by Abbie Cairns
Teaching drawing can be daunting, mostly due to our preconceived ideas of what drawing is. My course, ‘Exploring Drawing and Illustration’ has a strong emphasis on the ‘exploring’ part of the title.
Within the sessions learners explore drawing techniques. There is a focus on ensuring that learners understand the techniques, and the processes attached to them. Time is also taken to explore artists, analysing and applying their practices to the learners’ own work and exploring materials to create new, original works (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001). I believe that it is only through this tri-exploration, which has parallels to Aristotle’s’ ideas around; theoria (thinking), poiesis (making), and praxis (doing) (Smith, 1999, 2011) that learners’ can engage in one unified process which allows them to develop their creative outcomes (Gadamer 1979).
Praxis takes place with the engagement in set drawing activities. Each designed to encourage learners start to explore drawing in new ways. By building on these techniques and using formative assessments, including peer and self-assessment, learners can master skills and develop their drawing (Bloom, 1971).
Quick fire line drawing; creating a drawing of a still life with different line drawing techniques within short time periods of 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes and 10 minutes.
Doodling; inspired by Chris Riddell’s ‘A Doodle A Day’ (Riddell, 2015), learners are asked to complete six doodles without a direct reference point; a house, a crowd of people, flowers, a dog, a cup cake and a fish on a bike.
Drawing without a pencil; using tape or sting to execute line drawings allows learners to become freer in their drawing – and can be particularly beneficial when working with continuous line, as the materiality lends itself to be continuous, unlike a pencil which is easily took off a page.
Grid drawing; allowing learners to concentrate on sections of imagery for 1:1 scale drawing and increased scale drawings.
Large scale group drawing; taking away the hones of being the sole artist of a piece of art.
The engagement in praxis allows the learners to develop a critical awareness of their own art practice, allowing for doing and reflection to take place at the same time. Letting learners to analyses their actions and make alterations in real-time. This results in progress being made. This has clear links to Kolb’s’ experiential learning cycle of; doing, reviewing, learning, planning (1984).
While there are benefits in each of Aristotle’s categories, there is definitely something to be said about just ‘doing’ as a means of research and reflection that I find particularly conductive of learning and that sit alongside pedagogical theories of learning, such as Dale’s Cone of Experience, which in similar terms suggests that doing real things is a far superior way of learning, than say just reading about the subject (Dale, 1969). Creative subjects lend themselves well to this type of learning as so much of the session is taken up with the practical activities which embed this naturally.
To conclude, while teaching drawing can be daunting by drawing on educational pedagogies and finding the value in different types of knowledge the structure to teach the skill begins to fall into place.
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