Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

ART 2DG3 Contemp Appr To Drawing

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Mary Porter



Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: after class and by appointment on Thursday 10:30am-12:30pm, Room 432

Course Objectives:

This course provides insight into the varied functions of drawing including expressive purpose, communication, information organization, idea synthesis and drawing as a form of thinking. A variety of media including graphite, charcoal, conte, wet media, collage, digital media, mixed media and hybrid approaches are included. Due to the nature of this course it is mandatory that students attend every class. There are demonstrations/ lab instruction, life modeling that can not be repeated.

If a student is absent from class they must follow McMaster’s policy for missed classes. Students missing classes due to team sports, work or other will not be excused, missing classes with out good reason will result in a failing grade as projects will not be repeated nor made up.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Textbooks, Materials, and Fees:

The studio fee of $75.00 provides students with the basic materials necessary for this class. This will include most basic media and supports for in-class and some projects. Drawing media, paper pad, and sketchbook will be given to each student at the beginning of term and other paper will be distributed as needed throughout the term. Students must pay the SOTA office before receiving the drawing materials. Please note the studio fees only covers the basics and is an introduction to the materials so students can sample various materials/ mediums. Students should be aware that these supplies do not cover all cost and materials and it is the responsibility of the student to replenish if needed. Lost materials will not be replaced. Please ensure that you label every item with your name.

The following are items that are required, but not included in the supply kit:

- a variety of brushes suitable for watercolour or ink washes

- a variety of markers and pens

- small plastic container for rinsing brushes

- cloth rag

- retractable exacto knife and scissors

- sandpaper for sharpening drawing media

- Ruler (24”), metal is best

- a metal knitting needle or wooden BBQ skewer for sighting techniques

- small tackle/tool box to carry/organise your supplies
- rigid portfolio for transporting your drawings, should be flat, not rolled!

- lightweight portfolio for handing in work, out of 2 sheets of Bristol or cardboard

- access to a digital camera for documenting work---your phone is fine

- allow $20-40 in your budget for paper for projects, as needed throughout term

Optional Items

-Fixative Spray for drawings, there is some available in the studio, however, if you want to buy your own, please note that Ms. Natural Degas SpectraFix Pastel Fixative is the only brand allowable.

Please label all your material with your name!

Other materials: On occasion, you may opt to use other materials which is acceptable. However, please be sensitive to health and safety concerns in the shared space. As such, please don’t use spray paints and other similar products in the studio. If you have a question about whether something is acceptable, please ask the technicians.

Aviary Visit: On Sept 25th, we will be visiting the volunteer-run aviary. Please consider budgeting for a small donation or other supplies needed (see list here: 


Method of Assessment:


-Demonstrate knowledge of materials and techniques acquired through the duration of this course

-Demonstrate independent study and creative thinking through development of ideas and materials.

-Demonstrate a willingness to explore new techniques/processes and undertake challenges in order to expand personal boundaries and creative outcomes.

-Demonstrate research practices both historical and contemporary, which inform the artwork(s) from various sources, such as: the museum collections, galleries, sketchbook, library, and journals.

-Participation in-class discussions and critiques.


Evaluation: the criteria for grading is as follows:

-Resolution/completion of project(s): the development of work(s) through explorations of materials and ideas express through drawing, plans and/or the reworking of the works in progress, full development of ideas and investigation.

-Innovation/creativity: the work must exhibit an exploration of visual language through the visual imagery as well as the concepts that are expressed in the work(s).

-Conceptual Knowledge: an understanding of the imagery and why it was created. This has to be more that I just like it. Why?

-Technical skill: students must demonstrate the ability to execute works that they have learned through technical demonstrations of this course.


Assignment Percentage Breakdown

Project 1, due Oct 2, 15%

Project 2, due Oct 30, 20%

Project 3, due Dec 4, 25%

Sketchbook and Portfolio 30%

Participation 10%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please note the following policies and statements:

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Required Reading (a pdf will be available) and Viewing:

Sept 18: Berger, John. “The Company of Drawing for Marie-Claude”, Harper’s Magazine, February 2010, p. 40-43

Sept 18: Berger, John. “To Take Paper, To Draw: A world through lines”, Harper’s Magazine, September 1987, p. 57-60

Oct 2: Rattemeyer, Christian. “Drawing Today,” in Vitamin D2: New Perspectives in Drawing, London; New York: Phaidon, 2013, p. 8-14

Oct 2: Perspective Hand-outs (PDFs)

Oct 23: Mac Anatomy Lab Orientation:

Nov 6: Anatomy Hand-outs (inc. Peck’s Human Anatomy for Artists (PDFs))

Suggested Readings:

Alvarez, D-L; Alys, Francis; Aoki, Ryoko. Vitamin D : new perspectives in drawing, London; New York: Phaidon, 2005.

Berger, John. Bento’s Sketchbook, London: Pantheon, 2011

Davidson, Margaret, Contemporary Drawing: Key Concepts and Techniques, New York: Watson-Gubtill Publications, 2011

Hoptman, Laura J., Drawing Now, Fifth Edition (2009), New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002.

Kovats, Tania. (editor) The Drawing Book: a survey of drawing, the primary means of expression, London: Black Dog, 2005.

Rattemeyer, Christian. Vitamin D2: New Perspectives in Drawing, London; New York: Phaidon, 2013

Smith, Ray, The Artist’s Handbook, The Complete Guide to Tools, Techniques and Materials of Painting, Drawing and Printmaking, New York: Alfred A Knopf, Revised 2003

Other Course Information:

Project Descriptions


Project 1: Abstracted Views, due week 4, Oct 2, value 15%

Size: 18” x 24” (or determined in discussion with instructor)

Support: good quality drawing paper, to be supplied

Media: varied

Additional Notes: a piece of graphite paper will be supplied

Description: Our initial focus is on line. After generating many blind contour drawings (in-class and 6 homework), you select the one you feel has the most potential to serve as the basis for the first project. You will use the inner and outer contours of this image to create a three-value shape study. In transforming the piece from a line drawing to something else, you may explore colour, collage, pattern, frottage, etc. Throughout, we will be discussing drawing as an observational and potentially meditative practice; how the drawing is an artifact of observation; the difference between closely observed descriptive line and generalized line; how line has the potential to convey depth, shadow, texture, speed, as well as other expressive qualities; and how observation can be the basis of abstraction.

Submission: The final project (70% of grade) and the blind contour homework studies (30% of grade) will be submitted on the due date in a portfolio (cardboard, Bristol) large enough to cover drawings and labeled with your name.


Project 2: Viewpoints, due week 7, Oct 30, value 20%

Size: no smaller than 18” x 24”

Support: good quality drawing paper, mylar, to be supplied

Media: varied

Description: Our viewpoint determines what we see. Changing the viewpoint can radically alter what and how we perceive. This is the starting point for this project. You’ll be asked to create two drawings to be superimposed on top of each other (a sheet of mylar will be supplied) or juxtaposed adjacent to one another. One drawing or viewpoint should explore perspectival theory in some capacity, while the other should employ a contrasting kind of drawing approach that we’ve experimented with in class. Throughout we will be discussing how the viewpoint is read in an image; how markmaking signify; how new meaning is created when two images are superim/juxtaposed; and the social/political/poetic/personal implications of the gaze. We will also be discussing spatial concerns, tonality, gesture and positive and negative space.

Submission: The final project will be submitted on the due date in a portfolio (cardboard, Bristol) large enough to cover drawings and labeled with your name.


Project 3: Portrait, due week 12, Dec 4, value 25%

Size: 26” x 40”

Support: good quality drawing paper, suggested Nutex or Arnheim (approx. $10) or TBD by concept

Media: varied, you may also incorporate other media

Description: This much more self-directed project asks you to consider figuration and portraiture. You will be working on a life-size image of yourself in a space. Drawing from direct observation, you will be exploring the technical and conceptual approaches we’ve experimented with throughout the term. You’re encouraged to be inventive in terms of how you approach this project and may consider site-specific installation and incorporating other media (3D, projections, installation, etc.). You may turn to components in your sketchbook for inspiration (the “every day a drawing” and image bank in particular).

Submission: This project will not be collected, but marked from photo documentation.


Sketchbook and Portfolio, due week 10, Nov 20, value 30%

-Keep everything you do—even drawings that you may not feel are successful.

-Store loose drawings flat and clean. Create newsprint covers for any drawings that might smear or use Ms. Natural Degas SpectraFix Pastel Fixative.

-Please date all studies and entries in sketchbook. Please note what the drawing is for (ex. “Oct 2, one-drawing-a-day” or “Sept 14, blind contour, 15 mins”)

-Keep sketchbook chronological so it’s easier for me to find items during evaluation.

-If there is any personal content that you don’t want to share, indicate that somehow before evaluation.

Submission: Throughout the term, I will periodically ask to look through your sketchbook to see assess progress and whether exercises were completed on time. In mid-October, we will discuss how you’ll be asked to prepare your sketchbook(s) and portfolio for evaluation on Nov 20. We will discuss your evaluation in-class on Nov 27.

The mark for the sketchbook and portfolio will be comprised of three components:

1-Assigned exercises from in-class and homework assignments. Value 60%.

-a curated selection of your in-class work (in portfolio and sketchbook)

-article notes and observations (Berger, Vitamin D, perspective and anatomy handouts) (in sketchbook)

-homework: 3 observed perspective studies (in sketchbook)

-homework: 8 hands and feet studies (in sketchbook)

-homework: facial self-portrait (in sketchbook)

2-Brainstorming and plans for major projects in sketchbook. Value 15%.

3-Every-day-a-drawing in sketchbook. 25%

Between Sept 11 and Nov 20th, you’re asked to make a drawing every day (approx. 77). Sometimes the drawings will take 30 mins, sometime 30 secs. Some will be a few pages, some may be 1”x1” square. They may be quick gestures, cartoons, abstracted mark making…whatever you want. Variety, inventiveness, and consistent effort will be considered in the evaluation. Please date and number each drawing. These drawings should be made directly in your class sketchbook or pasted in. These may also be something you want to look to as inspiration for your final self-portrait.


Participation, 10%

This includes arriving on time for class, returning from breaks, and meeting at sites; being prepared with required supplies; using class work time effectively; sharing ideas, concepts, and creative exploration with instructor and class mates; being respectively of facilities and the sites we visit; using technology, such as phones and laptops, appropriately; analyzing and offering feedback about work in progress; listening to and being an active participant in critique discussions; being respectful of difference in the class room; being responsive to feedback and showing a willingness to learn and develop.


Mid term: A mid term grade will be supplied the week of Nov 6


Weekly Overview


ART 2DG3: Contemporary Approaches to Drawing, Mary Porter, Fall 2017



Please note: There will usually be a break time of 15 mins mid-way through the sessions, as well as shorter breaks as needed. This may be altered depending on site visits.

Some changes may need to be made throughout the term. All changes, particularly any that involve site visits, materials required, or due dates will be explained in advance.


Weekly plan


Week 1


Sept 11

  • Intro to course
  • Supplies distributed if fee paid
  • Project 1 assigned
  • Blind contour exercises, weather/time permitting outside walk


  • Supplies: acquire additional supplies and label everything with your name
  • Read John Berger articles, be prepared to discuss in class, make notes in sketchbook
  • Homework: 3 sustained blind contour drawings (15 mins) of self-selected complex objects (take photos to document objects in lighting)
  • Bring in 2-3 objects that have interesting contours
  • A drawing each day

Week 2


Sept 18

  • Working from in-class from elaborate still life focus that we will create together
  • Discuss John Berger articles
  • In-class studies: contour drawings (blind, cross-contour, sustained, negative space)
  • Discuss organizing lines, sighting techniques, and loose gesture, compositional strategies, framing, thumbnail sketches
  • Last hour: Visit to McMaster Museum of Contemporary Art


  • Homework: 3 sustained blind contour drawings (15 mins) of self-selected objects
  • For Project 1--Compile all in-class and homework blind contour studies and select the one you feel is the most dynamic. Decide how you want to handle the final (colour, pattern, frontage, collage, 3D).
  • A drawing each day

Week 3


Sept 25

  • Preview Crit, discuss the selected drawing and handling for final project
  • Discuss gesture and experiments with drawing to texture and music as a way of exploring expressive line
  • Tour around campus doing gestures (weather permitting)
  • Check-in on sketchbook progress (drawing a day)
  • Complete Project 1
  • A drawing each day

Week 4


Oct 2

  • Project 1 due, critique
  • Introduce Project 2
  • Discuss basic perspectival theory
  • In-class work on observed perspective drawing
  • Review hand-outs on perspective
  • Sketchbook Exercises: 3 Observed Perspective Studies
  • Read Vitamin D2’s intro article, make notes in sketchbook, for class Oct 23
  • Generate early ideas and sketches for Project 2
  • A drawing each day


Reading Week


Week 5


Oct 16



  • In-class presentation on light, tonal range, low/mid/high key, discussion of various ways to show tonal range (hatching, pointillism, blending, etc).
  • Site visit, TBD to explore architectural space, tonal range. Make sure to have charcoals and conte and erasers.
  • discuss guidelines for sketchbook/portfolio prep, due Nov 20
  • Find complex and interesting objects to bring to class next week for elaborate still life
  • Complete studies and brainstorming for Project 2
  • Watch orientation of Anatomy lab video
  • A drawing each day


Week 6


Oct 23

  • Introduce Project 3, presentation on interdisciplinary approach to drawing
  • Discuss Vitamin D article
  • Anatomy Lab Visit: Presentation and tonal sketches (must watch video)
  • Check-in: sketchbook progress and Project 2 progress (discuss and present project plan)


  • Complete Project 2
  • A drawing each day


Week 7


Oct 30

  • Project 2 due, critique
  • Project 3 discussion and brainstorming session, bring sketchbook and drawing media



  • Sketchbook exercise: 8 Hands and Feet studies (variety of approaches to drawing hands and feet, including, hatching and cross-hatching, line, tonal, etc.)
  • Review anatomy hand-outs
  • A drawing each day


Week 8


Nov 6


  • Model, focus on considering human anatomy, strategies for handling the human figure, and gesture.


Note: mid-term mark will be supplied this week

  • Sketchbook exercise: 8 hands and feet continued.
  • A drawing each day

Week 9


Nov 13


  • Model, short and long poses, will require full range of dry media
  • Sketchbook exercise: Facial Self-Portrait (charcoal with eraser approach)
  • A drawing each day

Week 10


Nov 20


  • Model, longer poses, working with washes (bring brushes, container, rags, ink, you may also bring other watercolour paints, etc.)
  • Portfolio and Sketchbook due
  • Come to class with sketches, plans and developed studies for Project 3
  • A drawing each day

Week 11


Nov 27

  • In-class work on Project 3, bring everything you’re working on
  • Preview crit
  • Individual student/instructor meeting to discuss portfolio/sketchbook
  • Time permitting---collective drawing exercise using stop motion animation.
  • Complete Project 3
  • A drawing each day

Week 12


Dec 4


  • Final Critique
  • Last opportunity to hand in late work
  • Enjoy your break!
  • Keep drawing each day!