Life Drawing Syllabus


LIFE DRAWING – DPP 3000 CRN: 15630

Mia Merlin, Instructor

Georgia State University

Spring 2011

Prerequisites, AFND 1010 & 1020

Goals: First, to give students a set of specific tools to tackle the various challenges of figure drawing.Second, to encourage students to feel comfortable trying on process based graphic ideas that encourage a prolonged investigation of the subject. The final goal is to develop an appreciation for the history of figure drawing and its conventions. My hope is that each person leaves this class with a new way of seeing, analyzing, and interpreting the figure, and the ability to express themselves more fully. The aim is to create choices for expression that weren’t there before.

Methods: This course relies very heavily upon repetition and discipline. Just like an athlete or a musician, an artist needs to practice in order to develop skills and to create habits. It is important for us not to be discouraged by the difficulty of the task at hand and to appreciate small accomplishments along the way. Being in class and on time is essential to growth and to experiencing the unique fulfillment that comes from having learned to do something difficult.

Objectives: Through demonstrations and class critiques each student will increase her ability to engage in a lengthy process of investigation while drawing. She will develop an appreciation and ability to demonstrate how various approaches to the figure complement one another. She will increase her ability to convey form, space, gravity and wholeness using the conventions of drawing. And finally she will to develop greater respect and understanding for the history of figure drawing and painting.

Attendance: Attendance at every class is mandatory and is taken at the beginning of
each class. If you are enrolled in a class and do not attend the first and second class meetings, you will be asked to drop the class. Classes begin at stated times and lateness is unacceptable.  Leaving early or arriving late is counted as a half absence. If you come to class late,
it is your responsibility to notify me after class that you were late, not absent, and to request a change in the attendance record from absent to late. If you fail to do this, be aware that your attendance record remains as an absence. Your final grade will be reduced by one letter
grade for each and every absence after the third absence. There are no “excused” absences. It would be wise to save your 3 allowable absences in anticipation of emergencies.  It is your responsibility to inform me in advance of a class that you know you must miss. You will be
held responsible for the material covered in the missed class and must consult with your fellow students to receive all instruction and information covered in the class. 

Homework: Assignment may include drawings of hands, portraits, and drawings of the figure from masterworks. You will also turn in class work to be graded along with the homework. Some homework is pass/fail, however, it is not optional and failure to complete homework will lower your final grade.

Oral Presentation: About half way through the semester each student will sign up for a date to do an oral presentation about a contemporary figurative artist who I will help you select. There will be a handout at the time covering the specific requirements of the assignment.

Grading: Grades will first be determined based on the students’ ability to apply the principles presented during the semester, and to gain strength and expertise through their use. Everybody learns at different paces, so the overall level of accomplishment as of the end of the semester will be the basis of the final letter grade. Grades will be given during the semester, but they will serve only as indications of progress–they will not be averaged into the final grade. Failure to turn in homework will result in a lowered final grade. Each day an assignment is turned in late will result in a lower grade on that assignment. Attitude, willingness, attendance and growth will all be considered in the final grading as well.

Optional Text: Figure Drawing: The Structure, Anatomy, and Expressive Design of Human Form. 5th ed. by Nathan Goldstein.

Materials and Tools: Drawing board, a couple of different brands of hard charcoal pencils, erasers (pink pearl, magic rub, gum) 2 pads white drawing paper 18″x24″ (100 sheets at least), Exacto knife for sharpening. No newsprint paper! During the final three weeks of class and for the homework assignments we may use some watercolor medium and some better quality paper such as Murillo or Arches BFK, but you don’t need to get those now.

Concepts to be covered:

The following concepts represent two distinct ways of thinking. Gesture and cross contour drawing tend toward the kinesthetic and intuitive modes, while the other concepts are more analytical. We will work toward understanding the differences between the two categories, and ultimately toward their syntheses and integration.

Staging: Effective placement of the figure within the page–a simple form of composition.

Points and Areas of Support: Those areas which bear the weight of the figure and give rise to gesture.

Axes of Support: Directions which occur at the areas of support which define the movement of the form in space, and the position from which that movement is perceived.

Gesture: (primary and secondary): A line or series of lines that describe an intangible movement through the form, which serves to provide continuity and cohesion to tangible elements.

Cross contour: Line as the expression of the path of one’s vision across and around the edge of the form.

The Baroque “S” Curve: Moving gesture across the form and through space.

Proportion: Size relationships in the context of a particular point of view.

The Underlying Bisymmetrical Forms: The configurations of the pelvis, rib cage and skull.

Contra-Posto: The tendency of the underlying bisymmetrical forms to articulate in counterbalance to each other.

Cross-Sectional drawing: Location of articulated volume on space.

Crestal Forms: Changes in architectural function, understood as an outgrowth of cross contour.

Reading the Peripheral Shape and Axis for Volume: The coincidence of change of shape and change of volume.

Negative Shape: The use of enclosed or partially enclosed negative shapes to revise and refine perceptions of form.

Negative Space: Enclosed or partially enclosed space, defined graphically as volume.

The Implied Plane: The intangible but functional plane which can result from the proximity and sense of connection between two forms

***Departure from this syllabus may be necessary***