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For my drawing and 2D classes the very first day, I give them the H.A.T
(Horse Awareness Test), an adaptation of my former prof Warren Anderson's
S.A.T. (Saguaro Awareness Test). It really drives home the need to
observe and draw what is there, not what you think is there (our left
brain's symbols). I explain the difference between conception and
perception, then have them draw a horse--which are very common here--from
memory. Then I show them a transparency of a good photo (NOT another
artist's drawing or painting) and teach them about contours and
proportions, using their pencils as tools for measuring (like "real"
artists). Then they draw the horse again, this time studying the photo
and measuring the proportions. Throughout the semester, I really stress
direct observation when drawing, or at least working from a photo.
For the 3D classes, we do wire sculptures in one period (about one hour
out of the 85 minute class). They must have mass and be self-standing.
They come out great.
These are both good ice-breaking assignments.
The first ceramics assignment is an effigy vessel, an idea I copped from
Helen Hume's book Art History and Appreciation (Kit? Projects? can't
remember whole title). For sculpture we do masks first, based on
personal themes and symbols; we don't try to replicate "African" masks.
If you would post some of your ideas about your goals, curricula, and
strengths, we may be able to help you better.