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COURSE NAME: "Figure Drawing"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Peter Flaccus
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: M 12:30-3:15 PM

Figure drawing is the traditional basis for training the artist’s eye and hand. Through specific exercises, students learn to control line and gesture, to model form in light and dark, and to depict accurately the forms and proportions of the human body.
Every class is dedicated to drawing from a nude model.  Students must also do a considerable amount of work outside of class time.  Reproductions of paintings from diverse historical periods are shown in order to illustrate points concerning the use of the figure in art.  Visits to exhibitions are also scheduled, in order to deepen knowledge of various painting traditions, and most importantly, to study master works up close and in the flesh. Group critiques help students develop a language for discussing their own drawings and paintings and those of others.        

The class is characterized by an atmosphere of study and experimentation, working with concentration and humility in front of an objective reality. The aim is to understand and to discover, rather than simply to follow the rigid steps of a traditional academic regime. Students are encouraged to find their own, individual approaches, and no particular style is promoted.     

Other points:  
1.  The course involves working from direct observation.  Working from photographs is not permitted.  
2.  The course may include illustrated lectures and museum visits.
3.  The core activity is working in class from the nude model.  Supplementary sessions may also be arranged.  Students are also expected to work outside of class on subject matter of their own choice.
4. We will use pencil at first, and then charcoal and ink. We will do certain directed drawing exercises designed to liberate hand and eye. 
5.  The course is meant to be a framework allowing very free individual artistic choices.  The five assignments listed are meant to help students get started.  There is always leeway for alternatives, with consultation.  Interesting variations could include making a very large-scale work, working collaboratively, or creating a narrative cycle of works.
6.  Students must come to class on time, because announcements, assignments, brief slide lectures, discussions, etc. take place at the beginning of the class.
7.  A list of materials will be given at the first class meeting.  Students buy their own art supplies. There is no textbook. For the first few classes you will need an oversize standard pad of student grade drawing paper, soft pencils (3-6B is good), erasers, a pencil sharpener. Later in the semester you will need charcoal, ink and brushes.
Art supply stores: Poggi (two locations, one in Trastevere on Via Merry del Val, just off Viale Trastevere, and the other on Via Pie’ di Marmo, near the Pantheon), Arte Tre, Via del Fiume near Via Ripetta and the Piazza del Popolo, and Vertecchi, a chain with several branches. Drawing supplies are also commonly found in stationary stores (cartolerie).
8. Please do not use earbuds during class time, as they isolate students and impede communication.
Diligent students will leave the course with greatly improved skill in depicting the human figure in space, and with a new understanding of some of the traditions and problems in figure drawing and painting.

Portfolio of the semester's workGrading is based on a judgment of the portfolio of drawings created over the semester. The amount of work done is important, since more work means more progress. Commitment, range of experimentation, improvement, resourcefulness, degree of observation, expressiveness, and other aspects of technical skill and artistic quality are considered. 100

AWork of this quality shows excellent mastery of the course content along with exceptional levels of technical skill, artistic awareness, originality, resourcefulness, commitment, control, intentionality, quantity of work and improvement.  There has been excellent collaboration and leadership in group projects, and there have been no attendance problems. The student has the capacity to initiate and carry out artistic projects that express specific intentions.
BA highly competent level of performance with work that directly addresses the content of the course, with a good quantity of work produced.
CAn acceptable level of performance: the work shows awareness of the course content, but is very limited in quantity, quality, commitment and skill.
D The student lacks a coherent grasp of the course material and has failed to produce much work.
FNegligent in attendance, academic honesty, engagement with the course content, or production of work.

Attendance is required.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Students are guided through the five basic units in this course according to a schedule that evolves during the semester.  Each drawing session consists in a focused lesson or series of exercises and often finishes with a longer study.
1. Structure and proportions of the human body.  We will initiate the course with several sessions devoted to careful observation of proportions and structure of the figure.  During this period the main aim will be achieve rigor in the constant measurement and correction that is basic to a credible depiction of the human figure in a linear style using pencil.
2. The figure in space.  All painting and drawing departs from the problem of controlling the illusion of three-dimensions on a flat, two-dimensional surface. Students will execute both line and chiaroscuro drawings that specifically address the relationship of the nude figure to an interior space.  This will typically involve attention to the light environment: how the color, intensity, and direction of the light interact with the figure.  Charcoal is introduced.
3. The figure in light and dark.  Techniques for modeling the figure tonally, using charcoal, in a space with  coherent light. 
4. The portrait. When the artist’s intention becomes that of making visible particular physical or even psychological characteristics of an individual, we have entered the realm of the portrait.  Students may  work on a portrait of the model, a portrait of a friend or relative, or even a self-portrait, always drawn from life, never from a photograph. Ink will be used for some of these and other exercises.
5. Drawing (or painting) a life-sized figure.    
6. A multi-figure composition.    After students have some practice in working from the nude model, they should be able to combine figures in a more complex composition.  This widens the possibilities of a narrative dimension in the work.   Here, as in the above problems, familiarity with the history of art is indispensable in finding ideas and interesting problems.