I always wanted to know about what my students already knew, and how "brave" they were going to be in the class. This exercise showed me both, and also was a gateway to students learning what I expected out of them, and offered them an opportunity to see what we were going to do in the class. Our beginning art class was only 1 semester, and encompassed students from a variety of art experiences. Some had not had art since elementary school, others had more than one art experience in junior high. Some chose the class, others were "volunteered" by their guidance counselors.
I simply say to the students the first day:
This is a class where you will learn how to draw and how to make art on a 2-D level (we have a beginning crafts class). This exercise is a way for me to know what you know, and what you are capable of doing. I want you to give it your best shot. In less than 1 minute we all will know who can draw by this exercise as we all have eyes, but there is more to art than just drawing, there is thinking. In this class you will certainly learn drawing techniques, but more importantly you will learn how to make asethetic decisions and to think ahead about what you can do before you actually do it.
I want you to take off your shoe and put it in front of you. (at this point they are taken off guard, and even the best and worst artist is now vulnerable). I am not going to tell you how to do this exercise, but remember give it your best shot. I need to know about you and your art making abilities. Listen carefully to the instructions because this is what you will be judged on. You will make a representation of that shoe using only the following materials and you must use them all at least ONCE:
5. Colored pencils
Any questions? They ask things like size. I repeat the instructions and ask them if size was mentioned. They ask about use of color, i.e. does it have to be the same as the shoe, and again I repeat the instructions and ask if it was mentioned.
That is all that I tell them. The supplies are out on a common table so that each kid has to hop on one foot to get there (that breaks the ice in the room, and they all start to giggle).
This usually takes two days.
On the third day, I take all of their finished work and post it on a bulletin board. Now usually I take the work of ANOTHER beginning class and post it and switch classes but if you only have one class you will have to do it with their own work. I take post its and put large numbers on the post its and cover the signatures with the post its. So the pieces will be numbered 1-22 (if that is how many kids are in the class.
We then discuss the work based on the numbers. So I ask open ended questions like: which one looks like the best shoe and why? Which one needs work in "seeing" and therefore once the artist learns how to see, will be a better show? Which one shows the shoe in a creative position and why? Which one used the materials in a creative way and why? Which one is the boldest and why? Which shoe is the shyest (sp?) and why? Notice I never say which one did you like and not like. This exercise shows me 2 things. 1. Can the individual kid "see" and have drawing skills and 2. Can the individual kids talk about making art.
I then look at the shoes and critique them as a whole. I talk about LINE, SHAPE, FORM, COLOR, COMPOSITION, MOVEMENT, HARMONY, etc. and tell the class that they will learn how to manipulate all of these things to make a better shoe "representation". I tell them that we will start with the basics which is use of line tomorrow.
And that's how I started my beginning drawing classes.