Ten-year-old Candice Cunningham has been drawing since she was 6.
But this year, the fifth-grade student at Lincoln School in Ventura practiced a different type of art.
Instead of sketching from her imagination, as she had done in the past, Candice learned to draw what is in front of her eyes.
As part of a new art program in the Ventura Unified School District, Candice and hundreds of other children at 11 of the district's elementary schools were taught this year to draw flowers, people, houses or whatever else may come under their observation.
Ventura artist Patricia Robinson launched the program two years ago when she began volunteering to teach art at Lincoln School, which her granddaughter attended.
Since then, the district has gradually expanded the program by having Robinson, who received classical art training in England and France, show teachers her techniques.
The idea, said Mary Elsenbaumer, who teaches Candice at Lincoln School, is to help students break out of their mind-sets of what things should look like.
For example, Elsenbaumer said, "a child has an idea how to draw a house and they'll draw a house like the letter 'A' with a line across it."
But now Elsenbaumer and other teachers take their students to see actual houses.
"We sit right on the sidewalk and draw the houses across the street," she said. "It's the opposite of directive drawing. This is pure art."
To give students a fuller understanding of everything artists do, teachers also help children mat and frame their art and even put it up for sale.
Lincoln and other schools will be selling the children's art at school fund-raisers. And a selection of some of the art, including a drawing by Candice, will be displayed at City Hall in the fall.
Candice's picture, a charcoal sketch of a seated woman, is of a bilingual teacher at the school.
The hardest part of drawing what is in front of you, Candice said, is focusing on what you see.
"You try very hard to concentrate," she said.
But the advantages are clear: "You see all the details on the person," she said. "When you think of it from your head, sometimes you forget things."