7 Principles Of Design Composition Assignments


1. All assignments must be completed on or before the due date.
2. Each day after the due date your grade goes down one letter grade.
3. Unfinished artwork is not accepted.
4. If you are absent, it is your responsibility to make up all work. That includes coming and talking to me, asking for art supplies, and reading the instructions.
5. If you are absent, you are receiving a zero for the studio work for that day because you are not in class to work. It is your responsibility to make up studio time. You can do it after school Monday - Thursday 2:50-3:25 pm.
6. If you project requires extra time to be completed, you have to make arrangements with me prior the due date. This is your responsibility.
7. Even though Art can be subjective, grading your art projects it totally objective: each project has a rubric with specific requirements and guidelines. Just follow them.
8. Unless an assignment specifically requires copying, it will be interpreted in the same manner as plagiarism and is not acceptable.
9. You are graded every day for your studio work. If you are not working the entire class, you will receive a zero for that day.
10. You will also receive a zero if you do not clean up after yourself, clean up early, or unprepared for class.


1. Food, drinks, candy, gum are not allowed in the Art rooms. You will be sent to the office for this. No "warnings". A bottle of WATER is permitted in room 206 (only).
2. Cell phones are not allowed at any time. It is your fault if you use them , even if somebody is calling you. Phones should be turned off and put away. If I see or hear a phone - I take it from you. You will get it back at the end of the day at the office.
3. Be in the room before the bell rings. Dropping your stuff and leaving does not qualify you as being on time.
4. Sit at your assigned seat unless I give you OK to move. That means you do not walk around the room during the class.
5. Talk quietly with students at your table. Do not talk during the instructional time.
6. Draw, paint, etc. on your artwork only!
7. Use materials from your tote-tray only... don't go into other people's trays.
8. You can bring your work home anytime. You are responsible for having it back next day.
9. If you must swear, please do it elsewhere... Thanks.
10. You are responsible for cleaning your work area and the tools that you used. I am not going to do it for you!
11. If you are in the Graphics lab, use the printers for the current ART assignments only!!!
12. Encourage your fellow classmates in a positive way... treat them fairly and nicely. This room should be a fun and comfortable place for everyone.


Essential standards for Art teacher's reference.

This link serves as an entry to the Drama 2310 Callboard for assignments and announcements. You will note that I include all assignments for the semester. THESE ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE. As we progress I will make corrections to meet the needs of this class. READ the assignment before you begin a project. The content of the course is understood by the completion of the exercises. Keeping up is essential as each project builds on the previous. And, completing your work ontime allows for constructive feedback so that your next assignment grows from the previous.
Artistic expression is subjective in nature. Experience and practice can provide insight which in turn refines subjectivity. I have developed these exercises as they have proven useful in the exploration and development of creativity for previous courses. Completing the assignments on time for presentation in class will allow me to provide you with constructive feedback. And, whereas my reactions may not always be completely accurate, I will observe your work from the vantage of 42 years of professional theatre design experience and 28 years of teaching this course. Reading the introduction to the assignment provides context. Read the assignments carefully.
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Introductory Assignment.  Personal Logo

You are to create a personal logo as an abstract representation of yourself.  Take a moment to think.  Dig deep.  Brain storm.  Write down as many adjectives as you can think of and then select 5 adjectives that best describe you.  The creation you will make will symbolize who you are to the class, or at least what you care to share about yourself.  You are to create a 3-D assemblage.  As you work on crafting your presentation, select textures or feelings that communicate the adjectives you have selected.  Then, consider how to put together your elements in a way that also communicate something about you.  In class, you will have an opportunity to share your logo. We will place your logo on display for others to view.



Most individuals feel strongly about issues or causes, which affect the world around us. Some of us react as active, sometimes vocal, advocates of issues; some of us express less visible means of supporting causes. Issues and causes have divergent viewpoints. Differing opinions give rise to the art of persuasion. Organizations will resort to a multitude of means to deliver their point-of-view, usually in the hopes of convincing others to join their ranks and support their opinions. Ordinarily, we think of verbal means of persuasion to communicate our feelings (discussion, debate, written articles, slogans and the like). However, in many cases, the strongest means to communicate ideas with lasting impact are non-verbal in presentation (a poster, a drawing, music, a sculpture, an image, etc.). We live in a global society. The art of communication takes many forms.

The purpose of this assignment is to explore the power of non-verbal communication. You are to select an issue, concern or feeling for which you have a strong opinion. You are to communicate some aspect of your opinion through the creation of a non-verbal presentation. There are no prescribed forms. It may be a three-dimensional representation, an installation, an abstraction, a metaphor, a sculpture, a poster, a ... . The only restrictions are that your creation must be safe; it cannot include living or spoil able items; it must be portable; and, the presentation should not require your presence to re configure the composition for me to interpret your intentions. I may need to take these explorations to my studio to evaluate them.

Write the message on the back of the project (or on a sheet of paper). Please do not forget to put your name on assignments. Place your name in such a way that it will not distract from the composition. Do not use written language to lead us to the message.

Your creation is due as noted on the syllabus. There are no rights or wrongs to this assignment. How effectively you communicate your message will depend on the reaction to your message from your audience. You may want to "test" your presentation on your roommate before submitting it to see if you are communication your desired message.

Unit One: The Elements and Principles of Composition

For the next several weeks, we will explore how artists communicate using a language of non-verbal communication: Line, Shape, Color, Texture and Space. There are nine assignments in this unit. The questions or statements below prompt you to explore concepts, which you will submit for my feedback. Keep in mind as you work on your assignments that in all societies, first impressions and how something is presented or appears has an impact on those viewing or receiving the messages. Your projects should be artistic, organized and an appropriate reflection of the importance of this class and your understanding of the first unit. If you have difficulties in answering a question or understanding a concept, email me or stop by for an appointment. I suggest you keep up by doing assignments after each classroom discussion.

Organize your print media examples in a notebook or appropriate portfolio. Download the photos I take of your sculpture projects and print a copy for your notebook or portfolio. At the end of the unit, we are to submit this portfolio for an overall evaluation.


"What are the meanings inherent in the term imagination? Imagination is the inner force that allows one to experience what was, what can be and what might never be; it can transcend the limitations of space, time, and reality. Sometimes imagination may be a leap into fantasy, often expressed through dreams that reflect inner thoughts and desires. But imagination is more than involuntary illusion; it allows voluntary turning of ideas in the mind, trying new combinations, uncovering unexpected insights through a conscious guiding of visual invention. Imagination not only allows the picturing in the mind's eye of the earth as a sphere floating in space, it can also provide such inventions as Lewis Carroll's JABBERWOCK."

Design Dialogue, Jack Stoops and Jerry Samuelson "BEWARE THE JABBERWOCK, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!" Louis Carroll

In order that we might exercise our imagination, in this class, we will need to be able to read the language of the artist. The first letter in an artist's alphabet is LINE. Concentrating on the use of line as the dominant element employed in a composition, select magazine or print advertisement, which illustrate the examples below. Cut the ads out and mount the examples on separate pieces of paper for presentation. Attach a separate page for your written explanations as directed.

1. Select two compositions where the dominant feature in the ad is the emotional use of predominantly one style of line (jagged, curvilinear, meandering, etc.) to sell a product. What is this line? How or why does it make you feel the way you do about the product? Before you give your written explanation, verify that you have selected an example which mostly uses one line style or a particular, purposeful combination of lines, take a piece of tracing paper and copy the lines. Be careful not to neglect significant lines merely to prove your conclusions. Remove the tracing paper. Do the abstract lines on the tracing paper support your reaction to the ad? If not, chances are there are other compositional elements, or perhaps the subject matter, influencing your opinion.

2. Select one composition that employs the use of or combination of lines in a symbolic way. A good example is the AT & T logo. It is a world created by lines, which also represent communication lines. In this case, the logo identifies AT&T as a worldwide communications network. The abstract use of lines creates in the mind a picture of the company or product. The example you select should demonstrate a purposeful manipulation of lines to communicate a concept or idea about the product. Explain your selection. Remember, you are looking for the use of line, not shape.

3. Select a composition where the element of line is used to direct the eye from one location to another with the ad. Discuss the journey through the composition. Where is the first focal point your eye goes to? Where does the eye end up? Does it ultimately lead your eye to the product or product name? Discuss.



We have investigated the element of line in the two dimensional world through drawing line analogs, observing its manipulation in product advertisement, and by creating, in class, abstractions of objects, feelings or causes through symbolic interpretation of lines. Now, you will investigate the use of line in a three dimensional study.

Your assignment is to execute an abstract three dimensional line study of an emotion. Select on emotion: anger, love, peace, boredom, etc. Observe this emotion in a number of situations. Distill what you observe and take notes. What is the emotion's spirit, its soul, and its essence? Step back and consider how you might recreate this emotion in a line sculpture. Consult the Web site for examples.

Your assignment needs to engage us. It is possible for a study to be abstract but fail to engage us because it is too obvious. For example, I have selected anger as a concept to study. I craft a lightning bolt out of a coat hanger and stand it up in a clump of clay. It is abstract but it only engages us for a split second as we figure it out right away. There is no time investment involved by the viewer. Chances are I will forget it right away. On the other hand, your abstraction can be so personal that we cannot figure out what your emotion might be. In this case you will have failed to engage us. Your job is to find just the right abstraction to engage us in an imaginative way, which is not too simple and not too difficult to understand. Calculating the abstractness of your composition requires that you understand your audience. The multi-billion dollar industry of advertisement employs wonderfully creative minds that spend their lifetimes inventing ways to engage the consumer long enough to remember the product's name and / or to induce us to purchase the product. In doing so, these professionals know their audience. In general, you will find a different level of advertisement in the National Inquirer from that found in Architectural Digest or The New Yorker. Knowing the audience is essential in the success of an advertisement campaign. For the purpose of our assignments in Principles, assume your audience will be the Trinity Community.

You may use toothpicks, sticks and any item, which would imply a line. For curved lines, I suggest using wire, florist wire or pipe cleaners. The texture of the surfaces of the materials you use also will communicate non-verbally (fuzzy pipe cleaners). For the purposes of this assignment, you are to concentrate on the element of line, not color or texture.

Put your name on the assignment. Put the emotion you are representing on the bottom.


Stay loose. Learn to watch snails. Plant impossible gardens. Invite someone dangerous for tea. Make little signs that say Yes! And post them all over your house. Make friends with freedom & uncertainty. Look forward to dreams. Cry during movies. Swing as high as you can on a swing set, by moonlight. Cultivate moods. Refuse to "be responsible". Do it for love. Take lots of naps. Give money away. Do it now. The money will follow. Believe in magic. Laugh a lot. Celebrate every gorgeous moment. Take moonbaths. Have wild imaginings, transformative dreams, and perfect calm. Draw on the walls. Read everyday. Imagine yourself magic. Giggle with children. Listen to old people. Open up. Dive in. Be free. Bless yourself. Drive away fear. Play with everything. Entertain your inner child. You are innocent. Build a fort with blankets. Get wet. Hug trees. Write love letters.

A Creative Companion by SARK.

Once again, in order to improve our language as artists, you are to observe the use of another letter in the artist's alphabet: SHAPE. Concentrating on the use of shape as the dominant element employed in a composition, select magazine or print advertisements that illustrate the following examples. Cut the ads out and mount the examples on separate pieces of paper for presentation. Attach a separate page for your written explanations as directed.

1. Select two compositions where the dominant feature in the ad is the emotional use of predominantly one style of shape to sell a product. What is this shape? How or why does it make you feel the way you do about the product? Before you give your written explanation, to verify that you have selected an example which mostly uses one shape, take a piece of tracing paper and outline the major shapes. Be careful not to neglect significant items merely to prove your conclusions. Remove the tracing paper. Do the outlined shapes support your reaction to the ad? If not, chances are there are other compositional elements, or perhaps the subject matter (picture), influencing your opinions. If so, select another composition.

2. Select one example of a composition, which uses shapes to form or create a texture. This overall texture should, in turn, communicate a concept or idea about the product. Explain your selection. Remember, you are looking for the use of shape, not line.

3. Select a composition where shapes are used to direct the eye from one location to another within the ad. Discuss the journey beginning at the first focal point. How does the shape/s move you from one focal area to another? Where does the eye end up? Does it ultimately lead your eye to the product or product name? Discuss.

Communicating through Shape

As you are aware, shapes, in their basic or simplest forms, have individual personalities. These personalities can be altered by adding texture, value and color as one might do by adding adjectives to a noun. The more adjectives you use, usually the more precise the communication. The relationship of one shape to another can communicate ideas that the individual shape or form may not. This is similar to understanding a word in a sentence based on the contextual use of the other words. Sometimes the repetition of a similar shape evokes an overall feeling which, when combined, is stronger than the sole shape. A tree with rounded leaves (aspen, ornamental pear) usually evokes a soft feeling compared with a tree with jagged or pointed leaves (pine, cedar) producing rugged or a turbulent quality. It is not one leaf but the sum of all. You may notice that scale and proportion are important aspects in communication. Sometimes, the proportions of the overall shapes guide the emotion.


Create an abstract shape collage or shape sculpture, which embodies an emotion. Carefully consider and anticipate your audience interpretations. Provide a base or means for your work to stand up. As with all compositions, remember balance, direction and duration of interest. On the bottom of your project, place your name and the emotion you are representing. You may want to reference ideas as posted on the web site.

#6. Seeing Texture as a Non-Verbal Symbol in Communication

"Creativity has a different relationship to time than most of us. A minute can last a day and a day can last an hour. Sometimes Creativity disappears completely or wanders around...for weeks at a time. Creativity understands the secret meanings of the months when nothing seems to get done."

"Ecstasy builds slow fires, but they burn for a long time."

"Commitment has kind eyes. He wears sturdy shoes. Because commitment is so serious, he loves clowns and balloons...His heart is open. He is not afraid of life. He is married to Joy."

The Book of Qualities by Janet Ruth Gendler

Concentrating on the use of texture as a dominant element employed in a composition, select magazine or print advertisements, which illustrate the following examples. Cut the ads out and mount the examples on separate pieces of paper for presentation. Attach another page for your written explanations as directed.

1. Select two examples where texture is used to communicate an emotion, an idea or concept. What are the emotions and how does they sell the products?

2. Select two examples of compositions, which use texture to capture the eye and then guide it throughout the advertisement. Describe the pathway and how the texture draws you along the trail. Does your eye rest an equal amount of time at each focal point? Does the duration or variation of your involvement at a particular point in the ad create a rhythm? Where does your attention end up? Was the journey part of the selling of the product???

#7. Texture Study.

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost." Martha Graham, Dancer.

You are to create an abstract study of a person you love through the use of texture. Select an individual you have known for sometime, respect and love. You may want to consider a member of your family or perhaps your best friend. First prepare a short written statement describing your character. Whereas external qualities are important to identify this person physically, an individual's spirit goes much further than surface appearances. After you have written your statement, prepare a texture study or sculpture of this individual. This is not a painting, nor a picture. You are to submit both the written statement and the texture study as part of this assignment.

#8. Seeing Color as a Non-Verbal Symbol in Communication

"I understand how scarlet can differ from crimson because I know that the smell of an orange is not the smell of a grape-fruit. I can also conceive that colors have shades and guess what shades are. In smell and taste there are varieties not broad enough to be fundamental; so I call them shades. There are half a dozen roses near me. The all have the unmistakable rose scent; yet my nose tells me that they are not the same. The American Beauty is distinct from the Jacqueminot and La France. Odors in certain grasses fade as real to my senses as certain colors do to yours in the sun. ... I make use of analogies like these to enlarge my conception of colors. ...The force of association drives me to say that white is exalted and pure, green is exuberant, red suggests love or shame or strength. Without color or its equivalent, life to me would be dark, barren, a vast blackness.

"Thus through an inner law of completeness my thoughts are not permitted to remain colorless. It strains my mind to separate color and sound from objects. Since my education began I have always had things described to me with their colors and sounds by one with keen senses and a fine feeling for the significant. Therefore, I habitually think of things as colored and resonant. Habit accounts for part. The soul sense accounts for another part. The brain with its five-sensed construction asserts its right and accounts for the rest. Inclusive of all, the unity of the world demands that color be kept in it whether I have cognizance of it or not. Rather than shut out, I take part in it by discussing it, happy in the happiness of those near me who gaze at the lovely hues of the sunset or the rainbow."

Helen Keller, The World I Live In

Concentrating on the use of color as the dominant element in compositions, select magazine examples to illustrate the following:

1. Select a composition where color is used to create a quality of a space. Describe the quality. How is it used to enhance the message about the product?

2. Mood is a composite result of the combination of all elements within a given frame. Realizing this, identify a composition in which color overwhelmingly controls the emotion of the message. What is the mood and why does the color make you feel this way?

3. Color intensity, color variation, color contrast are all means to attract the eye. Select a composition where the element of color is used to capture the viewer's focus and then force the attention to follow a specific journey through the advertisement. Explain why you feel most people will see this ad in the same sequence. What is the sequence? Is the concluding point significant to the product's message? Remember, find a good example that uses COLOR rather than line or shape or texture or subject matter. If you are not certain, turn the composition upside down. Your eye should follow the same path.

4. Identify one composition, which uses a color harmony to unify the picture. What is it? How does the selected harmony represent or enhance the product? Is it a period color harmony? Art Deco, Fifties???

#9. Color Study

Create an abstract color collage or color sculpture, which embodies an emotion. For this assignment, you will need to use all the elements we have studied as color is surface layer onto line, space, or texture. Nevertheless, you are to concentrate on the use of color as a communicator. Carefully consider and anticipate your audience interpretations. Provide a base or means for your work to stand up. Remember that all aspects of your presentation are observed as part of the communication process. Ask yourself what will hook my audience? Where does the journey begin? Where will the eye go to next? Does the pathway of the observer follows have direction and duration of interest? Does the duration of interest create a rhythm, which reinforces the emotional content of the presentation?

On the bottom of your project, place your name and the emotion you are representing. Consult the Web site for visual examples.

#10. OPTIONAL Seeing Space as a Non-Verbal Symbol in Communication

"All spatial implications are mentally conditioned by the environment and experience of the viewer. Vision is experienced through the eyes but interpreted with the mind. Perception involves the whole pattern of nerve and brain response as well as the visual stimulus. Man uses two eyes for the perception of objects in nature and continually shifts his focus of attention. In so doing, two different types of vision are used, stereoscopic and kinesthetic. Having two eyes set slightly apart from each other, man sees two different views of the object world at the same time. The term stereoscopic is applied to his ability to overlap the views which are slightly different into one image. This visual process creates an illusion of three-dimensional depth, making it possible to judge distances.

?In kinesthetic vision, man experiences space in the movements of the eye from one part of a work of art to another. Space is experienced while viewing a two-dimensional surface because we unconsciously attempt to organize its separate parts so that they can be seen as a whole. In addition, man explored object surfaces with eye movements in order to make mental recognition of them. Objects close to the eye require more ocular movement than those more distant, and this factor adds spatial illusion to man’s kinesthetic vision."

Ocvirk, Bone, Stinson and Wigg, Art Fundamentals Theory and Practice

Concentrating on the use of space as the dominant element in compositions, select magazine examples to illustrate the following:

1. The arrangement of objects within a given composition can say a lot about the message of the product. Select an example of an ad, which utilizes space to support an emotional quality that in turn endorses the product. Explain your selection.

2. Not all space within the artist's frame needs to be occupied. Use of NEGATIVE space can be as important to the sponsor's message as the positive space. Select an ad that uses negative space to communicate.

3. Select an example where there is an implied space beyond the frame of the composition. Where is it? What is important about this implied space in terms of the product? How are you being manipulated to focus on this?

4. Artists can be master illusionists creating three dimensional pictures in magazines. Select a superior example of an ad, which manipulates the space to create an illusion of 3-D. Explain how it is achieved.

Unit Two: Drawing as an Exploration of Creativity

Over the past several weeks, you have participated on a journey of discovery. For some, the journey has been on new and untested roads; others have revisited familiar paths. Regardless, you have all walked the walk. As a class, your hard work and your willingness to explore untested areas are evident. In addition to introducing, for many, a new language for communication, I have been primarily interested in pushing you to go beyond the obvious, to put literal interpretation aside, to address concepts and engage your thoughts in more abstract terms. I have invited you to play on the playground of creativity. I hope you are pleased with your results. Now, it is time to explore the graphic skill of drawing.

"Drawing. Oh my... I can't draw."

Drawing has a long established role in the visual arts, the recording of the events through history, and the development of ideas in our civilization. While usually thought of as an activity requiring the skill of the talented few, drawing is a natural, often spontaneous, human response. People instinctively doodle while engaged in some other activity. Young children who scribble with crayons and marks on paper or walls draw instinctively in an effort to describe what they see, to represent what they know, and to express how they feel. The intent of this unit is to describe this vital process of drawing as an accessible, enjoyable, productive activity that at its heart, is a creative process.

For the next several weeks, we will continue our exploration of non-verbal expression. By improving our abilities to see and perceive, we can increase our technical skills in drawing. Improved drawing skills in turn will better enable us to communicate artistic thoughts and ideas. Of course, as with all our exercises, learning how to draw is secondary to learning how to perceive the world around us.

Throughout this unit, you are to keep a sketchbook. All your assignments are to be entered into this book. Each sketch or assignment should be labeled and dated. If you feel like doing additional drawing, doodling, scribbling or whatever, use this book and date your work. The more you draw, the more you will learn. This sketchbook will provide a visual record of your work and serve to assist me in assisting you to improve in areas of less skilled perception. At the end of this unit, I will collect your sketchbook for observations. IT IS ESSENTIAL for you to keep up and come to class in order to make progress. Doing all the drawings the night before the sketchbook is due cheats you of feedback and an opportunity to see and learn.

#11. Pre-instruction Drawings.

You should spend ten to twenty minutes (longer if you wish) in the execution of each drawing for this assignment. Please execute these drawings in the following order.

1. Draw a picture of a person without looking at anyone or any pictures. There are no specific directions for this drawing, only the general direction to "draw a person."

2. Draw a picture by looking at a real person -- the head only. Draw someone studying or sleeping, or draw yourself by looking in a mirror. Do not use a photograph.

3. Draw a picture of your own hand. If you are right handed, draw your left hand in whatever position you choose. If you are left handed, draw the right.

4. Draw a picture of a chair by looking at a real chair, not a photograph.

After you finish: On the back of each drawing, write your assessment of the drawing -- what is pleasing and/or displeasing to you about each drawing.

#12. Learning How to See Like an Artist

Learning how to see is perhaps the most essential element in learning how to draw. Often, the brain thinks it see relationships, which may be symbolic representations of reality. You may look at a tree. In a split second, the brain identifies the object as a tree. If you are asked to draw what you see, the cognitive brain has already solved the problem and a short hand representation may be your drawing like a trunk with a bushy top. But to really draw the tree, it is important to turn off portions of your brain that label items to allow the portions of the brain that see patterns, relationships, shapes, lines, and textures to do its job. A tree is not a series of quick lines. A tree has mass, value, texture, individual shapes, proportions, roots, shades of color, positive and negative space, and so on.

To experience the shift out of the verbal and linguistic brain into the visual and spatial portion of the brain, you are to reproduce an assigned drawing looking at it upside down. In doing so, the brain can no longer symbolize or represent what it thinks it see, nose, eyes, chin, etc. Instead, you should begin to identify patterns, shapes, relationships and portions.

Read the following directions before beginning this exercise.

1. Do not turn the drawing over until you have finished. This is a visual/spatial mode brain exercise and turning the drawing right side up would cause a shift back to the verbal/linguistic mode.

2. Look at the upside down drawing for a minute. Study the relationships that are formed by the lines intersecting one another. Look at the angles and the shapes. Note the relationship of the shapes and lines to the edge of the page. In fact, the paper is the constant shape and size. Is there a line, which is parallel to the edge of the page? How far up on the side to the page does the extended line intersect? Do not try to change the size of the drawing as you would be changing the relationships between the abstract shapes and spaces. Verify your starting point and check relationships throughout.

3. When you start your drawing, begin at the top and copy each line, moving from line to adjacent line, putting it all together just like a jigsaw puzzle. Do not name the parts. That is a verbal brain function and not important to this exercise.

4. Once you have begun this exercise, you should slip into the creative brain mode. You should find yourself becoming interested in how the lines go together. How this line curves up a little and that line intersects there. What is the proportion of this shape to that space?

#13 Shape Drawing from Ads

"Nothing is more real than nothing." Samuel Beckett

For this exercise, you are to select a photograph of a landscape with buildings or a street in a city. The vantage point must be far enough away to see a large vista. Look for a photo in which shapes are easy to identify. You are to copy this scene by creating a line drawing of the picture.

To achieve this, approach the drawing by distilling it into four elements: LINE, SHAPE, DETAIL and TONE. Use lines to define the outer shape of the objects you see. After roughing in the shapes, refine the objects by adding detail (texture, color, etc.). Then, unify the objects in the space by showing light and shadows.

When you think about it, a geometric shape in a drawing is a two-dimensional concept of an object. Lines are used to define the object's boundaries, which separate the object from a larger visual field. In reality, the edge is NOT A LINE, rather, it is the extreme portion of a difference in contrast of tonal value, color or texture that occurs between objects. Any line that defines a shape on one side of its contour simultaneously carves out space on the other side of its path. Think of an object as a positive space and the area around it as negative space. Each have shape.

Draw a rectangle or square on your sketch pad, which is in the same proportion as the picture. Make certain the frame is measured and straight and the corners meet at right-angles. You can enlarge or decrease the composition as long as you maintain the same relative proportions. For example, your photo may be 4 inches tall by 5 inches wide. You can enlarge this to 8 inches by 10 inches.

Now, divide your photo into four quadrants and lightly sketch these guidelines on your sketch pad. Your first step is to place key shapes within each section of the drawing. Sketch these in lightly as you will need to adjust them. Check the relationship, the proportion, scale and position of the shapes with one another. Go back and make corrections. Concentrate on seeing beyond the photo to the abstraction lines that make of shapes. Placement of abstract shapes within the frame helps sculpt the drawing.

After verifying the overall composition of the lightly drawn shapes in your study, go back and darken the edges of the shapes. The more certain you are of the proper positioning on the sketch pad, the darker you should draw in your shapes until you have a completed line drawing. Do not worry about detail and tone as we will work on this aspect of drawing in the next assignment. This is a line and shape drawing.

#14. Detail and Texture Drawing.

Fortunately, human vision is selective. When we concentrate on a scene, we focus on a specific area. While there, our eyes adjust to see extreme detail and clarity. Outside this area of clarity our peripheral vision takes in context to fill out the scene. In the peripheral vision area, objects appear as shapes but with less defined detail. Objects further away from our center of focus remain as shapes but have no detail, only value. A drawing should capture a visual moment. If you draw everything in your sketch with equal clarity and detail, it will lack focus.

Select a photo to copy, which has a depth of field (foreground, middle ground and background). Find a photo that has an object which is in focus and of interest to you. Concentrating on detail and texture, sketch the drawing.

Following the same procedure as in #13, lay out your sketch. Now concentrate on the focal point. This area should have the most detail, texture. The further away from the focus point the drawing moves, the fewer details you should add.

#15. Perspective Drawing

By now, we appreciate the concept that a sketch is a product of a variety of lines assembled to make shapes that resemble realistic forms. Detail is added to these shapes to give them more meaning and identity. A final dimension is achieved by the addition of tones and black to represent differences in light on the various planes and to depict shadows and shades.

A sketch is a graphic means for recording and communicating a visual experience or mental image. To be able to do this QUICKLY and EFFECTIVELY is an invaluable tool that can be used in many fields of endeavor.

In the theatre, all designers need to be able to sketch as a means of communication. A scenic designer in a production conference must be able to explain to the director his or her ideas "on the spot". A costume designer should be able to sketch a figure or article of clothing as an example. A lighting designer should be able to show another designer how the intangible light will affect a concrete structure. Sketching is an essential language for all theatrical designers.

For your next assignment, you are to execute two perspective landscape sketches, each taking at least one hour execute. One must contain a building or house or anything that is architectural with a distant scenic background. The other perspective drawing should be strictly architectural, like your hallway. Observe possible settings, which have lines and shapes as dominant features. Once you have selected your subject area, determine the visual frame of the area you will sketch. Establish a horizon line. Rough in shapes verifying their relationships as you draw. After you are satisfied with the general shape or form composition, sketch in detail and finally tones and black. Remember, in perspective, vertical lines are straight up and down. They get shorter as they recede into the distance. Horizontal lines slope toward the horizon line or vanishing points.

Consider the following order in creating your drawing:

1. SIZING UP the composition. This is the rough-in stage. Look at the object that is to be communicated. Identify the bounds of the frame. Identify the horizon line.

2. Lightly sketch the measurable frame on your paper.

3. Then, BLOCK IN other shapes or forms (lightly) as references for compositional proportions. Move the forms or shapes around until the large elements are in relative relationship with one another. Your eyes should tell you when it is correct.

4. Placement is essential.

5. Now go back into the drawing first working on the central or most important object (the focal object). It should receive the most detail. Just like a camera, focus equals sharp detail. Treat secondary objects with less detail. Treat objects in the distance as shapes with tone.

6. TONE AND SHADING gives dimension. Shadows have variety. There are DARK, Dark, dark, dark, and dark shadows. The more variety created in the shadows, the better the dimension. Distant objects blend into the overall background by having little contrast with the background tones.

LINES create SHAPES. FORMS are defined by DETAILS. Objects become dimensional through light and darkness or TONES.

#16 Seeing Shadows

Thus far, in constructing a sketch, we have concentrated on line, shapes, texture and perspective. This next assignment focuses on the way light strikes an object to create shadows and mood. Artists go about the illusion of creating depth by utilizing what we know about the process of human seeing.  As we have observed, our eyes focus on a particular subject without seeing everything in the field of vision with equal clarity.  What is focused upon is seen with the most detail.  Detail is determined through texture, through sharp contrast of planes, through brightness.  Objects outside the immediate focus, but relatively close, receive secondary detail.  In this zone, perhaps we see definition, but a softer edge, more blended shadows.  Beyond this band of vision, and progressively, the eye sees shape or silhouette, muted tones, etc.  It is as if our eyes have taken a photo, snap shot.

 What confuses many who are studying the illusion of reality through drawing is the notion that vision is not one snap shot, but a series of snap shots to create a film like composite.  Because our eye can focus, refocus and scan any area in the bat of an eye, we believe, we think, we see an area with equal focus and detail throughout.  To draw this would be to draw everything in sharp contrast and detail.  In doing so, the composition has no focus. It does not look like something, which has depth.

 As I develop a sketch, I begin by roughly sketching is the shapes.  Regardless of where I will focus, I know the eye will see shape.  I use very light lines as ultimately, I do not want to see lines, rather shaped planes which intersect to create the illusion of lines.  Once I have these shapes in a verified and proper relationship to each other, I turn to the focal point of the composition.  Through detailed shading and highlight, I work out from this center.  I will spend most of my time working on the focal area.  By the time I am the furthest away from the focus, usually, I am blending everything to black.

 Another means I employ to create the illusion of space, foreground, middle ground, back ground, is by creating a series of horizon lines.  At a minimum, you must have one horizon line in your composition to GROUND the objects.  However, the more you can break up the horizon, the more active the composition.  And, if you can create several horizon planes, your sketch has the illusion of depth of field.

 For this drawing concept, you are to focus creating shadows. Using a single source light in a dark room, set up an interesting still life study. The white of your paper is the highlight from the lamp. Sculpt the shadows into the composition with various grades of darkness. Extreme shadows are the darkest, but not all shadows are equal in tone. Define lighting direction and brilliance by concentrating on the shadows. 

#17 Seeing Light

Over Spring Break, you are to execute a series of value sketches, an essential graphic communication tool for a lighting designer. Do a series of still life studies using a single source light. Value sketches are executed on black paper, black matt board, black pastel paper or black velour paper. Conceptually, the paper represents a dark room without light. Using white pencils, white pastels or white charcoal pencils, sculpt the light as it hits the objects. Approach these drawings in the same way you to a pencil drawing. Line, shape, texture and tone. Give yourself a two-hour block of time to concentrate on this assignment.

#18. Portrait

Portrait drawing is like any other sketch. You need to abstract the human body or face to reveal lines, shapes, texture and tone. Here, knowing general human proportions is important to a successful outcome. For example, most humans are seven heads tall. The eyes generally fall midway horizontally on the face. Knowing these guidelines allow the artist to concentrate on capturing the spirit of the person drawn.

You are to sketch your roommate or friend, brother or sister. If you do not have any friends ... or at least do not have someone willing to sit for you for 2 hours, draw yourself by looking into a mirror. This is often a little more difficult but doable. You must spend 2 hours in one sitting. If you really want to learn this, you need to commit to the time to this exercise.


Throughout this unit, you have kept a sketchbook. All your assignments are to be entered into this book. Each sketch or assignment should be labeled and dated. If you you have done additional drawings, these should be included. Your sketchbook should provide a visual record of your work, a drawing portfolio. Give your sketchbook, I can provide you with unit observations.

Introduction to Theatre Design

The last two units in Drama 2310 are explorations in the art of theatre design. The first two units have examined the graphic language of non-verbal communication and should prepare the way for Costume and Scene Design. Unlike the creation of the first unit's sculptures, which were largely guided by your emotional experience and imagination, theatre design is guided by a text. The text or script is the blueprint of the design. It asks all the questions and lays out the visual problems to be solved. Whereas there is more structure to theatre design than one would find working in an artist's studio, most every artistic endeavors involves the creative thought process: Idea, Investigation, Gestation, Inspiration, Plan, Verification, Execution, Celebration. In theatre, the script usually sparks the Idea phase of the process.

For our theoretical costume and scenic designs, we will use the musical PETER PAN. The Department for this project will loan a copy of the script to you. You are responsible to return this script without damaging it. Use a pencil for notes and erase the same before you return the script.

#20.  One Page Plot Synopsis of The Musical PETER PAN

READ THE PLAY. In addition to private reflection of the meanings and details of PETER PAN, write a brief, one page synopsis of the story. You are to create two hard copies. Submit one copy and keep the other for reference throughout the design process.


Unit Three: Costume Design

Designing costumes or clothing for characters in a play can be as simple as going to your closet and selecting appropriate apparel to fit an actor in the play. The "design" is in the appropriateselection of the clothing, and the fit for the actor. This sounds easy and it is. However, the success of a costume design depends on what is says to an audience and how it enhances the character of the actor. This unit explores the process of costume design from text to a paper design. Trust the process and engage in multiple possibilities. Your imagination is the only limit. However, an informed and disciplined imagination renders greater results. Keep up and be prepared for each class or studio.

#20.  One Page Plot Synopsis of The Musical PETER PAN (See above for instructions)

#21.  Written Character Descriptions 

You will have undoubtedly thought of each character in the story as you were reading it.  For the purposes of this class exploration, we will concentrate on the following characters:
  ONE OF THE LOST BOYS (your choice... name the boy)

 You are to submit a thorough, written analysis of each character.  Your analysis should include but not be limited to the following considerations:  age and gender, physical type, the character's function within the play (protagonist, antagonist, catalyst, foil, chorus, messenger, etc.), the symbolic significance (if any) of the character, the character's relationship with other character, the character's occupation or station, and the desire or intention of each character.  In developing your character, you should quote references in the script.  Characters are revealed through the author's descriptions often found in stage notes, through comments made by other characters in dialogue, or through implications.  Including your feelings for these characters in terms of line, shape, texture and color.


Based on the written synopsis of the story and your character descriptions, you are to redraw the human forms, which have been distributed in class to reflect the ideal body shape for each character.  Use a piece of tracing paper for each character.  You should focus on redrawing these figures concentrating on shape, line, form and attitude.

#23.  Selected Costume Research

AFTER you have written your character descriptions, you are to conduct research as a means to load your intuition.  Research enables connections in the mind to think of new solutions, to take avenues, which would not happen should you depend entirely on your own experience.  Sometimes I seek inspiration in an artist's work.  Often when reading the play, an idea will surface, which points me in a direction where only research can verify the correctness of the direction.  In most cases, the script will define who the characters are and may require tangible objects for which I am not familiar and must seek research for answers. For example: "Henry, go put on your smoking jacket." I have an idea of what a smoking jacket might be but would seek visual examples to better inform my decisions regarding an appropriate smoking jacket for Henry.

 You are to conduct research for your specific production concept and style of your costumes.  You are to select a period, a style, and a spirit, which will inspire your final design.  You may need to collect pictures of clothing, hats, shoes, mushrooms, fantasy islands or pirate ships or Victorian nurseries or Chagall paintings or Erte prints or examples of doors, windows, fireplaces, etc. Look for details these characters might wear.  What does a pirate really look like?  What crocodile features say CROCODILE to an audience if selectively placed on a human actor?  How would he or she move about on stage? Could you use a skate board? If so, how might it be concealed as part of the costume? ETC. In any event, you are to immerse yourself into the world of your play as support by external documents and visual research.

 You are to bring to class some of your research in the form of PHOTOCOPIES (not books).  They need to be laid out on the tables, flat ... not in books or magazines.  At least  10 copies. These should be varied examples (Not 10 examples of hats).


Using the "ideal body shape figures" you created, it is time to design your costumes. Tape the body figures on your drawing board. Overlay another piece of tracing paper. Using your research and character descriptions plus your imagination, drawing the appropriate clothing for your characters. For class on 4/7, you are to bring at least 3 completed costume line drawings for my feedback. Bring your research, character descriptions and be prepared to draw and render in class. 


You are to render your costume designs in color. Select a lighting source and direction. Render your costumes with shadows and highlights. The tracing paper line drawings are your roughs. Clean them up and then either photocopy them onto paper or transfer them to watercolor or pastel paper. Do not color the original tracing paper. You are to submit the renderings and all other work executed in this unit for my feedback.

Unit Four: Scenery Design

The job of a scenic designer is to create the world of a play. Worlds can be as simple as selecting an appropriate chair for a blank stage or as complex as engineering a computer guided moving stage. Scenery can be fashioned out of found objects and cardboard boxes just like building a fort in the living room as a child. Or, scenery can cost millions of dollars and demand the creative collaboration of scores of theatre artisans. Whatever the degree of complexity or cost, all theatre designs begin with a script, an imagination and follows a process to arrive at a visual representation, model or rendering of the design. This unit explores the process of scene design from text to a paper design. Trust the process and engage in multiple possibilities. Your imagination is the only limit. However, an informed and disciplined imagination renders greater results. Keep up and be prepared for each class or studio.

#26. Investigation and Dreaming about the Play

 Reread the story.  This time, think about the environment. Think about the Home Under he Ground Scene and another "Favorite" Scene for an exercise in class.  Write down your ideas for discussion.

 As a class, we will discuss the Home Under the Ground Scene to consider how the environment shapes the action of the play.  Then, we will break up into various groups to brainstorm and find metaphors for your "favorite" scene.

#27. Scenery as a Character in the Story. 

 Scenic Character Descriptions

 When I read a play, I envision a location, a world, with people in it. I see a tangible environment that might enable an audience to believe in the actions and words of the playwright's characters.  This world sets the boundaries for the reality of the play.

 In a multi-location play, I invent a space that allows each scene to be believable in the overall world as well as enables the scenes to move fluidly from location to location.   I imagine a world where all the scenes logically unfold in a unified style and period.  Peter Pan is a musical with multiple locations. However, for the purposes of this exercise, you will create a sketch and/or a model for just one location but it must consider the other scenes in an overall concept.

 To arrive at a final design, the designer must explore the script to determine the demands of the play, the requirements of the setting. As you read the play, take notes regarding the settings. How many doors? How is the main window used? What happens on the ship? What images do you see? Write them down. Then, consider and imagine Peter Pan in your ideal production. You are to provide a written explanation of the world of your play.  Describe the overall locations, the textures, the colors you see and how they might interact with one another.  If you have a specific location in mind, discuss it.  If you have a specific artist or piece of music or a film or period, include this in your paper. Then select one the scene to design for this unit.  Write a character description of this scene using the following format as a guide.





WORDS, COMMENTS OR ADJECTIVES USED TO DESCRIBE THE ENVIRONMENT (Distinguish between that which is a) written by the playwright, b) included as stage directions, and c) indicated in the dialogue.)


#28. Loading the Intuition through Research. 

 You are to conduct research for your specific scenic location.  Although you may use the same period you selected for your costumes, you may decide to select a new one.  Nevertheless, you are to select a period, a style, a spirit that will inspire your final design.  You may need to collect pictures of mushrooms or Victorian nurseries or examples of doors, windows, fireplaces, etc. You are to immerse yourself into the world of your play as supported by external documents and visual research.

 You are to provide AT LEAST 10 photocopies of your research for scenery and 10 for costumes.  These should be varied examples (Not 10 examples of doors nor 10 of hats).

#29. Manipulating Space for Movement to Tell the Story, Ground Plans.

AFTER you have written your character descriptions, listed all the scenic requirements and conducted your research, it is time to develop a ground plan or space for you story to unfold. The ground plan is a bird's eye view of the stage that indicates where furniture, walls and objects touch the floor.

For your chosen scene, list all the furniture and objects scripted or in your imagination. Draw a diagram of each object in a 1/4" scale. For example, an ordinary kitchen chair is about 1'-6" x 1'-6" square. If 1/4" equals 1'-0" in scale, the square would be 3/8" x 3/8". A single bed is 3'x 6' or 3/4" x 11/2". Label all the objects. Cut them out. On a large piece of paper, create the stage area. Your stage is 40' wide and 20' deep. In scale, then, your stage would be 10" by 5". Lay out your objects in this space and move them around until they make sense. Once you have a possible ground plan configuration, overlay a piece of tracing paper and trace the object.

To give you an idea of space, your room is probably approximately 10x10. The stage is 4 of these rooms downstage and 4 of these rooms upstage.

You are to develop two different ground plans of your selected scene for class.

#30.   Scenic Roughs

After developing your 1/4" ground plans, it is time to draw the scenery. In class we will investigate how to transfer a ground plan into a front elevation. These are called scenic roughs as they are "studies" for composition and consideration. Execute two scenic roughs. 

You are to prepare for a conference with me either from 4/25 - 4/29 in lieu of class on Thursday.  Schedule a 30-minute appointment by signing up on an appointment sheet posted on my office door.  Bring your Research, Sketches, Written Descriptions, Preliminary Ideas and anything else you think we may need for our Individual Conference.

#31. The Colored Scenic Sketch

Due: On the date and at the time of the Final Exam scheduled for this class.

Unlike costumes, lighting, sound and other supporting production elements, generally speaking, once approval has been given for a scenic plan, the ideas cannot evolve throughout the production process.  Construction materials are ordered.  Blueprints drawn up. Large-scale objects are built.  Changing the concept or redesign the scenery is a very expensive endeavor.  It might mean hiring additional crew.  It just does not happen often.  As a result, the colored scenic sketch or model is an important final verification before budgets are committed.

 Colored sketches are "moments in the life of the play".  They indicate mood through shadows/highlights (value).  They show actors in costumes interacting in the environment.  They are used to "story board" the play by showing each scene under lighting.  They communicate to the director and lighting designer, how the scenic designer sees the show in his/her mind.  It is the last step before final renderings or a final model is constructed.

 You are to take your ideas as refined by our appointment and redraw them for presentation on our final day of class.  Taking the 1/8"plans and sketches, photocopy and enlarge them to 1/4".  Redraft the ground plan as best you can in 1/4" scale using straight edges and the drafting conventions I have distributed.  Redraw your scene indicating a specific moment and include at least one costumed character.  Clean it up.  Then photocopy your line drawing onto 11x 17 paper (centered).  Color the sketch showing lighting.

 You will have 5 minutes to present your project to the entire class. Come prepared with an oral presentation.

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