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SCIART-L  November 2016

SCIART-L November 2016

Subject:

Re: teaching adults to draw

From:

Karen Ackoff <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 7 Nov 2016 00:12:44 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Laurie,

I had a very unorthodox drawing teacher in college. While everyone else was making gesture drawings on newsprint with charcoal, my class was making careful measurements and plotting out drawings using .5mm pencils.

What I remember of things, the beginning of the course had to do with learning to translate 3D into 2D.

The very first day, the teacher gave us short lengths of string (maybe 8-10 inches). We held the string above our desks and dropped it. We then had to draw it - not render it, but draw it using a single line. What we learned from this had to do with line weight and sensitivity of line… the line was heavier when it came in front; lighter where it went behind… heavier where form turned; lighter where the form did not turn. 

I remember also he had us cut a mat and fit it with a piece of acetate with a grid drawn on the front. This was then “mounted” underneath our drawing tables… we sat on the floor and drew on the back of the acetate, tracing what we saw. This introduced us to the concept of a grid, as well as beginning to translate 3D to 2D. This further reinforced by having us draw looking through a camera. I suppose you just as easily use an empty slide mount or something similar.

I’ve seen a colleague give a similar assignment… he puts dishes and things in a dish drainer. The negative spaces of the dish drainer serve as a grid of sorts. And students then use that to draw what they see through the “grid”. 

On a similar bent, another (design) colleague had students pack a suitcase and bring it in. The suitcase was opened, and students drew the suitcase looking into it… again the suitcase acting as a sort of grid, echoed by the folded clothing.

We then graduated to using a measuring device… slightly more sophisticated than holding up a pencil or your thumb, closing one eye, and using that to measure. Instead we made “clock hands” from two pieces of mat board and fastened them together using a brad. One piece was longer; one shorter. This was held up, and we could use it to measure, ticking off measurements with a pencil, and than transferring them to our drawing paper. It could also be used to measure angle (in particular, foreshortening). The long clock hand was held vertically; the short one adjusted to match the angle of what we were looking at. The tendency is to want to hold it, slanting it to match the angle. It is important to keep it vertical. And also to always work at arm’s length to try to keep measurements as consistent as possible.

The idea was that after using this device for several months, after a while, we could trust our eyes, and needed to use it less. But it was always handy to check an angle.

I’ll be teaching a drawing class in the spring, and the school gave me a reference book that I think is quite good. It is:
Exploring the Basics of Drawing by Victoria Vebell
Pub. Thomson/Delmar Learning
It also comes with a DVD (which I have not looked at yet)

It might be of interest to introduce the concept of a “searching line”… when an artist sketches loosely and makes a number of lines, “finding” the one that is right. This is readily apparent in many sketches by da Vinci and other artists. This would be more applicable to gesture type drawings.

I understand you have only 5 sessions. I think it is important to have students have fun and improve a little. Contour drawings are a great way to do this (as others have suggested), and while they have a distinct look, they can often be quite charming. What they teach is observation. The main thing about drawing is not so much that you are teaching students to draw, but rather, you are teaching them to see. Betty Edwards’ book Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain, is a book I also would recommend (as suggested by others). 

I hope this gives you some ideas that you can adapt to your time frame. Relax and have fun with it. It’s infectious and hopefully students will pick up on your attitude and they will have fun too.

Best of luck,
Karen




> On Nov 6, 2016, at 2:59 PM, Laurie Bebick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> I am teaching a  drawing class to adults who have little to no drawing experience. I am finding that many of them are struggling and are disheartened by how hard drawing is. Does anyone have advise on trying to keep their spirits-up? I have only taught 2 classes so far, one on value and how to measure proportions. I have 3 more to go.
> 
> Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at
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