The students in any ARTS 231 Fundamentals of Drawing class typically fall into three categories: about a fourth of them have had some drawing experience and/or training, about a third have done cartooning or tagging, and the rest have had no drawing experience since kindergarten. When TA Sandi Barrett’s spring ’08 class said they wanted to learn to draw faces, she wanted them to understand — to see — that drawing a human face was similar to drawing a still life: it’s first and foremost about planes and curves, angles and proportions, shadows and highlights. She borrowed a group project idea from fellow TA Ralph Irby to get them started.
Cutting a photo of a child’s face into twelve pieces, she gave one segment each to students Justin Allen, Mark Altamero, Jenny Glass, Sarah Horgan, Wendy Johnson, Max Jones, Ronae Jones, Joe Lindsey, Anna Nguyen, Allen Pinos, Sarah Plaza, and Catherine Schuster. Spreading their charcoal paper out in the middle of the classroom floor, they cooperated in sketching the photo as if it were a standard grid enlargement. Then each worked on their individual value study from their tiny piece of the photograph (the original photo was on an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, each individual section of the drawing filled a full sheet of charcoal paper).
When they assembled the full size “puzzle,” the students found that the resulting drawing not only illustrated how values that made little sense by themselves could be joined into a coherent image, it also showed how small differences in the placement of a line or shadow can drastically change the final expression.