Archaeological Illustration Students Attend 3-Part Class

Featuring: Lithics – Stone Tools, Historical Building – Perspective, and Bedrock Mortars – Archaeological Site

Winter 2023, four very dedicated students attended a three part class on archaeological illustration. I say dedicated because all but one person came from afar – through rain and hail they drove, three Saturdays in a row!

The Bedrock Mortars at Felicita Park – Escondido, CA

Illustrating Bedrock Mortars

Close—up of a mortar inside the bedrock.

Felicita Park in Escondido, CA was a Kumeyaay village during prehistoric times.  The Kumeyaay People at that time were hunters and gatherers.

Their primary food source were the pointy acorns from the California Coast Live Oak and the stubby acorns from the Black Oak.

These particular grinding rocks at Felicita Park are just one of many where indigenous people ground acorn nuts, seeds from native plants such as chia and buckwheat, and bone. We had to scoop up some of the smelly rain water from within the mortars and slicks in order to see and feel their smoothness.

Kumeyaay Village Sign
Kumeyaay Village – Bedrock Mortars Archaeological Site Felicita Park, Escondido, CA
Pointed Acorns of the Coast Live Oak

As we sat around the bedrock with our drawing pads, it began to drizzle.  Our papers started to buckle from the rain, and Trader Joe’s muffins started getting soggy, so I said, “Let’s go to Starbucks!  They have long tables and we can finish our drawings over coffee using photos we’ve taken.” Everyone was like, “Yay, and hot chocolate too!”

Illustration of Bedrock Mortars in 2-Point Perspective

During the rest of the Bedrock Mortar drawing class, I demonstrated on how to use an app called, “Adobe Capture.” It turns a color photo into a black and white drawing.

The app is a great way to see where shadows and additional stippling might be used in illustrating stone tools.  It’s also a good tool to see the outline of a subject and then trace it from an iPad rather than go through the whole process of figuring out perspective by hand.

An example of how Adobe Capture turns a color photo into a black & white ink drawing.
Adobe Capture’s version of the bedrock mortars from a photograph. I erased some of the foreground to indicate grass.

With that said, however, the point of the class on drawing in perspective was to learn exactly that –  how to draw something in perspective but by hand – and figure out vanishing points. Which in actuality is more accurate than Adobe Capture but in a pinch, with not enough time in the field, taking a pic of a foundation or building, then tracing the outlines with the help of the app can make for a quick rendition of the subject in question.

Illustrating Historical Sites

For the historical part of the illustration class series, we met at Sikes Adobe in Escondido. If you decide to visit, just note that it’s hidden behind a gas station, across from the mall on Via Rancho Parkway.

Historic photo of Eliza Sikes in front of the adobe section of the house.
Sikes Adobe today in Escondido, CA

We were able to schedule a tour of the inside where part of the adobe wall can be seen through a glass window. Established around 1870, this historical site proved to be a great example to use for our illustration class on drawing in perspective – a skill that can also be applied to archaeological sites of ancient foundations.

The original adobe bricks can be seen through the window on the left inside the kitchen area.
The original bricks of the Sikes Adobe. Unfortunately, the glass caused a reflection.

After the tour, we walked around the grounds to see some of the outbuildings and old farm tools.  Then I asked the students to pick a spot for drawing the adobe; at an angle which they found personally interesting.  Some chose the creamery while others chose the house.

Sikes Farmstead Creamery

I think each person found that drawing in perspective can be challenging but then I saw the light bulb come on in their heads and they got it!

Pencil drawing of the Sikes creamery in perspective.

Drawing in perspective is a very detailed process; there wasn’t enough time to ink in the illustrations so some of the students finished their inking at home.

Understanding one and two-point perspective, and being able to apply their new-found knowledge in the field was the goal of this class.

By the end, everyone had the ability to draw both bedrock mortars and a building in perspective.

During the final class meet-up, certificates were given to each student for completing the entire series – something they can add to their curriculum vitae!

Checking out the grounds while listening to the history of Sikes Adobe.
The back porch of the adobe.
Inked drawing of the Sikes porch using one-point perspective.
Julie, intent on figuring out her horizon line and vanishing points before she begins her drawing.
Completed Sikes Adobe in pen & ink by class student and professional archaeologist, Julie Scrivner.

Congratulations Chris, Julie, Alyssa, and Gary!  Thank you for coming from afar and participating, despite the inclement weather!  My favorite part?  Scooping out the smelly water from the bedrock mortars. …


About the Author: Native to San Diego County, Donna Walker earned her AIS Certificate (American Indian Studies) from Palomar College in San Marcos, CA where she also majored in art and history. Donna has been a contract artist for UCSD for the last several years, specializing in pottery/ceramic illustrations. She also teaches archaeological illustrations for various colleges, archaeological societies, and at the San Diego Archaeology Center in Escondido, CA. Her work appears in professional archaeological reports and presentations. She can be reached by email at: to schedule a class or one-on-one lesson.

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