Risd Sketchbook Assignment Handouts

DUE DATE: Wednesday September 9, 2015

Find a stack of books (at least 3) and draw them sitting on a table. Use smooth shading techniques learned in class to include shading and shadows. (Pay attention the direction the light is coming from. Turn off lights and use a table lamp to add shadows if you don’t see any). Be creative by adding your own designs to the spine of the books.

Sketchbook Assignment #4: Hand and Shadows

DUE DATE: Thursday September 17, 2015

Using the hand that you DO NOT write with, draw it making some type of motion. Pay attention to shadows and details. TAKE YOUR TIME. Use smooth shading techniques. Hand should be life size.

Sketchbook Assignment #5: Breakfast Still Life


DUE DATE: Monday September 28, 2015

What does your breakfast look like? (1) Draw a still life of a breakfast setting. (Example: Bowl of cereal and cereal box, pancakes on plate, etc.) (2) Draw large and allow the drawing to go off the page. (3) Focus on composition, shading, and details.

Sketchbook Assignment #6:Create A Scene


Tuesday October 6, 2015

Here is your chance to be creative! Below is a painting called Girl with the Pearl Earring. Your assignment as an artist is to create an environment around her. Feel free to add changes to her wardrobe/accessories. Use your imagination and CREATE YOUR OWN SCENE. Fill the page of your sketchbook. Add color if you wish.  

Sketchbook Assignment #8:Create A Scene

DUE: Tuesday October 20, 2015

30 Points

This week you have a bit more freedom to create your own interpretation that will become your art. Take the phrase ‘The End’ and use your imagination to illustrate a SCENE that reflects it. Choose whatever media you like, but must include either shading or color. FILL THE PAGE. 

Sketchbook Assignment #9: Animate the Inanimate

DUE: Tuesday October 27, 2015

30 Points

Choose an enclosed space—a kitchen cabinet, a television, an oven, a refrigerator, in a drawer or closet. What human qualities do the objects in the enclosed space assume when no one is watching? Do the mustard bottles dance? Do the socks play cards? Your drawing should fill a page of your sketchbook. Be sure to show the interior of the space as well as the objects. (Lose 5 points if not in a sketchbook). Color or use proper shading techniques.

Sketchbook Assignment #10: Hole in the Ground

DUE: Tuesday November 3, 2015

30 Points

Using the picture of the hole in the ground below, create a scene around it. FILL THE PAGE. The hole should NOT be the entire picture. Use your imagination. Use proper shading techniques with pen or pencil. (no color)

There is always a wide range of skills in the students who enter my Freshman Drawing course at RISD. Some students have never worked with charcoal before, others have a strong grasp of composition, while others struggle with gesture drawing, and so forth. For most of us, it’s easier and much more satisfying to just keep indulging in the skills we’re already good at. After all, who doesn’t enjoy success? As a contrast against that natural impulse, I encourage my students to directly confront their weaknesses in order to exercise the muscles they’ve been ignoring, or didn’t even know existed.

While every student has their weaknesses they’re working on, the one skill that none of my students seem to have across the board is brainstorming. Even strong students who have exceptional drawing skills struggle tremendously with brainstorming.   In fact, many of these students have an even tougher time because they’ve been using their drawing skills as a crutch to compensate for their lack of thinking.

Below is a video tutorial on how to brainstorm, sketch, and create a drawing from beginning to end based on our October Art Dare.

In the past, when I’ve asked individual students about what actions they are taking when brainstorming, I have to admit that I am frequently appalled by their work habits. One student told me that when he’s brainstorming he looks at Tumblr, while another student said that they listen to music and eat. I’ve watched students in my classes during work sessions literally sit in a chair, tap their fingers on the table, and quietly grumble to themselves.

Without fail, the three top brainstorming problems that I see in my students every semester are:

1) Choosing your first idea. 
I am always surprised when students tell me that they are certain that their first idea is the best one. When there is literally no means of comparison, how can you be so sure? This is the equivalent of going to a buffet, tasting one dish, and then deciding to eat only that one dish for the rest of the meal. I honestly can’t remember ever going with my first idea; most of the time the first idea is cliche, obvious, and literal.

2) Staying stuck in your head.
Students frequently judge an idea in their mind, and then they eliminate that idea in their head before that idea even hits the paper. You have to literally see an idea down on paper to be able to clearly judge whether an idea has any potential. There have been so many instances where I thought that an idea was stupid, and then realized after seeing it on paper that it actually did have merit.  On the other hand, there have been many occasions where I was so convinced that an idea was great, only to discover later that the idea was no good when I saw it on paper. There’s no way to predict the outcome of an idea, and you’re just choking yourself if you never give the idea a chance to come to fruition.

3) Ending the brainstorming process prematurely.
In the second half of the semester, I shift gears with my homework assignments and give my students two weeks to work on one drawing. (prior assignments are only one week long) For many students, their first impulse is to assume that with double the time for the assignment, everything will be so much easier.  Consequently, they blow off the first week, which is supposed to be dedicated entirely on brainstorming and sketching.  Most learn the hard way that there are major consequences to doing minimal work in the first week; these students essentially double their work load in the second week of the assignment because they severely underestimated the kind of investment the brainstorming process demands.  Ideas take time to evolve, they require persistence and tenacity to fully mature.

There is a common misconception that to get a good idea, it’s just a matter of waiting around to be struck by a moment of inspiration. I strongly disagree, innovative ideas don’t just magically pop out of nowhere, you have to be tenacious and push for those ideas. Brainstorming is not a passive action, you have to be aggressive to get results.

I once had a student who was having an extremely hard time coming up with an idea for an assignment where I ask students to create a drawing based on one of their routines. I exchanged several emails with her over the course of the week. In her first email, she kept insisting that she had no ideas at all.  I asked her to list routines she had, but the ones she listed were generic and vague, such as going for a walk, and sleeping. I kept telling her that the ideas were thin and boring, but she continued to reply with more routines that were again, too general. Then, after about the sixth email, she flooded her email with eight dense paragraphs, describing several routines associated with serious issues she had during adolescence. The ideas were there all along, but she had to dig deep over a period of time to unearth them. The final drawing she created for this assignment was one of her most poignant, compelling pieces of the semester.

So what are the actions you need to take to effectively brainstorm?

1) Put everything on paper.
Resist the temptation to judge your ideas as you write.  Let yourself throw up on paper, and then edit your ideas later.

2) Divide your brainstorming over several days.
This allows you to return to your ideas with a fresh eye. Avoid marathon sessions.

3) Play word association. 

4) Look up related words in the dictionary.
I am frequently surprised by dictionary definitions, especially of common words that I assume I understand. Dictionary definitions can stimulate other thinking strategies.

5) Talk out your ideas with a friend.
Having to verbalize your ideas out loud to someone else will motivate you to distill your ideas in a coherent manner.

6) Turn off the Internet.
Music is fine, but otherwise, brainstorming should be: you, a piece of paper, a pencil, and your thoughts.

ART PROFis a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.

Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.

ASK THE ART PROFwas a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

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