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Studio Art: Drawing Course Perspective

by Jerry Stefl
Retired Teacher
Orland Park, Illinois

Please note: The official College Board® Course Description is available below in "More."

The Drawing Portfolio has always been interesting to teach. All students want to be able to draw in a mimetic fashion. This is the beginning of any aesthetic understanding. If it looks like a pear, it is really good art! It takes time to have students move from drawing exercises to thinking about various issues they would like to pursue in the form of a concentration in drawing.

When a student first understands the beginning skills of drawing, it is magic. They feel confident and secure in the newfound skill and knowledge. It is fun to explore the various types of line qualities, mark making, and variations of value. I like to give students confidence in drawing simple objects to begin with. A few cones, cylinders, or spheres mixed with a rectangle, cube, and thick plane works well for beginning students in drawing. When a few lights are used to cast shadows in various colors with gels, the simple still life becomes another world of exploration. Starting with charcoal and moving on to color is a major leap of understanding and satisfaction for both teacher and student.

When they begin to move beyond the basic skills, students are happy to draw the still life in various media. One thing I have learned is to keep away from very complex still life arrangements unless the students know they only need to draw a very small part of the composition. Use the still life for developing skills in many media. The time spent on particular skills may range from 20 minutes to 2 weeks, but it's important to keep it varied for student and teacher interest.

After a few still life experiences, the figure emerges. Try keeping the first few days of figure drawing very simple. Most students are rather timid to draw the model. I usually start with the basics regarding the face and the students draw one another for short periods. The only concern during this time is with the proportions of the face. Then it is time for the proportions of the body!

Most students have not had the opportunity to draw the figure from life, and we all have an entire classroom of models, so why not use them? In secondary schools, we can't use models undraped. I like to ask students to take on a role or costume for the time they are posing.

Once students have had the opportunity to draw still objects and live objects, they develop a very keen understanding of the multiple levels of drawing. Now is the time to interest them in pursuing a drawing portfolio. The internalization of developing an idea into a full-fledged concentration of work is at first terrifying and soon moves into excitement.

We, as teachers, wait for this moment. Nothing is more exciting then to see a student get involved with their personal work. This is what the AP Studio Art Portfolio in Drawing is all about.

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