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COURSE NAME: "Drawing - Rome Sketchbook"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Roberto Caracciolo
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: T9:00 AM 11:45 AM

This course makes use of the unparalleled resource that is the city of Rome itself; each class meets at a different site around the city. Students work in sketchbook form, creating over the course of the term a diary of visual encounters. Instruction, apart from brief discussions of the sites themselves, focuses on efficient visual note taking: the quick description of form, awareness of light and the development of volume in space. With practice and growing experience, students become capable of producing drawings governed by conscious intention.


Each class meets at a different site of historical and visual interest around Rome. Students make drawings from observation in their sketchbooks creating a record of their experiences and of the sites they are seeing. The beginning of each class meeting is dedicated to a brief discussion of the site, and the presentation of an issue to be addressed in drawing. Some of the basic drawing issues addressed in specific lessons include: centering the subject on the page, the uses and the values of line, rendering form in light and dark, creating space and visual drama through various kinds of contrast, practical advice on perspective, specifying point of view, creating atmosphere, faces and figures from classical statuary and so on.

Additional information:
1. The course involves working from direct observation.

2. The course may include visits involving an entry fee. These visits are held to a minimum and should not cost you more than a total of 25 euros over the semester.
3. The core activity is drawing directly from observation. You will not be able to meet the requirements of the course without working many hours outside of class.
4. The class meets rain or shine.
5. The course is meant to be a framework allowing very free individual artistic choices. The lessons are meant to help students get started, but there is always room for creative alternatives.
6. Students must come to class on time because that is when the site is explained, and the day's drawing problem and other announcements are given.
7. Students need to dress appropriately: proper footwear, no bare shoulders in churches, hats and sunscreen, warm clothing when the weather turns cold. Decorous behavior in public spaces.
8. Be sure to plan your morning itinerary in order to arrive promptly at the site at 9:00. Be alert for announcements of changes to the preliminary schedule below.


Students buy their own art supplies. You need a sewn bound (not spiral or glued) notebook not less than 24 x 34 cm. The drawing instruments are up to you, but most students use a variety of pencils, or soft, dark graphite. You need erasers and a pencil sharpener. Ink, pens and brushes are fine, but optional. I do not recommend your using soft charcoal or pastel, as the image quickly degrades in the sketchbook, even when you use fixative.

There is no textbook.

Art supply stores: Poggi (three locations, one in Trastevere on Via Merry del Val, just off Viale Trastevere, the other on Via Pie’ di Marmo, near the Pantheon and the third in Via Ripetta 24 not far from Piazza del Popolo); and Vertecchi, a chain with many branches, including one near Piazza di Spagna. Drawing supplies can also found in stationary stores (cartolerie); the Feltrinelli bookstores have Moleskin drawing and sketching books, which hold up well.


By the end of the course students should be more visually alert to their surroundings, capable of careful observation, familiar with significant sites in Rome, and capable of representing what they see in both quick sketches and longer studies. They will have acquired skill using various technical approaches to drawing and knowledge about some traditions in drawing and painting.


Completed sketchbook of drawings done over the termGrading is based on a judgment of the contents of the sketchbook created over the semester and on the work done at the studio. Quantity of work produced is of great importance, since producing a large body of work by itself practically guarantees progress. Commitment, range of experimentation, resourcefulness, inventiveness, expressiveness, acuity of observation, concision, complexity, improvement, spatial clarity, and other aspects of technical skill and artistic quality are also considered.60
Attendance and punctualityUnjustified absences erode the grade, as repeated late arrivals.10
Progress over the semesterA clear demonstration that the issues and difficulties involved in drawing have been grasped and understood.30

AWork of this quality shows excellent mastery of the course content along with exceptional levels of technical skill, artistic awareness, originality, resourcefulness, commitment, quantity of work and improvement. There has been excellent collaboration and leadership in group projects, and there have been no attendance problems.
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.
DThe 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 this being a very hands-on course where the dialogue between student and instructor is at the base of all possible progress made. Each unjustified absence erodes the grade, three late arrivals equal to an absence. More than four unjustified absences are reason enough to fail the course.
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.


PROVISIONAL SCHEDULE by week, but stay alert for changes:

1. September 5th. Introduction. Meet at JCU Art Studio, Largo dei Fiorentini, 1. Introduction to the course and discussion on materials needed. PPT on “Sketchbook Materials”. Introduction to two opposed languages of drawing, line vs. tonal value and to composition. PPT on “Notes on Composition”. A walk to the Art Supply store to buy all required.

Assignment 1: A drawing of your choice, so as to understand the initial level of each one.

2. Sept 12th. Meet at Piazza del Campidoglio (the piazza of the Capitoline Hill, up the big stairs to the south of P.za Venezia). Lesson: view-finding, thumbnail sketches.

Assignment 2: Two pages of thumb nail sketches.


3. Sept 19th. Meet at Santa Sabina on the Aventino. (From school walk to the other side of the river at Tiber Island, then continue south past S. Maria in Cosmedin; after the main street leading to the Circo Massimo turn left up a little pathway called the Clivio di Rocca Savella leading from the river to the Aventine hill. Past the famous orange grove, you will find the big parking lot of S. Sabina. Wait there.) No bare shoulders or shorts in this or other churches. Lesson devoted to solving problems of perspective.

Assignment 3: Five sketches of perspectives (three one-point perspective and two two-vanishing point perspectives).


4. Sept 26th Orto Botanico; meet at Guarini entry, and we walk from there. Entry fee 4 euros. "Scribble drawings"; observation of nature. Contrasting description against suggestion. Assignment 4: 8 Fast sketches from nature.


5. October 3rd. Meet outside the Guarini entrance, and we walk from there to Tiber Island. Problems in cityscape, landscape, water, atmospheric perspective.

Assignment 5: Slower drawing from nature paying attention to atmospheric perspective.


6. Oct 10th. Meet at the entry to S. Peter's Square. Lesson involves depicting a large outdoor urban space.

Assignment 6: Drawing large spaces, such as Piazza Farnese or Piazza Navona.


7. Oct 17th. Meet at Guarini entry; we’ll go up the Gianicolo to Bramante’s Tempietto at S. Pietro in Montorio. Drawing architecture, round forms in perspective, also views over the city.

Assignment 7: Views of Rome.


8. Oct 24th. Meet at Largo dei Fiorentini Art Studio for a group critique. PPTs on “Notes, Drawings and Sketches” (examples of other artists way of using a sketchbook) and on “Notes on Light and Shadow”. We will then be drawing on the bridge of Castel Sant’Angelo close by to the art studio.

Assignment 8: Five drawings from art or architecture with light and shadows, possibly with high contrast of light and dark (even a still life with a spotlight on it).


9. Oct 31th. Meet by the fountain of the Triton in Piazza Barberini. We will be looking at the Baroque by seeing the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Bernini and the church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane by Borromini and paying greater attention to light and shadow. Drawing greater complexity.

Assignment 9: Slower drawings that include more information.


10. November 7th Meet by the central fountain in Piazza Navona We will be drawing there and from the fountain of the Turtles in Piazza Mattei. A series of figure drawing exercises with particular attention to the negative spaces in between the solid forms.

Assignment 10: Three figures from the past.


11. Nov 14th. Meet at Trajan's Market on Via Quattro Novembre 94, past P.za Venezia,and Trajan's Column, and up the steps. Drawing lesson on clarifying point of view: looking up and looking down. The best solution is to have previously bought a 5 Euro MIC Card that allows free entrance to all Communal Museums).

Assignment 11: Five Roman views.


12. Nov 21st. Meet in front of the entrance of the Centrale Montemartini Museum in Via Ostiense 106 (bus 23 will get you there). Mic card required. We will be drawing objects in context.

Assignment 13: Continue working from details of Roman life, with special attention to the relation between foreground and background.


13. Nov 28th. Meet at Piazza del Campidoglio, we will be drawing within the Capitoline Museum looking at statues and reliefs from antiquity. Free entry with MIC Card.

Assignment 13: Roman antiquity or art from the past..


14. December 5th. We will be meeting at JCU Art Studio, Largo dei Fiorentini, 1. End of semester final group critique. Appointments made for individual meetings that take the place of a final exam.


15. Dec 12th. Individual one-on-one final critiques.