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 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.