as individual as you are

Members: LOG IN

Manuel Laranjo Art Blog

Taking a College Drawing Course

by juniororange , October 4, 2009—12:00 AM

Topics: Art Instructor, College Class, Drawing

Not too long ago, it might have been 2005, I had decided to enroll in a drawing class at the local community college. I wanted to see if there were a few tips and tricks I could learn because I know there must be tons of things I can do to make my drawings better. I also had the idea that maybe I could go for a Bachelor's Degree in art.

I had never been to college, a regret I'll always have as I look back on how much of a foolish kid I was after leaving high school, so this was pretty exciting for me.

So, after meeting with a counselor and getting all the testing dates set, I took all the prerequisite exams to determine what other classes I'd need to go for the degree, not to mention what advancement in other classes I'd have to take.

So the day came where I first walked into the class and had my first experience as a college student. I felt a little funny and out of place as I looked at all the younger students, some of them fresh out of high school, within the classroom. Here I was, this 36 year-old, surrounded by an average of 19 to 25 year-olds and I just felt like they were all looking at this old man invading their territory. But it was a very short first day because nobody had been ready since we all didn't know what would be needed. So the instructor passed out the syllabuses which had included all the material we would need to take part in class.

So, the next day of class, I was ready. I had the two different sizes of sketchbooks, the mechanical ink pens, erasers, charcoal pencils, graphite pencils, a straight edge and a bag to carry it all in. I was ready.

Now, the instructor explained that he was a watercolor painter and enjoyed going to certain landscapes around the area. He seemed like a really nice guy and I took a liking to him right away. But the thing was, he didn't seem equipped enough to be an instructor. He did, however, explain that the school didn't have the budget to let him buy certain textbooks to have assignments to choose from, nor was he able to get any films for us to watch. Basically, I walked in that second day to see the instructor take off his jacket and hang it on a coatrack in the middle of the classroom. He told us all to draw it and we all proceeded to do so.

As the days went on, being two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), that's how the class went. He'd place an object in the middle of the class (one time it was a lantern as you'll see my drawing for that assignment) and just tell the students to go to it.

Now, I'm not the best artist in the world, but I didn't have problems doing the work. However, I had looked around the classroom and noticed there were a lot of students struggling. The class was entitled "Basic Drawing" and many of the students had never picked up a pencil before. What they needed was some guidance and technique, not this "sink or swim" method.

As time went on, the instructor made an example of me by spotlighting me in front of the class. Although he heard the constant questions of how to do this and how to do that, I don't think he really had experience with teaching art as a subject. Instead of sitting with some of these students one-on-one, he picked up a drawing I had been working on one day, displayed it to the class and exclaimed to all of them, "See? This is how you should do it."

I was very embarrassed and turned beet-red right away because, as I'd said, I felt out of place and putting me on the spot like that was the last thing I'd wanted.

But instead of receiving any ridicule from anybody, many of the students came up to me as I was drawing and would ask for advice. I was more than happy to help and gave whatever advice I had learned and found along the way. Many of them would constantly complain about how they felt they weren't getting any help from the instructor and I agreed. I wanted help myself and really didn't get much. I completed that class with the same knowledge of drawing that I had going in.

It was a fun experience and I wish I would have the time to continue and take the advanced class someday. Hopefully, the Advanced Drawing instructor will have some better techniques at teaching and maybe I can learn something new.




  Manuel Laranjo ( homepage )

10/05/2009 * 21:15:39

Don't get me wrong, the instructor really tried and brought in pictures from books and managed to get his hands on a very informative video with horizon/worm's-eye-view/bird's-eye-view techniques. But, yes, unfortunately, he wasn't able to communicate, that well, on what he wanted from us.

However, there were some very talented artists in the class and the school wanted a lot of them in the college's e-magazine called Kaleidoscope .

Thanks for your comment, it's nice to know someone's reading.

Take care.


  June Maffin ( homepage )

10/04/2009 * 12:06:24

Hopefully there was an evaluation form for the course where each participant could give feedback to the instructor and college.

One of the things I find to be frustrating at the various locations where I teach is that they do not offer evaluation forms for participants to complete. So, I bring my own. I want to know what works/what doesn't work. Constructive criticism helps me be a better instructor.

As for not having a budget to buy books etc - hogwash. There is tons of stuff available on the Internet to which he could have at least referred students. And, he could have provided a bibliography. He's a watercolourist which is great but that doesn't mean he's someone who can teach people how to draw.

The "sink or swim" method of teaching can work for some people of course - for one class; but not for all students in all classes. An instructor needs to be sensitive to the fact that students have different learning styles and s/he must provide opportunities for students to experience their learning style at least once in a series of workshops.

Apologies for sounding so critical of your instructor but it frustrates me to know there are people who are gifted artists who think that because they can paint/draw/collage/pot/sculpt/weave/calligraph etc., they can teach their artistic technique and offer classes/workshops when they do not have the skills or experience or training to teach.

Teaching is an art - and, like all art, it takes practice, training and experience ... and feedback so that they can continue to improve their own skill as an artist and as a teacher.

One final thing - a good teacher is a good communicator ... which involves both talking and listening --- not just listening to the words that students speak but to the unspoken words that students portray in their body language, silence, gestures, etc.

Hopefully the Advanced Drawing class isn't being taught by the same individual! But, something tells me that you'll have fun in the class, no matter what. ;-) Namaste. June

What Do You Think? Leave a comment!

Code Check

Verification — Please type in the code you see in the image above. This helps us defeat automated programs that try to post "comment spam" (unwanted advertisements).