Where Reading and Art Connect

Sample assignment II:
Working with your list of things you love

Work with what you love

One of my favorite things happens to be Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

One of the most productive assignments for me in art school was this assignment: on a big piece of paper draw (or paint) 25 things that you love. Go through the list you already made and draw the things on the paper. They can be drawn simply, or more rendered. Whichever you prefer. Try drawing the items from your list, even if you “can’t draw”. Maybe, if you feel really intimidated about drawing, you could find images of things that bring you joy, and collage them onto a big piece of paper. This assignment is flexible. It is meant to inspire you, and get you thinking about what it means to make art about things, sometimes ordinary and mundane things. What happens when they are celebrated? When they are placed next to other things you love?

If you are feeling rebellious and really don’t want to draw or collage: what about working with the words from your list? Could you write little stories about a few of the things? Describe them and think about why they have meaning to you, in your life.

I was first introduced to Pride and Prejudice when I was 14. I couldn’t understand who was who. Everyone is called by their proper name ( like Mr. Darcy), and they have a first name (Fitzwilliam), also, usually they have a family nickname. It’s so confusing! My mother suggested we watch the Colin Firth seven episode Masterpiece Theater version of Pride and Prejudice, and I was completely drawn into the story. Since then, I have read and re-read that book many times.

One of my favorite drawing projects was going through the first episode and pausing it every time there was a new outfit on screen. I continued this process until I had filled up the page completely with drawings. I decided not to worry about drawing in the faces. My focus was entirely on figuring out how the garments hung on the actors forms, and the ornaments they put in their hair.

I have used those drawings as references for many other pieces. Each drawing moves me further away from the original source material. And, no one would know unless I put it in the artwork’s title that it was work referencing a Jane Austen novel.

Another option for this task is to focus on something you really enjoy and practice drawing that thing, from different viewpoints, relatively quickly, again and again. It’s difficult to not have your confidence begin to build. Try letting go of what your work “should” look like, and let it be what it is- an exploration; a playful task.

Twice Removed, (oil on masonite), 2014

This rather abstract painting used my drawing of the female garments as a reference for the figures, which you can see in-between the static orange and yellow marks.


“Try letting go of what your work ‘should’ look like…”

-Ellie

The more I drew these male forms, the more I realized I was really interested in how they tied the fabric around their neck. So I ended up focusing on those in each paused scene I was drawing.
One of the reasons I wasn’t concerned about drawing the faces, was because I was fascinated by Gothic ghost stories!
Here is an example where I was brainstorming how I could work with 25+ things that I loved. I wanted to make these all into kids toys. Maybe down the road I can make that a reality!