When Viewing Examples of Student Work:

Often a single example of work may not demonstrate all the required objectives for a particular assignment. Instead students should collectively consider: the required objectives for each assignment, the multiple examples presented on this blog and during in class presentations. As well ideas discovered through a student's independent research in combination with various examples and ideas presented by instructor will ultimately be the best approach for synthesizing ideas and reaching the requirements (and unique outcome) for any particular course project.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Assignment 2: Big Modernist Assignment - Pure Abstraction & Physicality of Materials


Pure Abstraction/Modernist Drawing Assignment (Assignment Text and Examples):
Intuitively exploring the formal languages and physicality of materials within the drawing discipline 

Options for Paper Requirements: Paper must be at least 3 x 4 feet. Large paper available at the bookstore that  large sheets of the Arnhem paper (38”x50”) or Fabriano paper sold off the roll by the foot. It is just under 5’ width x however many feet  purchased. (winter 2023)

Other art supply stores may have large paper as well. Either way do keep in mind you want something that will withstand a little mixed media

Options for Other Art Supplies 
-oil pastels, oil sticks, chalk pastels to cover large area quickly and potentially thickly (recommended options)
 Be careful about purchasing the cheap oil pastels they often will not have much pigment causing the oil pastels to be extremely ineffective as a drawing tool for large scale work.
-acrylic paint as under-painting layers for drawing materials to layer on top
-coloured pencils
-coloured markers
-coloured ink
-collage materials
-chalk line (construction tool)
-rubber eraser
-scraping tool for oil pastel
-masking tape
-push pins to hang paper
-large plastic garbage bags or brown craft paper to protect floor and wall
-exacto knife or scissors
-large paper at the bookstore: large sheets of the Arnhem paper (38”x50”) or Fabriano paper sold off the roll by the foot. It is just under 5’ width x however many feet  purchased. (winter 2023)
Suggested Drawing Materials:
-It is suggested people use the coloured oil bars for this assignment but as listed above many other options are also available in conjunction with the oil bars.

-Drawing materials such as oil or chalk pastels that cover large areas of your drawing quickly and offer good colour and have strong physical presence on the drawing surface allowing for an investigation of mark making will also work as well.

-Over all you can use all other types of coloured drawing materials for detail work such as coloured pencils, coloured inks and coloured markers, but keep in mind these should not be your primary drawing tools since they do not cover a large area quickly nor do they offer any sort of physicality in terms of the mediums presence or mark making.

-As well acrylic or watercolour can be used as a base or intermittently as long as the overall work emphasizes drawing materials.

-It is recommended to use a fairly thick paper as a drawing surface. Some people have used canvas in the past but keep in mind the texture of the canvas causes the drawing materials to erode and ware out considerably quicker than if paper was used for a drawing surface.

-This 3 x 4 feet work can be one large sheet of paper. 
- Not recommended but another option for paper would be to join smaller sheets of paper together to create a 3 x 4 foot surface. This is not recommended due to the seams created and the time it takes to make the 3 x 4 foot surface.  If approaching the assignment this way, consider how the seems of smaller paper will be integrated into the drawing and or hidden in the drawing. Work on the entire 3 x 4 feet and do not draw on separate sheets of paper that are then joined together as an afterthought.

Assignment Instructions and Objectives:
Complete a large-scale drawing (3 x 4 feet) with 3 or 4 small studies that emphasize concepts  demonstrating the language of drawing and materiality of drawing.

(The Language of Drawing meaning the physical act of drawing with traditional drawing materials as a physical language in itself).

The work should demonstrate a variety of formal concerns in the picture plane such as the use of colour (strategic use of colour high & low contrast and potential symbolic references of colour), shapes, scale shifts, composition, activated negative space, and mark making using primarily drawing materials. You have the option of developing some select collage materials into the drawing provided the above objectives and the points below are followed. All attempts should be made in the drawing assignment to not reference anything representational, though as an option some colour could have symbolic qualities integrated into the assignment.

1) Your drawing should consist of as many forms and spaces as possible with a complex but unified composition in each work. Consider intervals (negative spaces) between elements and allow for focal points where there are areas of multiple overlapping shapes that interact with each other while simultaneously interacting within the overall composition.

2) Space should vary from deep to shallow with a variety of line and shapes. Also consider variations of visual weight in the line and shapes.

3) Avoid literal or conventional methods to depict shallow and deep spaces. (Rely on overlapping of elements instead of depicting converging planes to vanishing points). Spaces and forms can be fragmented and/or abstracted through experimentation with drawing materials.

4) Consider the reality of the drawing medium (language of the medium) on the 2 dimensional surface of your picture plane. (thick and thin applications of drawing mediums and mark making) and consider your options in terms of a surface. Some areas will require numerous layers of drawing materials while other areas will work with minimal applications of materials. As well during the drawing process some areas of the drawings should involve scraping and erasing.

5) Remember to take in progress photographs at the beginning, during and at the end of each drawing session. Capture the edits, risk taking and sacrificial layering of areas in these progress photographs. Editing and sacrificing parts will be required and is inevitable during the layering process to achieve a successful work.

Studies or Smaller Preliminary Works:
The purpose of the studies is to assist you in the investigation of this assignment. All the objectives do not have to be met in each study but instead studies should be used to take risks and experiment with to find all the required objectives. The studies are not about making something small and then duplicating that small study at a large scale. Instead the studies and the larger work should feed off each other.

During the process of making the assignment there should be a back and forth of working between the studies and the large work (especially at the beginning stages of the drawing) As well studies may include manipulations of digital photos of the large work taken while in progress. In general it is strongly recommended that you photograph the work in progress and periodically make some inexpensive prints at home to work on in order to consider all potential directions to develop the work. Overall experiment and investigate various options thoroughly with the studies and the large work.

Steps of Process to Consider for Starting and  Developing Drawing(s):
Avoid having every formal and conceptual component of your drawing pre-planned or “figured out” before you begin. This will eventually suffocate any desire to work, because it is almost impossible to pre-plan every step in the process and get positive results.

If you are stuck with no ideas it is best to immediately start drawing with vague ideas and some random organic and geometric shapes such as in some of the examples posted below.

Prepare yourself mentally for a process of: risk, unexpected direction, layering, reworking, researching, making small preliminary works, applying criticism, generally experimenting with conviction in your drawing, and you will have a very successful work or series of works.

Breakdown for Evaluation:

Variety of shapes and lines (geometric & organic elements) - including different sizes of elements.  Composition (interacting and overlapping of elements) and activated negative space – this includes composition with complex variety that is presented in an overall unified work 40% 


Strategic use of colour 15% 


Mark making using primarily drawing materials 20% 


Experimentation, editing and revising, innovation and overall uniqueness 25%

Optional Readings (Assistance in developing assignment):
Also there is the option to consider excerpts from Search for the Real a small book by Hans Hofmann, or excepts from survey books such as Art Speak by Robert Atkins (small book), The Visual Arts: a history by Hugh Honour and John Fleming, 7th edition p 844, and essays: Modernist Painting by Clement Greenberg. Considering the Hofmann, Atkins, Honour/Fleming and Greenberg's readings may assist you when developing ideas in your drawing.

For a broader view outside the modernist drawing assignment objectives other texts such as Art of the Postmodern Era, by Irving Sandler, Contemporary Art: Art since 1970 by Brandon Taylor, Five Faces of Modernity by Matei Calinescu and essay: Action Painting: Crisis and Distortion by Harold Rosenberg. These other texts offer debates, alternatives and opposition to Greenberg’s ideas regarding Modernism.
Contemporary Artists to Research: 

Alex Janvier

Amy Sillman

Clint Jukkala

Danielle Tegeder

Eddie Martinez

Elizabeth Murray (only her abstract work)

Frank Stella

Gabriel Orozco

Gerhard Richter (only his abstract work)

Howard Sherman

Jade Fadojutimi

Jeffrey Gibson (only his abstract work)

Julie Mehretu

Lisa Corinne Davis 

Marela Zacarías (wall-mounted painted sculptures)

Maryam Hoseini (only her abstract work)

Robert Mangold

Rodney McMillian (only his abstract work)

Sarah Walker

Valerie Jaudon

The examples presented here for the Modernist assignment are meant as a guide. Not all examples below meet all of the objectives for the assignment but instead offer a range of partial ideas that can be cohesively comprehended, synthesized and applied to the specific requirements of the modernist assignment in a unique and innovative manner. 

For additional student examples of a similar assignment from my painting courses please view the following link:

an excellent study that is 18 x 24 inches (studies for this assignment may be smaller and hopefully a little less floral with less spiral shapes)

an excellent study that is 18 x 24 inches (studies for this assignment may be smaller and hopefully a little less floral with less spiral shapes)

54 x 36 inches

56 x 36 inches

60 x 36 inches

36 x 60 inches

Advanced Painting 4 x 4 feet mixed media and paint on collaged paper Spring 2005

Advanced Painting 4 x 4 feet mixed media and paint on collaged paper Spring 2005

Advanced Painting 4 x 4 feet mixed media and paint on collaged paper Spring 2005

Advanced Drawing 1 Winter 2004

Stage 1 Advanced Drawing 1 Spring 2002

Stage 2 Advanced Drawing 1 Spring 2002

Stage 3 Advanced Drawing 1 Spring 2002

Stage 4 Advanced Drawing 1 Spring 2002

Stage 5 Advanced Drawing 1 Spring 2002

Stage 6 Advanced Drawing 1 Spring 2002

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