After hacking away at leftover matteboard with an Xacto blade for twenty minutes before class, I had enough hand-crafted "viewfinders" for everyone. I used to just poke out the film in old slides to use, but nobody knew what the hell those were anymore. Maybe it's an ingrained reflex with single-panel cartoonists, but I tend to go through life automatically framing everything in neat little boxes by default. For normal people though, it helps to have a handy little cropping devise such as this with which to block out extraneous detail and focus in on composition.
Today's class introduced value; using shading to give shapes volume in space, and also began to explore compositional elements in designing their drawings. Many teachers traditionally start off with having students create swatches of gradations from dark to light: I abandoned that in favor of having them experiment with the same exercise in principle but by producing a full range of values using smooth gradations from black to white by drawing toilet paper wadded up in front of them on their desks. In other words, taking the theory and putting it into practise on a drawing. Also directional sources of lighting are added using the studio system of track lighting. Keeping the compositions simple (often isolating a single fold), they use a variety of graphite pencils to see what effects can be achieved by subtle alterations in angle and pressure, and other factors such as the surface they are drawing on (ex: hard tabletop vs paper still in the drawing pad). Finesse and control will develop over time as they gradually become more comfortable using the tools of the trade; developing a sensitive eye in sync with a sensitive touch is an acquired skill, and prior to this class most folks haven't ever cultivated the discipline and familiarity with anything held in their hands.
Getting up every so often to roam the room and see what ideas can be gleaned from fellow students is a useful habit I start prodding them to adopt. Plus it has the added bonus of maybe inspiring each other, or cultivating that deep, burning feeling of inadequacy that so often serves just as well.
Another by-product is the making of an image that begins to open up the world of strict representational exercise and maybe introduce an interpretive element: quite often these little exercises result in some abstract images which viewed in another context assume interesting potential. The illustrative possibilities are mentioned: planting a seed for later in the semester. The last portion of the class was spent slavishly copying any one of the Fred Machetanz lithographic prints collection housed in the Rasmussen library. This doubles as a de facto "old master" copy exercise along with instilling hopelessness and futility that they will ever be able to draw as well as Fred.