“bad drawings”

I’ve been thinking a lot about observational drawing lately since my 9th graders just started the drawing unit.   Drawing from still-life is an age-old skill that frustrates and delights, depending on who you ask.  Before we started the unit I asked my students to categorize their relationship with drawing: “enjoys it”, “finds it challenging”, “hates it”.  Of course there is something flawed about these three categories and my students saw it right away.  Drawing is all three.  Sometimes you enjoy it, sometimes you hate it, and it’s always challenging.  So, how do I make sure that at the heart of the challenge there is some enjoyment in the process?  I started to think about other delivery systems besides the old  step-by-step demo lecture on perspective.  Snore.  I began by preparing “wonky” drawings for my students.  I basically copied or made-up lots of “bad drawings” of the various still life objects.  These drawings were then placed beside the object and as the students filed in, they had to “correct” them in pairs.  This was fun for a minute but I saw the same “mistakes” recurring throughout the room.  Looking closely is going to take more than a period to master, that’s for sure.

As I move around the room I comment on their struggles, I point out passages of beauty in their drawings. I tell them that they are in luck since “drawing is my jam”.  I point out their small triumphs and help them see those small changes that can make or break a drawing.

Here are two quotes that I love about the act of drawing:

“drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer, and clearer still, until your eyes ache.”–David Hockney

To confer the gift of drawing, we must create an eye that sees, a hand that obeys, a soul that feels; and in this task, the whole life must cooperate. In this sense, life itself is the only preparation for drawing. Once we have lived, the inner spark of vision does the rest.—– Maria Montessori

After a few weeks of struggle my students reflected on what they learned:

I learned that if you keep trying you will end up liking what you make (2)
I learned about shading
I learned how to work with other materials besides charcoal pencil including white ink, black ink, and white colored pencil. I had to practice getting the right amount of ink on the tool and finding a nice grip that made clear lines. In addition, I learned how to blend similar color shades or hues together to create an ombre effect with the colored pencils.
Art can be made from mistakes.
I have certainly learned that impromptu decisions more often than not are able to be manipulated to be magnificent, as exude here.
Drawing eyes is not easy and takes a lot of patience.
I learned how to make something out of a mistake. I also learned how to use ink better than ever before.
I learned how to work with ink.
I learned many techniques for drawing and shading
I learned ways to show contrast and make my piece stand out.
I learned how much adding contrast and paying attention to the light can improve a drawing.
It is very important how much ink you apply to your brush.
That there’s many forms of shading and a little bit goes a long way. It adds a lot of dimension.
I learned that in order to move on I have to redraw the picture until I am satisfied.
Mistakes aren’t always bad. You can turn them into something great.



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