Drawing Bootcamp

Blind Contour, Modified contour, right brain drawing and expressive mark making

Many of the students in my intro classes hadn’t had any art in middle school, so they were sometimes functioning at a 5th grade level in terms of their drawing ability.   In order to meet them where they were, I had them do a drawing bootcamp to get their engines running again.

Blind contour



modified contour

“right brain” or upside down drawing

Picasso’s drawing of Igor Stravinsky: a classic staple of art education.

Student example









expressive mark making

Students chose an object and experimented with mark making using scribble lines, lines in one direction, lines in all directions, zig zag and another using all of them.

Clay Vessels

Open-ended clay vessels

In this unit, kids could make any vessel they wanted but it had to have some kind of attachment.  They learned about the stages of clay and hand-building techniques.  After that, students started doing research on five artists working in any medium using websites such as the Getty, Met and the Art Institute of Chicago.  I had them parse out what they found compelling about each artist in order to translate it into their own clay projects.  Then they developed prototypes using a choice of coil, slab and pinch pot methods.  Some focused on color, abstraction and others on a theme or concept.














Final projects

Jake experimented with using a balloon and slab building over the shape. He was working with how to combine nature and emotions.

He made objects that he felt an emotional attachment to and placed them inside the basketball sphere.










Watercolor Landscapes

Watercolor sketches

Quite a few kids in my intro classes haven’t made art for a while, including playing with watercolors.  I asked them to create landscapes from a photo they took or an image off the Internet that wasn’t already a watercolor.  We talked about color theory and I had them choose a Color Contrast (warm, cool; light dark; saturation of hue) so they could structure their painting a bit more and try to work with understanding how colors work in space.

First, they did a watercolor techniques grid in order to get a feel for the variety that watercolor can bring as well as play with brushstroke. Then they made some sketches in watercolor and pencil.  I showed them slides on watercolor artists in art history and made demo videos showing both realistic and abstract options to choose from.

FInal Paintings

Chance Mythological Drawings

Chance Mythology based on surrealism

In this unit, students researched a mythological creature, read about Surrealism, watched a video on how people use myths and then played a game with an online dice roll to determine the head, torso/arms and lower body and legs of their creature. I asked them to mix human and animal parts since myths are often made of both.  They put images from the Internet into slides and then rolled the die.  They made sketches and then created a final image with shading.

Grace’s example of the game slides!

Grace really explored her character!

Adrian mixed in cartoon characters.

Adrian’s finished sketch with shading.



Collaborative Snowball Task Game

Task Game

(HYBrid and distance learning)

Student played a variation of the Snowball Game which is crumpling up paper after writing on it and throwing it across the room.  Then they chose a random paper and drew what was listed on it.  I showed them Oliver Herring’s TASK video to talk about Social Practice as a new art form and how that involves the audience as raw material for the actual art and process.  He holds large art gatherings and in this example, he has people write a task for someone else and put it in a box.  Another person draws an example from the box and does what it says.

I adapted this for distance learning by making Google Slides where each student could add in three facts about themselves as a get to know you activity and then write a drawing prompt for another student, who would then draw it.

Task Drawing Examples

This student’s prompt was to draw a Conga Line.

This task was to draw an imaginary creature.

This one goes with the prompt below that asks the other person to draw emotions on a sad day.

Collaborative Introduction Activities

Art Hospital & Pet Peeves Drawings

At the beginning of the trimester in fall 2020, I had the students do a couple of get to know you activities to build community in my classes.   They also learned that collaboration was a way for artists to generate ideas for artwork.

Art hospital is an activity where one person starts with drawing “mistakes” using ink, charcoal, chalk, markers or pencil. The second person tries to add more mistakes and send it back to the first person to decide how to resolve the work.  There are variations on this.  I showed them a video on John Baldassari, a conceptual artist, and how he used mistakes in his work, such as in his photo series where he breaks the rules of photography.

The second lesson was about pet peeves. I had them pay the game “Me Too” and come up with pet peeves that way.  Then they had a lot of pet peeves to work from and chose one to draw. It could have been theirs or someone else’s idea.

Art hospital








Pet peeves

This student really didn’t like wearing his mask during COVID.

This one was about talking really loudly.

The Everyday

This project was based on inspiration from the artist and poet Bernadette Mayer, a NYC woman who made an amazing project about her daily life by taking thousands of photos each day for a month.  I suggested they try not to edit much.

The Everyday Project                                                                              Developed by Tessa Sutton


The Everyday has had a huge surge in popularity recently, stemming from Dadaists and Surrealists in France in the early 20th century as they walked around cities and took to the streets, knocking fine art off its pedestal.  A return to the local as a microcosm of the global has been of concern to artists.  How can something mundane be made special?  What is your point of view that others can peek into?  How can the details of daily life provide artistic fodder? How can you find the poetic at home, on a walk, playing with your pets?  Try to catch people you live with off guard. Try to catch yourself off guard.

To gain inspiration, explore the work of photographers and artists such as:


Bernadette Mayer – 1970s NYC



On July 1, 1971, the American poet and conceptual artist Bernadette Mayer began to record one month of her life by shooting a roll of thirty-six color snapshots every day, developing them at night, and keeping a diary of her impressions. The resulting amalgam, a “crazy headed journal” that she called “Memory,” was shown as a mixed-media installation at a SoHo gallery in 1972: a honeycomb of more than a thousand three-by-five photographs mounted to the gallery walls, with six hours of narration playing on a loop. Whatever memory is, “Memory” was an exploration of the layers of what a person thinks they remember firsthand.

William Eggleston


Hannah Starkey


Larry Sultan


You might find some more to research on here.



Learning Targets:

I can use a camera to demonstrate personal voice.
I can choose appropriate equipment and techniques to best demonstrate my ideas.
I can apply the principles of design to my images (emphasis, balance, etc.).
I can use asymmetrical balance to activate the entire frame of an image.


1 On your Weebly under RESEARCH for PHOTO II, add the links of the artists above (need two) and an additional resource.  Make sure to provide 3+ sentences, written in your own words, explaining the significance of your artist and resource.

2 Find an additional artist that you think might be influential for your project. You will also need to 3 find one additional resource that helped you prepare for The Everyday. This resource could be a Photoshop or Camera tutorial, an article to read, or something else beneficial to your photography needs.


  1.   Find a variety of moments in your everyday life to photograph, and include simple moments that people might not see from your point of view.  What is intimate and off-hand in your everyday life?  What is poetic that you see everyday? What can be raw?  What might be disturbing or beautiful? Think about your point of view…the things you catch in your peripheral vision.
  2.   Capture 20+ images demonstrating simple, mostly unedited techniques. Keep in mind this is about the everyday, so using your filters and controlling lighting and mood in the room and on your phone/camera is probably more important than editing.
  3.   Utilize tools and techniques in Photoshop to enhance your compositions as you see fit.  For example, the magical in the Everyday.
  4.    Edit 4 different images. Each image must contain different subjects. No repeated imagery.
  5.   Upload your final 4 images on your Weebly Photo II page.

student images

Camryn was exploring color here.


Maddie was playing with the idea of catching a moment that usually goes unnoticed.



Students always do research, shoot photos based on their research and then do photo check-ins before posting their final edited versions to their Weebly blog.  This time they chose minimalist photographers to check out and used their techniques.

Tessa’s nice use of light here.

Jack’s themes are about the unfamiliar in the common.

Jordan edits this down to the bare bones.

Morgan examines the details in the simple.

Camryn used stellar editing here.

Nic works with architecture.


Exploring david hockney and time

Students investigated David Hockney’s ideas on time and photography by watching a video and checking out my intro slides on the British painter.  They completed a project based on his observations of Eastern conceptions of space and perspective through making their own Joinery projects.  These consisted of multiple points of view around one emphasized focus.

Charlie explored the space of a deck.

Sarah used a simple yet effective setting.

Jessica’s candle of multiple time frames.

Jordan’s well done use of editing.

Claire is exploring many points of view here.

Self Portraits

Two-sided selves

(hybrid and Distance Learning)

Students researched self-portraits in various genres like painting, drawing and photography and came up with 2 final images after doing a photo shoot of 10-20 pictures. They had to show two different sides to themselves.

Jackson’s funny image.

Another side to Jackson.

Hali’s very powerful image.

Jessica in motion.

Tessa revealing her mysterious side.