Wednesday, September 16, 2009


"There is always someone to kill the doves." - Sheila Watson
Posted up top here is a sample of a student piece with tracing paper overlay showing some suggested improvements. Usually on at least half the first assignment the objects are correct relative to each other, but the fundamental flaw is in that the items aren't correctly aligned with the surface plane of the tabletop. A common error that requires minor tweaking of the edges, often a simple dropping down of the table's back edge will do the trick. At times I send a few students home with a small sheet of plexiglass and a dry-erase marker with which to do a rough sketch while squinting with one eye of whatever they are trying to draw in front of them, then by placing the plexi down onto the sheet of paper they can more accurately gauge the correct angles.

Here's a random sampling of four other pieces that were turned in: might be surprising to hear that they all received roughly the same grade. There's always mitigating factors such as one being turned in late, another having the issues outlined above, plus being accidentally done on the corrugated back of the drawing pad instead of the actual paper. That almost beat out last semester's classic whoopsie of mistaking spray adhesive for workable fixative. Funny as hell in hindsight, not while trying to peel apart other student's pieces from it.

Another one shown is obviously well rendered, but missing the gist of the entire assignment - no linear perspective visible after being buried by luscious and extraneous value. These are the sorts of quandaries you encounter while grading: how much of a hardass to be, and when to to strictly adhere to the letter of the law. On the one hand, creative personalities suffer from the stereotype of attracting people who don't follow the rules. On the other hand, if the task of a teacher is to instill the sometimes harsh realities of the art world, there are some simple fundamentals one is expected to adhere to in order to succeed. At the very least, my goal here is to set the standard high enough to meet both basic expectations and inspire consistent improvement.

So overall, overwhelmingly underwhelming work, mostly C-minuses with a handful of opposite extremes (A's and F's). The oft-repeated mantras made their debuts on sticky-notes posted on backs of the pieces: "See me for further instructions," wishy-washy-wimpy line weights (as in "make bolder marks/more definitive" = DEFINE forms), general tightening up and improving presentation. These little annotations get reiterated in person while handing back pieces, and, in theory, set the cornerstones for better quality works throughout the remainder of the semester.

"Why should I resent it when an ass kicks me?" - Socrates


  1. Lookit that art!

    Cartooning for me was always subversive and clandestine. I had no idea how to seek formal education. In truth, I did have basic drawing and figure drawing in college, as well as a summer class here or there. Still, as you have said, a good idea can carry a rough drawing. I have been liquefied with laughter at some terribly rendered great gags.

    I'm trying to get myself back into a studio groove right now after going to seed all summer with the day job and crap like that. Also dealing with a bout of musical fascination that puts different shaped sticks in my hands as I produce sounds, not lines and textures.

  2. Funny you should mention that: for years and years I always had drumsticks holstered on my drawing tables, beginner's (the cheapest, fattest sticks in stock since I'd go through a pair every year). All my wooden boards had a peculiar pattern of little dimples hammered into them in the upper left + right corners from solo sessions of wailing away. Always was a nice vent or break in the routine even if I had no technical clue as to how to drum, plus easier on the pencil supply. It's been on my mind as of late to pick up some new sticks; the lapse in habit's probably more due to a shift in music, or I just can't keep up with the metal anymore.
    But I do a mean air accordion now...