In the Durer illustration above, you can see how he has created a vertical window onto which he has drawn a grid which corresponds to a grid on his paper. He uses this as a kind of real-time tracing method which really helps improve observational drawing for the less able.
I devised a simple, modern version of this exercise and adapted it for print.
It requires a thin piece of clear perspex about A3 in size which may or may not be divided into squares using red or blue permanent marker (the squares are great for the less able). The perspex is fixed vertically to the desk using generous blobs of blue tac, but if you are of a technical nature you might create a more sturdy frame and stand. The window is positioned in front of the item to be drawn from observation and the student draws it. You can draw it in two ways;
1. Draw directly onto a sheet of paper and simply use the grid on the perspex to help you divide the object into smaller, more manageable shapes.
2. Draw onto the perspex using a whiteboard marker and create a print. Once the drawing is complete, the perspex is flipped over and placed marker ink side down onto a piece of white paper (so you can see the drawing clearly) and fixed in place with tape.
Next, use printing ink (not paint) and a brush, to build layers of coloured onto the perspex. Be careful not to make the ink too thick and not too light or it won’t print properly. You can now can print a few mono prints from the perspex. Once dry, you can work back into the print if you like.
If you wish, you might just want to use the perspex image to make a drawing, rather than a mono print. You can do this by placing the perspex marker side face down onto a piece of paper. The paper is then rubbed gently and the board marker ink is lightly transferred to the paper. If this method isn’t successful, you can trace it and transfer using traditional tracing paper methods or use a light box. From there you can begin drawing over the transferred image.
You can use this printmaking method to create prints from photos. Just place the photo under the acetate and paint the printing ink over to create your own version of it.
You can also use a digital method. Just take a photo of the still life then trace it using an app such as Tracing Paper, Calrisketch, Explain Everything etc. But its much more fun the Dürer way!
I think drawing is so important and so liberating and that anyone can access drawing regardless of his or her skill level. Contemporary drawing (often much criticised) has the fabulous ability of tapping into the core of our creativity and open up doors in our minds that we thought closed. I’m a convert!!
In 2012 OFSTED published it’s report on drawing Making a mark: art, craft and design 2008-2011. Inspectors found that, despite drawing being a key skill:“teaching all pupils to draw with confidence and creativity was a low priority in too many schools. Teachers’ subject expertise in drawing varied widely, particularly in primary schools.”
Drawing does not have to be for the Gifted. With the minimum amount of expertise you can make drawing inclusive for students of all abilities.
I put an ebook of drawing exercises together to address this problem. The Ebook features twelve activities that stimulate creative and unique approaches to drawing and do not require the student to have realistic drawing skills. Using common, everday resources, not specialist drawing equipment, each exercise links to a contemporary artist so that your students can relate the activity to professional practice.
The Contemporary drawing Practice exercises are suitable for students in Key Stage 2, 3 or even Key Stage 4. You do not need to be an art specialist to be able to teach these lessons because the children will be able to teach themselves. Just print them out in colour and laminate them. Each exercise contains learning objectives, step by step instructions, full colour photos of artists work, research tasks and extension work.
Contents of the book and page samples:
Exercise 1; Features Antony Gormley and one of his own unique drawing exercises.
Exercise 2: Uses the amazing work of Jon Burgerman to create Doodle drawings.
Exercise 3: The beautiful text based art of Fiona Banner influences this exercise.
Exercise 4: Julian Opie’s powerful line installations are recreated in a drawing lesson with border roll.
Exercise 5: Dawn Dupree’s highly creative textile art works influence this drawing exercise with glue-guns.
Exercise 6: The powerful and haunting drawings of Emma McNally are used to create drawing with graphite powder.
Exercise 7: Portuguese artist David Oliviera creates amazing drawings with wire and they are used to inspire the children to do their own wire drawings.
Exercise 8: Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s drawings are used to influence digital drawings on computers.
Exercise 9: Dutch artist Marian Bijlenga’s beautiful textile art is used to inspire drawing with fabrics and a microscope.
Exercise 10: Marco Maggi’s stunning contemporary art is used to develop drawings using aluminium foil.
Exercise 11: Mandy Barker’s environmental photography is the inspiration behind a great drawing exercise using string and bin liners.
Exercise 12: Peter Freeman’s light installations are the theme behind a lovely exercise using overhead projectors.