Ruskin believed that everyone had visual as well as verbal capacities that needed to be developed in order to become a complete human being, and that the apprehension of truth depended on the power of observation. – Robert Hewison

 IMG_7897John Ruskin was an art critic of the Victorian era. He was an art patron, a draftsman, and a prominent social thinker of his time. I use this quote because we had an interesting conversation about observation, the truth and the illusion of truth. A lesson in drawing sometimes becomes a lesson in life.

I want to tell you we begin with line but more accurately what we begin is a practice in observation. I teach drawing students how to see, and I direct them to put down what they see. I acknowledge the challenge in this exercise considering it is their first long assignment and it is also complex subject matter. The group took on the challenge with no resistance and overall did a great job.

We discuss quality and variety of line. We talk about developing patience. A number of students share they didn’t know they could draw a complicated object like a pine cone. I see the satisfaction in their faces as they share process and result.

One student brings up the idea of a true line and a not so true (stylized) line. The discussion is a good one considering this is only the beginning. We are off to a fine start.

Here are a few examples of the completed studies.


Close Withering by Alfredo


Citrus by Alejandra


Complex pinecones by Ryan


Step 1, Pinecone by Kiria


Cracked by Daniela


Observation: Pinecone by Casey


Chili Pepper by Mat


Red Onion Vertical Bisect, Casey

Susan ↓ is an advanced student. Her work includes contour study (the assignment) she also uses other elements of design.


The Water Sun by Susan

2 thoughts on “observation

  1. Monica,
    Your writing is as inspiring as your art…true, as students, we are overwhelmed by whatever we set out to achieve, and then, when a good teacher helps us to reach that goal, the feeling of pride, accomplishment and awe is unsurpassed, ineffable. A colleague recently told me that you are only as good as the training you get. Your students- your very talented students- are lucky to have you.


  2. Thank you Arpita. This is good to read first thing in the a.m. as I prepare today’s new assignment.
    I’ll make sure they see your comment when they are not feeling so lucky. : )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s