"You always say that." Evidently I always say the same thing when asked about any given semester's class: "this is the best group of students ever." And yet it's somehow always true... according to the few folks I've confided in over the many years of teaching drawing - the Beginning Drawing studio course in particular.
Speaking of repeating myself: remember back in the day when this blog was supposed to be all about what it's like to teach a drawing class? Way back eight years ago now, January 15th 2009. My how things have changed - but the one constant thread throughout it all has been how much it hasn't.
So starting with the above-posted sample swatches of the final assignment (some relevant backposts + samples about the final critique from 2009 here, here and here, plus another few from 2010 here, here and here) I went through the archive and did some comparing and contrasting.
And they're right: seems every semester whenever everything starts to wind down, I make the inevitable, proud pronouncement that "this is THE BEST class EVER." And it's true.
A side-note that occurred to me while putting this post together was how I absolutely love having the technological tools at my disposal now to instantaneously review the irrefutable evidence. Used to be such an arduous task to meticulously document student works with a camera + film + slides, in days of yore.
For another prime example of consistent amazement, consider the "Image + Text" assignment and variations thereof. I've recently dropped all the pretentious terminology on the parameters of the original critique and now just simply say "draw a three page comic." Of course all the accompanying justifications and examples are still included in supporting lectures and demonstrations, because the "Vignette" is still one of my favorite segments of the semester to explore, inspire and challenge students with.
The cresting of such a perspective - the feeling of solid satisfaction at a group's overall progress - happens especially upon review of the final portfolios or reviewing the student art show, or feedback from other faculty and staff on the amazing amount of pieces up on display in the hallways at any given time, there is a collective perspective where I am just flat-out astonished at all the works I've been privileged to participate to varying degrees in the creation of.
Observation, Experience and Imagination is still a capstone in-class exercise: call it a quiz if you like, since it's essentially an on-the-spot assessment of their skills and seeing how well they can assimilate everything they've learned (and it's also a hand-in-glove opportunity for me to remind them of the same.
The self-portraits - among the many others assembled here - in particular always stand out, as they should, since they're ostensibly the crowning accomplishment that highmarks an intense period of sustained output. The same could be said of gauging effectiveness as an instructor: it's one metric to assess one's methods and their respective value in the classroom.
Rather than just simply repeating a tried-and-true formula that works best for the largest number of students, give that they're all individuals with varying levels of skill, ability and interest, there is an overall evolution with constant and numerous tweaks to the roster of exercises and assignments. I learn, I'm tested, and I've flunked my share of lessons - the day or the semester or the class that stops happening will be the day it's time to move on to doing something else.
Figure drawing is the last section (see backposts here, here and here) addressed in the Beginning level, and as with all the other areas it's a cursory introduction at best. Not only is there a meta-purpose to jumping from different mediums, techniques, formats and subject matter in sustaining interest, but it exposes the class to a wide variety of possibilities that is designed to hopefully entice and encourage further exploration in other courses.
There just simply isn't enough time to cover everything I'd like to and do justice to the topic, but in theory it's more like opening up a door for them to look around and return to for more detailed and focused study for another semester. Or planting a seed, even caching the knowledge and experience for them to return to later on.
One thing that also consistent is my hope that each and every one of the folks in any of my classes just stays with it. There ought to be an vague feeling of discomfort the very next day after the last class when they are out & about doing normal daily activities and they realize it's the "phantom sketchbook" phenomenon: they ought to have been well-trained by that time to never leave the house without it. And also, whenever reaching for that way to express a thought, it should also be instinctual to grab a pencil and sketch it out.
That's the way it has worked out for me, and all of my approaches and processes continue to get results on either side of the table: whether facing outward to a group, or turned inward on my own artwork.