“I always like drawings more than paintings,” says Joanne Stryker, RISD’s Dean of Experimental and Foundational Studies. “Drawings are so much more spontaneous and alive, it’s a moment—artists are never really finished, but they’re catching a moment of thought, and that makes them so vital. All these possibilities are still there.”
In the drawing classes that she and other faculty members teach, students will often begin by engaging in observational drawing, sometimes working from the extensive collection of taxidermy and specimens in RISD’s Nature Lab, rendering a shell, for example, or a textured seed pod. They are encouraged to repeat the drawing, iterating, and perhaps abstracting it to its essential form, or homing in on one aspect of it. “By the time you draw it maybe 50 times,” says Stryker, “you no longer see the object.”
At that point, through a process of decision-making (conscious or subconscious) and discovery, the drawing may have evolved into something else entirely. Once the students have gained confidence, they’re encouraged to develop their own ideas in drawing—which could be anything from a plan for a 3D structure to a live drawing performance.