JCU Logo


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

INSTRUCTOR: Catherine Biocca
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: T12:30 PM 3:15 PM

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.

Most classes meet at  different sites of historical and visual interest around Rome. Students make drawings from observation in their sketchbooks both in and out of class, thus creating a record of their experiences. 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: thumbnail sketches and planning, the cultivation 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, organization of the page, 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 footware, no bare shoulders in churches, hats and sunscreen, warm clothing when the weather turns cold. Decorous behaviour in public spaces.
8. No earbuds allowed during class time, as they diminish concentration and impede communication.

Students buy their own art supplies. You need a sketchbook not less than 24 x 34 cm. The drawing instruments are up to you, but most students begin a variety of pencils, or soft, dark graphite.

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), also Vertecchi, a chain with many branches, including one near Piazza di Spagna. Drawing supplies are also commonly found in stationary stores (cartolerie). Show your JCU student card at Poggi to receive 15% discount. 

There is no textbook. 



  • Demonstrate the ability to learn from observational drawing in order to explore creativity and visual expression.

  • Demonstrate technical proficiency in the knowledge of techniques and material and evidence an ability to use them creatively and sensitively.

  • Demonstrate an ability to analyze and evaluate both the individual creative process and, importantly, the work and practice of other professional artists.


Completed sketchbook of drawings done over the termGrading is based on a judgment of the contents of the sketchbook and related work created over the semester. 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. 100

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.


Learners are expected to attend every class periodIf they are ill or have obtained an excused absence (in accordance with JCUs official attendance policies), learners are required to notify the instructor in a prompt and timely manner.  Furthermore, if learners must miss a class, they are responsible for acquiring the missed information and completing assignments before the next classMedical excuses without documentation from a physician are invalidUnexcused absences will affect your participation grade: 


2 unexcused absences = forfeit of one letter grade*.  

3 unexcused absences = forfeit of additional letter grade. 

4 unexcused absences = forfeit of additional letter grade and mandatory student meeting with instructor and department chair. 

5 unexcused absences = Five unexcused absences (one third of the course experience) will prevent you from passing the course.  


*Refers to learners’ participation letter grade. 

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.


1 Meet at JCU Art Studio, Largo dei Fiorentini 1. Introduction to course, materials required and initial drawing exercises. 

2 Meet at the Campidoglio (the piazza of the Capitoline Hill, up the big stairs to the south of P.za Venezia.) Entry fee if bad weather.

3 Meet in the middle of Circo Massimo. Lesson devoted to mark-making and quality of line. 

4 Meet at Santa Sabina on the Aventino. (From school walk to the other side of the river at Tiber Island, then continue south past Sta. 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 Sta. Sabina. Wait there.) No bare shoulders or shorts in this or other churches. 

5 Meet at JCU Art Studio - lesson devoted to exploring tone. 

6 Meet at Piazza Mattei (the “Turtle Fountain”). Lesson devoted to exploring the figure. 

7 MID TERM DRAWING EXERCISE. Meet at Ponte Sant’Angelo, under the Castel Sant'Angelo. 

8 Meet at the studio – Group critique. 

9 Orto Botanico; meet at Guarini entry, and we walk from there. Entry fee 4 euros. Lesson devoted to exploring natural form. 

10 Meet at Frutta Gallery. Via dei Salumi 53 in Trastevere.  Lesson devoted to exploring contemporary Rome.

11 Meet at Guarini entry, and we walk from there to Tiber Island. Lesson devoted to problems in cityscape, landscape, riverscape, water and atmosphere.

12 Meet at Guarini entry; we’ll go up the Gianicolo. Lesson devoted to depicting city-scapes. 

13 TBC – students must collectively research and decide a location within 15 min walks from campus to draw. 

14 Final meeting at JCU Art Studio, Largo dei Fiorentin, 1. Group critique. Appointments made for individual meetings that take the place of a final exam.