By Mrs. Barbara Putnam & Her Studio I Class
Drawing a Blank! Lessons from Studio I Art Class
What is it like to see with eyes that learn to notice everything, including what is in between bits of information? What about trying to draw with your non-dominant hand? These are two assignments for Studio I students. Whether you have never risked drawing or have taken many art courses, it is worth remembering what it is like to begin in any discipline.
In the first assignment, “Hard Lines,” students learned that different line widths communicate differently in how we perceive not only a shape but also how “gray” it is. Each student had to randomly pencil out areas to explore these line types while leaving several shapes “blank” or white. One of the areas needed to be drawn directly in felt tip pen with the non-dominant hand… which means that it will be permanent because pen is not erasable. Shaky lines remind us of what it was like when we first began to hold a pencil years ago and how your brain needed to communicate instructions over and over to get your hand to “work.” The white spaces tell us that a shape can be made by the end points of other lines, which is a concept lifted from Geometry.
The second assignment, “Shapes in Motion,” is about physics. That’s right! Art can portray
science as well. These pieces explore shapes going through an imaginary substance that can be air, water, lava, molasses, and how that might affect motion. Now, students need to think about velocity as they learn about their shapes and whether they are melting, spinning, drilling, falling or expanding. Sometimes the most effective way to think about motion is to remember the noise a shape can make, such as a drill breaking up pavement, or a tornado whirling.
These two assignments are important. Students can learn about the value of the spaces where they do not make any marks, the organization of a composition that will capture and hold the audience’s attention, and the need for imagination to make art. Finding multiple textures with only a felt tip pen means that students need to learn to invent, which is also a part of learning to see critically.
Later this year, you will be able to see these skills multiply, as students in this class add color and observational knowledge when drawing from life. As they work to solve the problems posed in each assignment, they cannot “draw a blank”— they use their pencil as a part of their thinking process. If there is a blank space on the page, you now know that it will be intentional.