Drawing as a Way of Knowing - Honors 195F

HCOL 195 J 92462, 04:00 PM - 07:00 PM, Tuesdays, ANGELL B203

Professor Michael Strauss
A-330 Cook
Ph: 656 0274 (work)
Ph: 865 2329 (home)
email: Michael.Strauss@uvm.edu
web:  http://www.uvm.edu/~mstrauss

“There’s something that’s very intense about the experience of sitting down and having to look at something in the way that you do in order to make a drawing or a painting of it.  By the time you’ve done that, you feel that you’ve really understood what you were looking at.... and somehow it becomes a method of possessing the experience in a unique way.“ - Robert Bechtle -     

       Drawing is visual reasoning--it involves decisions about mark making, evaluating and reevaluating these marks, and ultimately, taking action to create in a particular way. The images made on paper during drawing form a partial record of  thinking.

       Preliminary sketches - early ideas - are easily done with a pencil on paper.  In this way, they are easily revised and redone. This is one of the quickest and most direct means of creating visual representations of ideas. Free hand drawing and redrawing allow multiple interpretations and reinterpretations, and thus a constant production of alternatives. The process may be exploratory, expressive, or inspir-ational. It can scrutinize, map, record, exemplify, explain, symbolize or objectify.  It is a way of discovering and ultimately, a powerful and important way of knowing.   

       Drawing is a discipline in it's own right, but it is also foundational for all the visual arts and sciences.  It is seen by some as the art form closest to pure thought.  At its best it is very precise in its meaning,  and yet it is infinitely discursive.  It is one of the most ancient human traditions, but is in a state of continual renewal in both technique and content, from ancient cave drawings of animals to images of molecular structures .

        In this course you will be creating images in the process of learning how to draw, and you will be writing about this process and recording in language what you have experienced.   You will learn to draw better, and come to understand drawing as a way of knowing about a subject.  You will also be interviewing and writing about the lives and work of selected Vermont artists.

       Concurrent with this artistic work you may be reading and discussing a few essays from some of the following texts:  Arnheim ("Visual Thinking"), Tufte ("Visual Explanations"), Stevens ("Patterns in Nature"),  Hoffman (“Visual Intelligence”),  Livingstone (“Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing”) and Solso (“Cognition and the Visual Arts”).

       Our collective work will culminate in a class book of student essays elaborating the lives and work of selected Vermont artists.   The course will require substantial effort, but will be an enjoyable exploration of your creative abilities and willingness to do original, scholarly work.  

       Compiling and editing roles for publication of our class book may be assigned to students who may have significant authority in designing and production.  Students will be responsible for collecting all the final manuscripts so assembly of the book will allow delivery of a copy to everyone by the last week of class.  This will allow us to discuss, review and peruse it as a global work of the group.  Xerox ready final copies of a manuscript draft (There will be at least three drafts of your paper) will be peer reviewed and eventually reviewed by me. Final drafts should be handed in to me for grading and review prior to book assembly. This means NO ERRORS OR OMISSIONS. Final copies of artwork/images to accompany essays will also be submitted for review prior to assembly.   Some may choose to incorporate images into the essays rather than have separate sections for each.  The whole class may review these, or set up an editorial board to review them in case last minute changes must be made. I will be involved in this process as well.

       Your final manuscripts (only) should be about five pages in length (of text), single spaced, with margins the same as in this syllabus. An additional five pages should be devoted to art/images.  The latter may be inserted into the text if you wish.  All drafts prior to the final manuscript should be double spaced. The font should be Times No. 14,  justified on the left (as in this syllabus) with centered titles. Artistic renderings/photographs should be standardized as requested by the editors. References should be in parenthesis and on line like this: (1), and listed numerically at the end of the paper without parentheses under the title "References." A standard format will be discussed during class time so the book is uniform in appearance.

       Editors may order the essays according to some particular sequence. This will depend on the artists students write about. They will also write an Introduction which should place the class book in context, explaining its development and describing the contents. This will be a minimum of two pages.   Editors will also assemble a Table of Contents. They may also wish to ask the instructor to write a brief Afterward or a Preface which will describe the class, the objectives, or other relevant material. They will also collect student-writer biographies (fifty words) for inclusion at the beginning of the book to go along with the class picture.

       Editors will also commission students from the class to come up with a title design suitable for the cover. The latter can be in color and will be under a hard plastic transparent sheet which will cover both the front and back of the book. I will help with production details here.    Though the cover of our book can be in color, the inside will be reproduced in black and white (i.e. gray scale), so color images will NOT reproduce well.   In addition, blended values of gray may “posterize” in the copying process.   Please check out our class book from the previous semester (I will make this available) so you can see what works well and what does not!!

       The above description of the class book is an approximation only.   Changes in format as well as the process of creation may occur as the semester proceeds, as time, method and content dictate.  

       Each student will, prior to book assembly, give a formal class presentation of their project work which elaborates the text of their paper and the visual images in the art they are discussing.  The latter may be presented via overhead projection, slides, computer projection via the ELMO, powerpoint,  or in other appropriate ways.;

Grades (approximate distribution):

    * QUIZZES on readings                                                               10%
    * ATTENDANCE and knowledgeable participation in class:      10%
    * JOURNAL ENTRIES                                                               10%
    * ORAL PRESENTATION                                                         10%
    * PAPER AND PROJECT IMAGES                                           30%
    * BOOK ASSEMBLY/ PARTICIPATION                                 10%

       Class attendance is absolutely critical and will be a significant part of your grade. We meet only once per week (only 14 times during the semester), and missing class is detrimental to the whole group because we will be working together on many aspects of the course. It is also detrimental to the individual student.  Missing one class is equivalent to missing a full week of the course.   Missing two classes is equivalent to missing a half month of the course.   Missing more than two classes (with an approved excuse) will result in a grade of incomplete.   Without an excuse you will fail the course.   

Materials you must purchase for this course are listed bleow. There may be an additional $20 worth of materials needed in addition to these.

Text: Bert Dodson’s “Keys to Drawing”   (Dodson has tentatively agreed to visit with the class and discuss his new book, “Drawing and the Imagination”.)

8  x 11” journal for small sketches, notes, journal entries, free writes,  and homework.   Get one that has large rings and opens flat for easy xeroxing.   It may contain lined paper if you prefer it.

16  x 20” sketchbook for drawings (Your portfolio book.)   If you can, get one that has large rings and opens flat.  It should be good quality drawing paper which will take both pencil, charcoal and ink.

TWO 18 x 24” tablets of newsprint (very inexpensive)

Three ring binder for handouts and articles provided in class.

Drawing materials:
pencil set (I will show you the specific kind of set in class)
kneaded erasers (gray)
ink pens with water soluble black ink  (Tombo pens sold at Bouteliers downtown)
charcoal sticks (vine and square).  Get “soft” and “medium”, not “hard”
charcoal blenders
box of tissues
masking tape, scotch tape
drawing board, ca. 18 x 25” with clips
portable pencil sharpeners (get the kind that collect the shavings)
a carry portfolio large enough to hold your 18 x 24” paper tablets, as well as your other materials.  (You can make one out of cardboard and duct tape if you wish.)

Main Activities, Projects and Goals for each student (i.e., items you will be working on each week):


Readings from text and handouts

Class Book Preparation

Your Individual Project (paper [multiple drafts of]  and images)

Your Journal (free writes, homework, reflections on readings, sketches, etc.)

Your Portfolio Sketchbook (in class and homework drawing exercises)

Your Class Presentation (towards the end of the course)

You should plan on a minimum of about 9 hours of work outside of class per week to get the most out of this class.

Some topics we may be discussing and working on in class (not necessarily in the order listed):

Visualization in Education
Drawing to Learn
Materials used in drawing
Learning to see
Learning about graphite
Learning about charcoal
Learning about inks
Perspective, an Introduction (one point and two point)
Mechanical Aids to Perception
Vertical and horizontal alignments
What you “know” and what you see
Movement of the eye and the hand.
Eye-hand coordination
The contour line
The variety of line
Lost and found edges
Defining form with light
Perspective, part II.  picture plane, ground line, horizon line, vanishing point, 3-point Aerial perspective
Figure drawing


We meet only 14 times during the semester and because of this our time will be very carefully structured.  Keep in mind the following events to keep up with our schedule.  Don’t fall behind.  It is hard to catch up if you do.  Also be aware that you will be doing a significant amount of work outside the classroom in assembling and preparing our class book.

Events in sequence:  (dates will be provided in class.)

    Hand in list of your artists choices and descriptive narrative and image plans.

    Discuss proposed project with instructor.
    Hand in xerox copies of 10 best journal entries.
    Hand in first draft of project paper and images.

    Hand in 2nd draft of project paper and images
    Sign up for a presentation date.

     Hand in xerox copies of 10 best drawings from your portfolio.
     Bring draft 3 of your project paper/images for in-class peer review.

     Hand in Final Draft of project paper/images to instructor.
     Presentations begin.

     In the following week complete your final draft of your project
        paper and images for inclusion in the class book.  Collaborative
        work with colleagues will begin as the final proof of the book will be prepared and assembled.  

      Hand in your drawing portfolio for review, along with 5 more
        of your best journal entries (your choice.)

      Book is assembled and given to instructor for production of

      Copies of book are handed out.  Read through the text and
        art and write a review of both the book and the class
        experience in your journal.  Xerox this to hand in at the last class.

      Final presentations, Discussion and review of the semester.   

    Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions (656 0274); email: Michael.Strauss@uvm.edu.  My office is 330 Cook Physical Science building and I will announce office hours later. Also, please feel to call me or stop by any time. If I am not busy I will be happy to see you.  I will announce office hours shortly.  You may also call me at home any time(8652329) prior to 8 p.m. in the evening.