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Junk Drawer Drawing Assignment

Picture drawn in late 2012, when I was in 9th grade.

At this point, we were halfway done with our sketchbook assignments, meaning that this was the last drawing we had done without shading. For this assignment, we were to find the messiest, cluttered, junkiest drawer we could find in our house an draw it. And for me, the best place to look was my own bedroom.

These are the items seen in my junk drawer: a 10-pack of Crayola markers, two necklaces, two sets of earrings from Claire's, an old snack bar wrapper, a Game Boy Advance charger, a Gameboy Advance case, a fingerless glove, a Nintendo DS case (SpongeBob themed, reversible), a cheap keyring with my name on it, and a FujiFilm camera case, among other things.
Drawing by Nicole Downing
  Image and Text.
  In this drawing you will utilize imagery along with two words (not one, not three) of text.  
  Consider the size of your words.  Consider the style of your font.  Consider the
  placement of your text; will it be placed front and center?  Or will it be hidden near the edge
  of the page? Think about  the way that the image impacts the text, and the way that
  the text impacts the image.     

  Source artists: Barbara Kruger, Neil Jenny, Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein. 

Drawing by Richard Hudon
Hands (How We Love 'Em).
Make a drawing of your head.  Include two (or more) hands.  Create some kind of action.  Your hands should be doing something (flossing your teeth, picking your nose, etc.).  It is so tempting to work around, or eliminate hands because, lets face it, they are difficult to draw.  This drawing forces you to directly confront hands, and to put them into some sort of context.  

Unplanned Interior. 
Make a drawing of the kind of interior space that normally gets overlooked: The mud room, a closet, the garage or shed, under the cabinets, the basement... even the kitchen junk drawer functions as a kind of space.  Try not to tidy up your view.  Just draw what you see, warts and all.  Strive for a full range of values, and really concentrate on the disparate textures of different objects. 

Source artists: Andrew Wyeth, Jack Beal interiors

Instructor notes: I'm really fond of this exercise.  It removes students from the stiff, overly organized interiors they often prefer.  Inevitably it also provides them with some pleasant surprises in terms of value, and unusual compositional devices. 

Drawings by Jabez Malmude
The Figure Observed.  The Figure Imagined.
Make two figure drawings.  In your first you will work directly from life, and your subject will be
rendered with accuracy.  In your second drawing, you will work entirely from your head, and this drawing will focus on inventiveness.

Source Artists for the figure observed: Kent Bellows, Sidney Goodman, the Wyeths, Philip Pearlstein.

Source Artists for the figure imagined: Kurt Kemp, Jim Nutt, Alice Neel, Dubuffet.

Instructor Notes: I got sick to death of students taking half-measures when it comes to the figure.  Too often they would attempt to make a credible person without putting in the work it takes to pull it off.  Or conversely, they would be tentative in their efforts to draw imaginary figures. We discussed the continuum of figure drawing: There is DaVinci-like realism on one end and Keith Haring stick figures on the other, and a heck of a lot of ground in between.  Students should take stock of where they wish to land on that scale, and take proper measures to see that they eventually get there.

Water Studies. 
Start by making three or four studies that examine the way that other artists interpret water.  Take special note of how the artist depicts water.  Does the artist try to capture the contours of the water's surface?  Is the artist interested in the abstract patterns and rhythms of water?  Does the artist try to capture the raw power and structural motion of an oncoming wave?  Spend about an hour on each study. 

On a larger scale make a final drawing of water as interpreted by you.  Work from actual water.  As a source you can use a stream, the ocean, a pond, a bathtub, a sprinkler, a sink, water in a glass, etc. 

Source artists: Neil Welliver, Van Gogh, Winslow Homer, the French Impressionists, Egyptian murals, David Hockney, Corot, April Gornik, Joseph Raphael, David Bates, Jennifer Bartlett, Sarah Knock, Janet Fish, and many more. 

Instructor notes: Trees and water seem to come up often in the classroom, usually in the form of, "How do I draw trees/water?"  Too often the student is looking for a Cliff Notes explanation.  While hints can be instructive, the student artist must learn to confront these subjects head on.  They will learn, at first perhaps by taking cues from other artists, but ultimately by direct contact with the subject. 

Drawing by Aileen Andrews
Volume Verses the Flat Surface. 
Consider the paintings of Gustav Klimt.  He was frequently grappling with two conflicting notions.  The first being the idea that a picture creates an illusion of depth and volume.  And the second, the idea that a picture plane is ultimately a flat, un-volumetric surface.  Klimt simultaneoulsy gave a nod to both ideas in his work. 

In this drawing we explore the relationship and tension that exists between the flat picture plane and the illusion of volume.  The drawing should have passages that are treated with the usual devices to create volume and space, and it should have passages that are bereft of volume.  Be overt.  To the viewer what you are trying to achieve should be obvious.  It is not necessary for the drawing to make sense or tell a cohesive story (though it can if you wish). 

Remember that the passages that are to look volumetric should not be outlined, as that tends to flatten things out. 

Source artists: Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, M.C. Escher, advertising, graphic novels, Barbara Kruger

Scale Exploration 17" x 17"
Scale Exploration. 
You will need to be extremely inventive in the way you approach this drawing since scale is a challenging concept with many possible permutations.  Scale refers not only to the size of the drawing, but also the way in which the subject is treated in relation to the size.  For example, the impact of an eight by four foot drawing of a chair where the chair fills the entire drawing is different from the impact where the chair occupies only a small part of the drawing.  Scale is also affected by the number of distinct objects in a piece.  A drawing of 100 chairs on an eleven by fourteen inch paper has an impact completely different from a single chair drawn- whatever the size. 

Consider the following and their relevance to your drawing: How is the scale affecting the impact of the work?  How is the scale affecting your ability to make the kinds of marks/strokes that you are most comfortable with?  What are your intentions in the work?  Does the drawing have unintended impact? 

Source artists: Janet Fish, Jim Dine, Donald Sultan, James Rosenquist, Ellsworth Kelly, Claes Oldenburg

Instructor notes: Kentucky painter, Martin Beck shared this assignment with me.  I've been impressed with the level of sophistication that scale explorations bring to student drawings. 

Comics-Based Narrative. 
Make a drawing that incorporates the devices used in comics.  As a medium, comics utilize a lot of specific strategies to move the story or narrative along: Multiple panels, text, changing points of view, etc.  Your drawing can tell a brief story, or it can simply be a collection of images with a variety of attitudes.  

Source artists: Jerome Witkin, Chinese scrolls, comics of all types, advertising, Barbara Kruger

The Self Re-Imagined by Dean McCrillis
The Self Re-Imagined. 
This is a self-portrait, but not in the traditional sense.  Draw yourself as someone who you are definitely not.  The subject will have your features, but an utterly different life.  Make yourself wickedly obese, or terribly emaciated.  Remake yourself as an old person (sorry, you can't make yourself younger- that would be cheating because you already have a record of that).  Maybe you can forge a completely different existence: draw yourself as a Minotaur, a homeless person, a gangsta, or a medieval knight.  Try to make a picture that goes beyond merely attaching your face to another body.  Examine the meaning of your other persona, and the emotional impact it would have on the self. 

Source artists: Cindy Sherman, Sam Taylor-Wood

Instructor notes: The self-portrait has a valid and storied history in drawing.  Too often students see it as stodgy and purely academic.  This assignment allows students to both have fun with a tried and true concept and hopefully to delve into a deeper understanding of the self.  In my experience students have really had a blast with this assignment, and the results have been terrific.

Aiming For Ugly.  Make a drawing that is intentionally ugly.  As you plan this picture, think about the theme as well as the formal components of the drawing.  It might be appropriate to merge abhorrent subject matter with gritty, unappealing marks (think Leon Golub’s mercenary soldiers).  Or maybe your
impact would be greater if you were to combine pleasing imagery (a Victorian garden party) with greasy, splotchy, unattractive marks.  It can be very liberating to let go of the notion that a picture needs to be a pretty thing.  

Source artists: Jean Dubuffet, Sue Coe, Leon Golub, Richard Diebenkorn drawings, Ivan Albright, Susan

Instructor notes: This type of exercise can lead to a lot of fantastic discussion, namely in the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” vein.  A lot of students find, after the fact, that marks that are initially intended to be ugly are actually incredibly powerful and charismatic. 

Two Figures by Brianna Dostie
Two Figures.
In this drawing you will make two figures, partial or full.  Only two, no more and no less.  We are interested in the relationship between the two figures, whether physical, psychological, or psychic.  How are they communicating, or failing to communicate?  Which figure is dominant?  Are they related or strangers?  Is there a narrative to the picture?  Think about placement and size as ways to determine the status of each person.  Think about the message you wish to communicate and how line, marks and stylistic quirks will affect the it. 

Source artists: Martin Beck, Odd Nerdrum, Isabel Bishop, Edward Hopper, Francesco Clemente

Instructor notes:  All too frequently student figure drawings look like pictures of bored models sitting in the studio, because that is precisely what they are!  This assignment gives the student a chance to think about all of the nuances that shift a figure drawing from an academic exercise to a vehicle for distinct and personal expression.

Memory Triptych.
Tell a story using 3 drawings.  Each drawing can either stand on its own or work together with the two other drawings.  In the end they must be related in some way so that they work together to tell a story. Your story is going to be a memory from your past.  It could be intense, calming, horrible, happy…etc. Your objective is to communicate this memory through your triptych without being LITERAL!

Drawing 1: Object (Black and White)
Pick an object that you think of that sparks your memory. Draw this object from life.  

Drawing 2: Place (Black and White)
Where did this memory take place?  It could be outside or inside.  Try not to be too literal with this drawing (for example, don’t draw an entire grocery store, just the actual spot in the store where the memory took place).  Memories are not always clear and your drawing might reflect this.  This drawing can be realistic, or very abstract.

Drawing 3: Emotion (Open)
What kind of emotion does the memory evoke?  This drawing will be non-objective. You need to express your emotion through texture, color, shape, value, etc.  Do not use subject matter.

Source artists: Gerhard Richter, Faith Ringgold, Marc Chagall

Instructor notes: Thanks to Liza Brenner at Glenville State College for submitting this assignment.  I'm eager to try it in one of my classes.

An Impossible Monument.
Buckminster Fuller once estimated (as the legend goes) that he could build a geodesic dome that would cover all of Manhattan.  Practicalities aside, you have to admire his gumption.  In this drawing you will create a plan for a public monument/sculpture that would be impossible to build.  Let your imagination run wild and create something that could not possibly be constructed because: A.  It is too large to ever be practical, or B.  It defies the laws of physics.  You can approach the drawing as an architectural rendering, an illustrative rendering, or a series of sketches designed to give the viewer a concept or intellectual notion of the monument.  Be bold.  Be audacious.  Don't let pesky gravity or budgetary constraints get in your way. 

Source artists: Nancy Holt, Claes Oldenburg, Vladimir Tatlin, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Robert Smithson, Alice Aycock

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