronicles as guest artist. I ended up being in two of them, issues 66 and 68. I started to research more artists, began using different size moleskines and using all the different pens I could find. Then I started using watercolors and eventually ended up on Flickr.
Q. What locations do you like to draw?
A. Because I am so young it’s kind of hard for me to have my dad just drop me off to sit and draw by myself. My mom and dad do spend time with me drawing outside though. I draw while they walk around. I like all kinds of areas, cities, small towns, parks, zoo’s, the mountains.
Q. How did you find out about Urban Sketchers?
A. I’ve known about Urban Sketchers for awhile, but I never really got into it. I found out about them from my Flickr gallery. I put all of my art pieces on Flickr and then put them into groups. Urban Sketchers is one of the groups.
"EUBIE IN CONCERT," New Orleans, by John Woolley / 10 years old
Q. What are your favorite subjects to draw and how do you go about sketching them? What materials do you use?
A. I wouldn’t say I have a favorite subject to draw, but sometimes I’ll draw an item a couple of times, like maybe a pinecone, or a key, etc. When I sketch I’ll do it in a number of ways depending on what I am drawing. If it is something very detailed I’ll come in and I’ll finish one section first, then move onto the next, slowly building up the drawing. Then other ways I like to get the foundation down first and then fill in all the details. So I’ll use a number of different things to draw and paint with. I have lots of pens, microns, uni-balls, rapidographs, pitt pens and dip pens. Then I’ll color them in with watercolors or ink jar. You could say that I have a good sized studio that is filled with things. I like to draw and paint a lot of different things. I don’t have any favorite subjects.
Q. What artists or particular style of art most inspires you and why?
A. This would be hard to say. Most of the artists I’ve come to know are very good, generally people who can go supreme in detail like Mattias Adolfson and Tommy Kane. Then the other artists like Leslie Brenden ( GunnerGirl ), Dan Price and Tim Cantor amaze me just the same. Very detailed. Ralph Mcquarrie was the guy that did the Star Wars and he is a big inspiration for me.
Q. What goals do you have for yourself with art? What do you picture yourself doing in the future with your talent for art?
A. I’d like to see how many sketchbooks I can make over the years. I would like to be successful and be able to do my art professionally so that I have a nice life. I would like to be a famous artist one day if possible.
"SWIMMING POOL," by John Woolley / 4th grade
Q. What could you tell us about your family?
A. My mom is an accountant and she likes to do arts and crafts. My dad works at home. He is a consultant for buyers and sellers around the world who want to sell or buy land in the Fiji Islands. He likes music and plays the piano and drums. The only other person in my house is me.
Q. Who has motivated you to draw?
A. My friend Dan Price. My Mom. My Dad. Tommy Kane. Mattias Adolfson. Leslie Brendon. Ralph Mcquarrie. Tim Cantor. Gay Kraeger, Capt. Elaine, Socaloca, Hope Carr, Margaret Storer Roche, Wendi Wells, Rymann, all my Aunts and Uncles, Grandma and Grandpa.
Q. What other interests do you have besides art?
A. I like percussion instruments so I have a set of Conga’s and Bongo’s that I like to play. I like playing pool. I also have over 200 magic tricks. I started buying them and working on them when I was three years old. I like “sleight of hand” using sponge balls, coins and cards. I like to swim in the ocean and in our pool. I like to hike also. We hike a lot in the mountains.
• John's art on flickr.
• John's Backyard Journals.