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Syllabus - AVT 323: Drawing II | Course Outline

quick links Description, Requirements, Evaluation, Objectives, Artists, Texts, Keywords, Processes, Devices, Isms, Formalities, Challenges, Materials, Policies, Course Outline

Professor: Mark Cooley
Appointments: mcooley(at)

"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." - Mark Twain

Course Description

This course investigates drawing as a heuristic activity – that is learning through experience, trial and error, and experimentation. Course activities are arranged with the assumption that the learning and creation of new languages and dialects is best accomplished through a consistent immersion and (sometimes painful) repetition of basic grammatical structures. And yet, everyone would agree that the mindless acquisition and repetition of grammatical rules stops far short of making interesting writing. There are many grammars of drawing. This course explores a selection of them useful to artists. And yet, without the creativity, conviction, mindful investment and hard work of artists, this course will be little more than a biweekly exercise in hand/eye coordination and a road left not taken.

Course Requirements

Class work
This course requires full attendance and participation. Students are expected to be punctual and engaged at all times. Communications devices of any kind should be shut down at the beginning of class and remain off for the duration. Late work is not be accepted. Two absences are allowed (so choose wisely). A letter grade reduction is made to final grades for each additional absence.

Outside work
Students must devote 4-6 hours a week working outside scheduled studio hours. Students must select and complete 2 points of art challenges (listed below) each week, in addition to completing work initiated during class time.

Portfolio reviews
Portfolio reviews are held three times during the semester. At these times, students present all the work completed for the course. The final portfolio review includes a digital portfolio CD that accurately represents all of the work completed for the course. Images are formatted as maximum quality jpeg files and text as pdf files. The portfolio is accompanied by a 1000 word self-review and final review sheets from all the members of the class.


Verbal feedback is given to students frequently throughout the semester. Formal evaluations are issued following each portfolio review. The 3 portfolio grades will be averaged together at the close of the semester to obtain a final letter grade. Evaluations are formatted in the A-F letter grade system and refer to the following judgements:

A | Work that demonstrates excellent application of craft, and ideas while furthering the abilities of the student.

B | Work that demonstrates commitment to craft, ideas and interest in expanding one's vocabulary.

C | Work of average quality that is diligent but could benefit from closer attention to craft, creativity and/or ideas.

D | Work of below average quality suffering from poor application of craft, creativity, ideas and/or time.

F | Work that demonstrates consistent neglect of course requirements, nonexistent work, frequently late work, and poor application of processes, thought, creativity and/or skill.

12 Objectives:

To get comfortable with being uncomfortable
To fail and to succeed and learn how to tell the difference
To stay up way too late and get up way too early
To learn new languages and strengthen your current vocabulary
To pick locks and decipher codes (metaphorically of course)
To question the questions
To find and make meaning
To see what is ignored or not yet there
To steal like an artist (yes, literally)
To go in through the out door and vice versa
To make it up as you go &
To stand behind it.

Some Artists

Richard long 1 2 3
Luis Camnitzer 1 2
Paul Thek 1 2
Frida Kahlo 1
Kara Walker 1
Georg Baselitz
Francis Bacon
Jenny Saville
Georges-Pierre Seurat
George Bellows
Edward Kienholz
Mierle Laderman Ukeles
Alice Neel
Max Ernst            
Sue Coe
Judy Chicago
Friday Kahlo
George Grosz
Joseph Beuys
Otto Dix
Jan Svankmajer
John Cage
Egon Schiele
Joan Miró
Paul Klee
Krzysztof Wodiczko
Robert Morris
Van Gogh
Sol LeWitt
Marriam Schapiro
Ellsworth Kelly
Robert Rauschenberg
Sophie Calle
Dziga Vertov
Sergei Eisenstein
Jennifer Linton
James Whale
William Kentridge
F.W. Murnau
Edvard Munch
Francis Bacon
Robert Wiene
Atsuko Tanaka
Julie Mehretu
Yoko Ono
Jenny Holzer
Faith Wilding
Carolee Schneemann
Mimi Gellman
Shel Silverstein
Michael Heizer
Käthe Kollwitz
Mark Tansey
Sherrie Levine
Yasumasa Morimura

Some Texts

John Berger - Ways of Seeing, Episodes 1-4
Aldo Leopold - Thinking Like a Mountain
Paul Goodman -Banning Cars from Manhattan
Alan Ginsberg - Howl
William Burroughs - Thanksgiving Prayer
Plato - The Allegory of the Cave
Percy Shelley - Ozymandias
Raymond Carver - The Cathedral
Mary Shelley Wollstonecraft - Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus (excerpt)
E.E. Cummings - two poems
Edgar Allen Poe - The Black Cat (Audio Recording)
Robert Louis Stevenson - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Muhammad Ali - On black and white
Bertolt Brecht - Mother Courage and Her Children
Iroquois Creation Story - The Earth on Turtle's back

Some Keywords

Political Economy
Social Classes & Networks

Some Processes


Some Devices

Point of view
Stream of consciousness

Some Isms


Some Formalities

Point of View

Challenges (complete 2 points per week.)

  1. Make a meaningless drawing. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  2. Draw something you’ve never seen (not even in photos). 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  3. Make a line through the landscape with available materials. Walk the line and leave a marker for each point where the line changes direction. Make a map and narrative for the journey. Invite a friend. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  4. Write a letter to an artist whom you hate. Burn the letter and make a drawing from the ashes. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  5. Create a paint-by-numbers piece. Have a friend paint it. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  6. Create a questionnaire that asks respondents to describe their most hated and most loved work of art. Make both pieces paying close attention to the questionnaire responses. 8-12 hours. 4 points.
  7. Make a painting using water on pavement. 2-3 hours on it. 1 point.
  8. Go to the mall and write a review of the window displays. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  9. Make an unflattering self-portrait. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  10. Give a friend a drawing lesson and then give them an assignment to do.  Critique and grade it. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  11. Curate a show of 5 artists. The show has a theme, but very diverse art. Now assume the role of each artist and make one artwork for each artist to be in the show. Write a biography and statement for each artist. Make an installation diagram. 8-12 hours. 4 points.
  12. Draw Mr. Hyde’s transformation into Dr. Jekyll – read the book first. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  13. Go to one of the following locations and draw: ER waiting room, Airport arrival gate, Bus station, Shopping mall, Traffic intersection. 4-6 hours. 2 point.
  14. Make a detailed set of instructions for a drawing to be completed by a classmate. 2-3 hours for you and 2-3 hours for your classmate. 1 point.
  15. Make a set of instructions to make a unique experience out of an ordinary everyday one. Follow your instructions with a friend. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  16. Go to a location and draw it as it might look 50 years from now. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  17. Design and draw a self sufficient living space. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  18. Write 30 questions that you have about art. You don't have the answers to these questions. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  19. Interview 5 artists in-depth on what makes a successful artwork. Make a drawing that breaks all the rules. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  20. Attend a: Theatre show, Sports event, Bar or nightclub, Music performance, gallery opening. Draw for 2 hours. Finish the drawing when you get home. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  21. Get into an argument over a piece of art. Draw a possible resolution. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  22. Visit a place that you wouldn’t otherwise be caught dead. Draw for 2 hours. Finish the drawing when you get home. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  23. Read the section in Frankenstein where the monster is reanimated. Make a drawing of it. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  24. Create a cast of characters for an unknown movie. Draw them and write short biographies. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  25. Make portraits of yourself as 5 different characters. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  26. Art recipe. List what ingredients and in what amounts will make a tasty work of art. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  27. Make a bad drawing. Work hard on your bad drawing! 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  28. Draw the reconciliation of two opposing ideas. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  29. Write a detailed description of a work of art that you’d never do and the reason you’d never do it. Then do it, and do it well. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  30. Make a drawing and sell it. It's no good unless you sell it. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  31. Make a drawing with your finger in dust. Work hard at your dust drawing! 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  32. Make a 6' illustrated time-line of important events that you remember from your life. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  33. Write your life story in less than a day. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  34. Take something apart. Put it back together. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  35. Make something out of something else. Donate it to the thrift store. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  36. Make something and bury it. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  37. Make a drawing when you're really angry. Make a drawing when you're really bored. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  38. Set your clock for 3:00 AM and make a 15-minute drawing while still in your bed. Go back to sleep. Finish it in the morning. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  39. Re-draw one of your childhood drawings. Draw a copy of your new drawing and draw a copy of that one. Repeat 5 more times. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  40. Make a portrait of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  41. Make a portrait of your parent(s) from life. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  42. Cut your own hair. 2 points.
  43. Save every article of your trash for one week. Set it up and draw a still (trash)life. 8-12 hours. 4 points.
  44. Climb to the top of a tree. Make a drawing. Don't break your neck! 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  45. Read and then draw Raymond Carver’s Cathedral. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  46. Make an exhibition of your art in your parent’s house. 4-6 hours. 2 points.
  47. Design a tattoo. Get the tattoo. 4 points.
  48. Write a newspaper piece reporting on an activity you do everyday. Send it to a local news paper. 2-3 hours. 1 point.
  49. Make a protest sign. Use it. 4 hours. 2 points.
  50. Get a used book (with illustrations) at a flea market, lawnsale or bookshelf in your room (maybe that old textbook you couldn’t sell). Fill it with drawings. Work fast and read along the way. 8-12 hours. 4 points.
  51. Make a drawing of an Impossible Machine. 2-3 hours. 1 point.


18”x24” Strathmore paper
24”x36” Newsprint paper
A used book of around 150 pages
24"x36" Drawing board
White chalk
Conté crayons - black & white
Compressed charcoal
Compressed graphite sticks
Soft vine charcoal
Kneaded rubber eraser
2’ masking tape
Gloss Gel Medium
Spray fixative
Spray adhesive
Watercolor set & brushes
Sharpie marker
India Ink
Sumi brush
Exacto knife and blades
Digital camera with tripod
Magnifying glass
Additional materials as needed

University and School of Art Policies

In accordance with George Mason University policy, turn off all beepers, cellular telephones and other wireless communication devices at the start of class. The instructor of the class will keep his/her cell phone active to assure receipt of any Mason Alerts in a timely fashion; or in the event that the instructor does not have a cell phone, he/she will designate one student to keep a cell phone active to receive such alerts.

Commitment to Diversity
This class will be conducted as an intentionally inclusive community that celebrates diversity and welcomes the participation in the life of the university of faculty, staff and students who reflect the diversity of our plural society. All may feel free to speak and to be heard without fear that the content of the opinions they express will bias the evaluation of their academic performance or hinder their opportunities for participation in class activities. In turn, all are expected to be respectful of each other without regard to race, class, linguistic background, religion, political beliefs, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, veteran's status, or physical ability.

Statement on Ethics in Teaching and Practicing Art and Design
As professionals responsible for the education of undergraduate and graduate art and design students, the faculty of the School of Art adheres to the ethical standards and practices incorporated in the professional Code of Ethics of our national accreditation organization, The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Open Studio Hours
SOA teaching studios are open to students for extended periods of time mornings, evenings and weekends whenever classes are not in progress. Policies, procedures and schedules for studio use are established by the SOA studio faculty and are posted in the studios.

The dates for Fall 2012 ArtsBus trips are Sept 22, Oct 20, Nov 17

If you need ArtsBus credit for this semester as part of your class assignment or AVT degree requirement, you must enroll in AVT 300. This also applies to anyone who intends to travel to New York independently, or do the DC Alternate Assignment. If you plan/need to go on multiple ArtsBus trips this semester and need them towards your total requirement, you must enroll in multiple sections of AVT 300. Please go to the ArtsBus website: "Student Information" for additional, very important information regarding ArtsBus policy. Non-AVT majors do not need Artsbus credit BUT may need to go on the Artsbus for a class assignment. You can sign up for AVT 300 or buy a ticket for the bus at the Center of the Arts.

Visual Voices Lecture Series Fall 2012
Visual Voices is a year-long series of lectures by artists, art historians and others about contemporary art and art practice. Visual Voices lectures are held on Thursday evenings from 7:20- 9:00 p.m. in Harris Theater.

August 30th (Syllabus Review)
September 13th Sue Spaid "Navigating the Terrain beyond Mashups, Recitals and Splicing "
September 27th Hasan Elahi "Hiding in Plain Sight"
October 11th Elaine King "The Artists and Art in An Era of Interconnected Globalization"
October 25th Richard Franklin "You Have Everything You Need"

Important Deadlines
Last Day to Add Sept 4
Last Day to Drop (No Tuition Penalty) Sept 4
Selective Withdrawal Period Oct 1 - 26
Incomplete work from Spring 2012 due to instructor Oct 26

Once the add and drop deadlines have passed, instructors do not have the authority to approve requests from students to add or drop/withdraw late. Requests for late adds (up until the last day of classes) must be made by the student in the SOA office (or the office of the department offering the course), and generally are only approved in the case of a documented university error (such as a problem with financial aid being processed) , LATE ADD fee will apply. Requests for non-selective withdrawals and retroactive adds (adds after the last day of classes) must be approved by the academic dean of the college in which the student's major is located. For AVT majors, that is the CVPA Office of Academic Affairs, Performing Arts Building A407.

Students with Disabilities and Learning Differences
If you have a diagnosed disability or learning difference and you need academic accommodations, please inform me at the beginning of the semester and contact the Disabilities Resource Center (SUB I room 234, 703-993-2474). You must provide me with a faculty contact sheet from that office outlining the accommodations needed for your disability or learning difference. All academic accommodations must be arranged in advance through the DRC.

Official Communications via GMU E-Mail
Mason uses electronic mail to provide official information to students. Examples include communications from course instructors, notices from the library, notices about academic standing, financial aid information, class materials, assignments, questions, and instructor feedback. Students are responsible for the content of university communication sent to their Mason e-mail account, and are required to activate that account and check it regularly.

Attendance Policies
Students are expected to attend the class periods of the courses for which they register. In-class participation is important not only to the individual student, but also to the class as a whole. Because class participation may be a factor in grading, instructors may use absence, tardiness, or early departure as de facto evidence of nonparticipation. Students who miss an exam with an acceptable excuse may be penalized according to the individual instructor's grading policy, as stated in the course syllabus.

Honor Code
Students in this class are bound by the Honor Code, as stated in the George Mason University Catalog. The honor code requires that the work you do as an individual be the product of your own individual synthesis or integration of ideas. (This does not prohibit collaborative work when it is approved by your instructor.) As a faculty member, I have an obligation to refer the names of students who may have violated the Honor Code to the Student Honor Council, which treats such cases very seriously.

No grade is important enough to justify cheating, for which there are serious consequences that will follow you for the rest of your life. If you feel unusual pressure about your grade in this or any other course, please talk to me or to a member of the GMU Counseling Center staff.

Using someone else's words or ideas without giving them credit is plagiarism, a very serious Honor Code offense. It is very important to understand how to prevent committing plagiarism when using material from a source. If you wish to quote verbatim, you must use the exact words and punctuation just as the passage appears in the original and must use quotation marks and page numbers in your citation. If you want to paraphrase or summarize ideas from a source, you must put the ideas into your own words, and you must cite the source, using the APA or MLA format. (For assistance with documentation, I recommend Diana Hacker, A Writer's Reference.) The exception to this rule is information termed general knowledge—information that is widely known and stated in a number of sources. Determining what is general knowledge can be complicated, so the wise course is, "When in doubt, cite."

Be especially careful when using the Internet for research. Not all Internet sources are equally reliable; some are just plain wrong. Also, since you can download text, it becomes very easy to inadvertently plagiarize. If you use an Internet source, you must cite the exact URL in your paper and include with it the last date that you successfully accessed the site.

Writing Center
Students who are in need of intensive help with grammar, structure or mechanics in their writing should make use of the services of Writing Center, located in Robinson A116 (703-993-1200). The services of the Writing Center are available by appointment, online and, occasionally, on a walk-in basis

Course Outline

NOTICE: Additions, subtractions and reorganization of course content are likely to be made in response to particular class needs. Changes will be announced during class meetings or sent out to student's GMU email accounts. This webpage will be updated as changes are announced.

M 8/27 - Course Introduction

W 8/29 - Studio

M 9/3 - Labor Day, University closed

W 9/5 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 9/10 - Studio

W 9/12 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 9/17 - Studio

W 9/19 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 9/24 - Studio

W 9/26 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 10/1 - Studio

W 10/3 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 10/8 - No class

T 10/9 - Studio

W 10/10 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 10/15 - Studio | Midterm Portfolio Review

W 10/17 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 10/22 - Studio

W 10/24 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 10/29 - Studio | 2nd Portfolio Review

W 10/31 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 11/5 - Studio

W 11/7 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 11/12 - Studio

W 11/14 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 11/19 - Studio

W 11/21 - No class

M 11/26 - Studio

W 11/28 - Studio | Challenges Due

M 12/3 - Studio

W 12/5 - Final Portfolio Review | Challenges Due