As they come in I tell them they can sit anywhere they want. I am
usually all in sixes and sevens anyway, because even after 25 years, I
am still excited my first day of school. Usually I am in the middle of
shuffling schedules, student lists, unpacking supplies, getting/giving
hugs to returning students, saying hi to returning teachers. So the
kids see me as I am right away.
I gather myself and tell them that this is an artist's studio, and they
will learn to make art. I tell them that the difference between a
monkey with a paintbrush and a person with a paintbrush is that humans
have the ability to make aesthetic decisions, and that is essentially
what they will be learning. I tell them that they would have to work
hard to FLUNK the class, because in the class we are always working,
critiquing, thinking and doing. Then I lay down the law. 1. Don't make
a fool of yourself in front of the door. 2. Don't touch anyone unless
you are invited. 3. Everything you do in this class must be signed
(because it will be displayed somewhere, either in the room, or out in
the hall, and you are PROUD.
Then I tell them, that I rarely talk, so if I do, it must be important,
and would they please look at me like they adore me. And guess what?
First day lecture over. And we go to work.
I launch right into a project that will tell me about them, and tell
them about how the class will operate.
(I open the doors to my cabinets, I never hand out supplies, this is
highschool, and they have to learn how to get the stuff, return the
stuff, and take care of the stuff--)
I tell them that they have to take off one shoe and put it in front of
them. They are to 'reproduce' the shoe in a 2D formatt, using the
following materials only--construction paper, scissors, glue, pencil.
No other instruction. They look at me like I am a mad woman. I tell
them there is no right or wrong answer. This puts everyone, from those
who can draw to those who think they can't draw in the same vulnerable
position, shoeless, and clueless. You should see the looks on their
faces as they hop over to the various cabinets to retrieve the stuff.
It breaks the ice. Once they complete the assignment, we hang them up,
and I teach them how to critique, and what I mean by 'aesthetics'.
(Usually critiquing happens day 2). From this assignment I have a
baseline on the following:
drawing ability (studied, natural, forced, stylized, etc)
risk taking (safe, adventuresome, etc)
And they all think I'm crazed, and it's always good to keep your
audience off base!!
What do you think their first sketch book assignment is? Draw a pair of