Northern Virginia Community College - Annandale Campus

Fall 2014 - Spring 2015-- Syllabus for Art 121 Drawing I

Instructor: Giulio Porta, Liberal Arts Division, NVCC, Annandale campus. Instructor's email Instructors office hours: MW 8 to 9 am and 12 to 1 PM, TTR 4 to 5 PM, more hours available by appointment. My office is located in the CM building, room 366. My phone # is 703-323 2135. Fax 703-323 4248.  If you need to see me in person, please call or email in advance for an appointment. Please don't expect follow up phone calls if you are unreachable, or your mailbox is always full. I prefer email contacts.

No prerequisites are required for enrolling in this course. Lecture 2 hours. Studio instruction 4 hours. Total 6 hours per week.  

 This course provides instruction concerning the theory and practice of drawing through a series of lectures and related projects lasting the duration of a 16, or 12 weeks semesters. Students will be required to work on specific assignments and resolve them satisfactorily according to the concepts presented in the lectures, which are introduced in writing in these pages. All this material is available to you 24 x 7 from ths www site, therefore there's no need to log on Blackboard, although this very same material is also available from that end.

The outcome:

The outcome of this course will be a portfolio, your portfolio. These few following lines represent what I would like to hear from you during the presentation of your work: "My portfolio includes drawings and illustrations intended to educate, entertain, and showcase my current level of artistic ability. These drawings don't just attempt to be works of art, they are also illustrations of concepts, techniques, and drawing methods commonly used by artists".

Let me explain this further:

  • Concepts are abstractions, broad generalizations that can yield very different practical results, drawing from life, emulating the masters, a drawing's line quality, are concepts. A personal style, the choice of a particular subject matter, are also a concepts. Because this a college level course, you are obligated to discuss and clarify these issues. Concepts are definitely more difficult to grasps and discuss than choices related to media, or personal preferences.
  • Techniques imply specific ways of doing things using a particular medium. Etching, cross etching, shading with a water soluble materials using a # 10 round brush, or using ball point pens, for example, are media related techniques. Successful techniques are based on a practical "know how" and very rarely border with broad generalizations, because they can be described in very specific terms when attached to a particular medium.
  • Drawing methods represent a very structured manner of drawing often based on scientific principals. Perspective drawing is a a good example of a drawing method. Perspective is structured by abstract geometric constructions usually simple in nature, and yet it also require a myriad of richly rendered examples for its complete understanding. Axonometric drawing is also a well established drawing method intended to compensate for the lack of objectivity that prospective may have.

Your entire semester's production will fall into all of these three categories. This is important to understand. An educated artist must take responsibility for the articulation of his/her visual experience, I hope that this will help you to do so.

The grading rationale is based on a number of considerations which are listed in this separate page, see  Grading
We'll begin with project # 1, that would make a lot of sense, but you should also read the introduction: Water color washes because this course places some emphasis upon shading with the brush. You should also take a look to my drawing animations. Each project's should be view and read as a chapter of a book on drawing.

New > Drawing from screen captures

Assignments and related tutorials:

Reading the tutorial listed here below from 1 to 20 is equivalent to reading a book, therefore there is no "other" book required for this course.  You need to relate to the drawings you'll be working on as they were illustrations for your book on drawing.

Each tutorial contains an introductory narrative explaining the concept that each project is based upon. Try to imitate the drawing that I am proposing and providing for each assignment. If you want to do well in this course, your personal production should go above and beyond the drawing I am providing. You can do that in several ways: by adding more details, by drawing from an original subject matter, by adding more water soluble surfaces with a brush for shading purposes, or by sketching more with the brush and less with the pencil, in other words by avoiding details, if your style leads you in that direction. If you are falling behind, avoid details, and concentrate in drawing clearly the structure of your subject matter. The concepts upon which each project is constructed will be the starting point and the motivation for what you are going to create.

The tutorials contain a large number of illustrations that I have created specifically for this course. If you think you can learn just by imitation, by all means, start drawing now. Imitation provides an excellent starting point from which you can develop an individual style. Imitation includes the concept of tracing. Tracing is also an excellent way of getting started, in particular if you never had much experience with drawing. Repetitive tracings executed at different speeds can build, in your memory, a library shapes and routines. It can also improve your brain-hand coordination.

  • Introduction:   Water color washes. Some of the drawings that you will produce during a semester must contain  surfaces shaded with a water soluble media. I highly recommend black or brown acrylic paint as the source of your water soluble material. Black ink must also be used in selected areas of you drawings, almost any type of pen will do, including ball point. Please no petroleum based markers. Drawing done with light pencil strokes will not do as they maybe too weak, don't ad up to much of anything, and they will not scan or photograph well. Working with ink and the bush will teach you confidence, something that pencil won't. At least half of your drawings should include some shading done with the brush and water soluble material such as acrylic.
  • Making correction to your drawing by Redrawing.

These assignments, listed here below, from 1 to 20, are intended to improve your understanding of the role and importance that images have in communicating an idea. You should envision each of the drawings you are going to do as a potential illustration for a book on drawing, where each project is a chapter of that book. Each assignment is backed up by my own original illustrations. Obviously I don't expect you to work in my style, but because of copy write issues I can't use other artists work in this syllabus.

  • Concepts regarding drawing
  • 1)  The quality of lines    The size, weight, variety, and length given to lines will contribute to what I refer to as line's "quality" or personality. A line's quality or personality defines its role by its appearance, and it is also a major contributor to your drawing's style, as well as its descriptive properties.
  • 2)  Creating references, real and imaginary lines    Imaginary lines are usually used as guidelines intended to help in resolving drawing issues such as alignment, symmetry, the drawing of compound shapes, and proportions.
  • 3)  Proportions   The control over your subject matter's proportions is an indication  of a particular type of talent. Improving your control over proportions can be achieved by measuring the real or virtual size of your subject matter.
  • 4)  Values or "tonal" values  are words describing what is commonly known as "shading". Control over tonal values can improve the illusion of volume in drawing objects that possess overt 3D qualities. Shading with lines will teach you more about line control then shading by smudging.
  • 5)  Etching, Cross Etching and stippling  are  specific techniques used in "shading". This project will address these technique, and how they can help you in developing an unique style.
  • 6)  Drawing from your direct environment  is a concept and an option whole heartedly adopted by many artists and educators, some artist will draw exclusively from what they see, rather than indulge in fabrications. Drawing effectively from your direct environment must involve some form of measuring of what you see, this approach can help you in building a memory for shapes and relationships of the objects you choose to draw.
  • 7)  Learning by imitation, emulating the Masters   Imitation and emulation are big components of the learning process. This project is not about copying a picture, but rather is about adopting a style, a style that can expand and improve your drawing routines.
  • Perspective Drawing  
  • 8)  Guidelines to perspective drawing  A drawing becomes an illustration when it serves a specific purpose, presents an idea that maybe difficult to presents in words. Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine chapel, where Michelangelo illustrated stories from the Bible. Michelangelo "illustrations" go above and beyond just being plain illustrations, they are works of art for reasons that I don't need to explain. This project entails the creation of an illustration which demonstrates objectively how what we see can be measured virtually. This illustration  has the potential of being a work of art if its components such as the side view of the viewer and the object the viewer is holding are well drawn.
  • 9)  One, two, and three points perspective  An illustration that combines in one drawing three different ways of coordinating the 3 dimensions, height, width and depth, in a perspective drawing.
  • 10)  The location of the horizon  A drawing emphasizing the option of using a low or high eye level in a perspective drawing.
  • 11)  The landscape from life (a 3 parts project, with each part focusing on one element of a landscape, namely terrain, water and vegetation)    
  • 12)  Two points perspective  (a 2 parts project dealing with the construction of a two points perspective drawing and its rendition)   
  • 13)  Modular grids  A drawing dealing with the creation of customized perspective grids.
  • 14)  Two points perspective constructed from a photo and a floor plan  This project relates to project # 8 with the exception that the perspective is constructed from a floor plan rather then a side view. This project should give you an understanding of how a perspective drawing can be created from 2D information.
  • 15)  Artificial Light    A drawing dealing with the effect of artificial light (a light bulb or a candle) on a subject matter such as a still life.
  • 16)  Day light shadows    A drawing dealing with the effects of daylight on an interior space.
  • Alternatives to Perspective Drawing. 
  • 17)  Orthogonal (a 2 parts project drawn partially on location). Orthogonal drawing is jet another drawing method that relies on a series of 2D drawings such as top, sides, and front view of a given subject matter.
  • 18)  Axonometric  Another drawing method based on the concept of objectivity and 3D  
  • 19)  Isometric (a 2 parts project drawn partially on location) Another important 3D objective drawing method related to Axonometric.  
  • The Drawing of the Human Figure  
  • 20)  The drawing of the human figure The human figure is one of the most complex subject matters that an artist can draw. Its complexity stems from the fact that the human body is capable of an enormous variety of unique poses and expressive gesture. Art 122 deals extensively with the drawing of the human figure. This project is intended only as on introduction to the drawing of the human figure. It's unrealistic to think that just by taking an art class, your artist ability will improve dramatically, in particular if you only draw in class. The commitment to learning how to draw well an effectively is in a sense is very similar to the same kind of commitment that an athlete has for a sport, listening to the coach is not enough, you got to train, and if you are not willing to do it don't expect improvements. There are a large number of exercises you can put yourself through, some are available to you in this page here > Figure drawing exercises: improving your speed in drawing the human figure.


Assessment (for the traditional classroom course)

The evaluation of your work will take place at the end of each class. You must initiate the process and show me that you understand its importance. If you leave the classroom without showing your work to me, you will receive a minus, 5 minuses can decrease your grade of one letter grade. I need to see your work in order to evaluate it, even if occasionally I may not have anything specific to say. I need to see it to build a memory of your production. During class, or at home, try to focus your thoughts about articulating the kind of visual experience, concepts, style, and techniques your work is about. You are in college now, you need to learn how to do that. As your production develops, I'll expect you to take some responsibility in its regards, talk about your work as "my work" don't refer to it as "classroom projects", "something we did", or I "made you do". If you do so you are shift the responsibility concerning what you have done from you to me. from that attitude I can only gather that you didn't understand the project, and I didn't do anything about it, that attitude can only connect to a long list a negatives that will not work in your favor.

"Oak Tree" by Giulio Porta, 2001, charcoal pencil and acrylic color washes on wrapping paper.


Using water soluble color pencils

For the time being I do not have a specific tutorial dealing with the use of water soluble color pencils. But here are some pointers.

What matters the most when applying color pencil to paper is the PRESSURE of the application and the spacing of the pencils stokes. Changes in pressure will result in a larger or smaller amount of material applied to the paper. Consequently when the material is wet  the result will be a stronger or weaker color depending on how mush material you have applied to the paper.

Water soluble materials, when wet,  will always look more intense, or darker, than when dry.

A wet brush is used to dissolve the pencil material, wet the surface selectively, pay attention to the direction of your brush strokes, and do not wet the whole drawing at once. You could begin by wetting the shadows area.

After wetting the shadows areas, stop for a while, do something else (like working on another drawing) and then comeback. This approach may be crucial for beginners that have difficulties making decisions quickly.

Use your paper as a palette, pick up color from areas that have a lot of it and move it to areas that may need more, you'll be able to fade or blend colors. Make sure to wash off the color in your brush if you have too much of it rinse the brush and wring it out. You must have a can of water at hand to shake your brush in it to clean it well.


Materials, supplies and guidelines: with the exception of the size of your drawing paper, there are no major differences between the material required for the traditional  and the DL course. 
  • one 18"x24" multi purpose paper sketch pad.
  • one round # 10 watercolor brush .
  • water soluble color pencils: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, brown, black, white. This is a minimum requirement, more pencils can be acquired. 
  • Water soluble marker by Crayola are non toxic and they may offer an viable alternative to color pencils (be careful I don't tolerate toxic markers in the classroom). They are used by some comic book artist in conjunction with brush work.
  • Titanium White acrylic Mars Black and or Burn Umber (brown) acrylic. The white paint is used for highlights.
  • one vinyl eraser, but you can used white acrylic to erase.
  • cylindrical metal tip ink pens, the kind you write with, or ball point pens. Do not buy drafting pens. 
  • drafting tools can be used, if necessary, among those you must have an inexpensive compass, and a ruler. 
  • with those aside, this course emphasizes mostly free hand sketching. 
  • no soft and dusty materials are allowed in the classroom, because of the dirt problem they create. They also require a fixative which is hazardous to health. 

Drawing by Kate Elkins, 2006. Black and white acrylic washes on brown paper (paper bag). Posted with the artist's permission.



Classroom-Lab Rules, and Guidelines for the traditional classroom course only

How to present your work for the traditional classroom course only

If you don't  understand an art term describing an art movement or style, please look it up in the Art Lex