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Some of the best ideas come out of perseverance. This year I wanted to start off with a very focused drawing project. The aim was to get students back into the discipline of seeing as well as improving their skill levels.

I wanted a visually complicated object to draw, something that would demand attention. I decided what I wanted was a large black motorcycle ... perhaps a Harley. I knew this concept would be attractive to students. The idea was also easier said than done. First I asked the school faculty but no one had one. Then I spoke to the custodians, one had one, but it was not working. I called the local police to find they don't use them. I called the Harley-Davidson showroom in a nearby town. I was hoping they would like a little free advertising at my school. They said, "No way!"

So on the first day of school the center of my room was empty. I asked both my middle and high school students if any of their parents could lend us one for approximately two weeks. I offered the conditions that no one would touch it and the door would always be locked when the room was not in use. I was really happy when the father of an eighth grade student called me at home to offer a sleek black Honda CB750. The next morning I knew it was worth the effort. The bike was impressive and the student enthusiasm was very high.

I developed three directions for the students. I wanted them to see the diversity that can be generated from one focal point. They started with the same jumping off point: pick a section and fill your paper using only line to define the shapes you see.

Students in the seventh and eighth grade Art Workshop first used a single color water-based marker over the pencil line. Then they painted each individual section of the composition with watercolors, including the negative shapes. Repetition of color was stressed on the 12" x 18" (30 cm x 46 cm) pieces of paper. In the final stage, fine lines drawn with pen and India ink defined the new shapes created by the watercolor. This unified and balanced the quality of line in their artwork.

In Art I, students were asked to develop their compositions into shades of gray, emphasizing contrast. This was done with an India ink wash over the entire 18" x 24" (46 cm x 61 cm) piece of paper followed by fine contour lines to add additional form.

Art II and III students were asked to develop their compositions, also on 18" x 24" (46 cm X 61 cm) paper, in an expressive and/or experimental color usage. They could choose their media from watercolor, color pencils, tempera, marker, chalk and pastels.

I felt the structure of these assignments added to the diversity of the results, and that the students had freedom to make decisions within the confines of each assignment. This, plus the visual impact of the motorcycle, made for a dynamic beginning of the school year.

Ken Vieth teaches art at Montgomery High School, Skillman, New Jersey.
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Author:Vieth, Ken
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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