What do you wish you learned in yourcollege drawing courses?

I’ll starting my 5th academic year as a part time sophomore ID drawing teacher this Fall and wanted to ask the folks here what they wish they could have learned in a drawing class. I’m gonna hold off on posting a syllabus for now…

let’s hear your thoughts.

I would say you’d probably be better served asking the rising juniors and seniors in your department.

Every program has different drawing courses, and art intensive schools will always differ from more technical based schools. In my drawing course it was 15 weeks of learning to draw boxes and construct the basic shapes in perspective, with a little bit of photoshop basics. No color, no marker, no style/technique, etc.

The people who’ve gone through the class already will know its existing weak points and strong points, more so than people on the internet.

It’s the simple things that I think don’t get passed on and you have to learn the hard way. Using a consistent format and medium for a project. Taking care to sign each page in the same spot, and hang them neatly with matching tacks, getting there early to make sure you have room to hang all your work the way you want it to be seen. I had an instructor once tell me that if you have to open your mouth, your sketches are not good enough… making sure your drawings reflect what you say, things like that, using simple backgrounds and logos to elevate your drawing… it seems so obvious, but a lot of people don’t seem to follow these things…

Brett, check out this topic as well:


Hmm. That’s a pretty good thread Yo. Thanks

I guess I was also looking for more concrete stuff, like using Post-it notes to mask drawings when doing pastel work on paper drawings, (we do this before computer semester starts)…stuff like that

  1. How to “cartoon” with narrative storyboards.
  2. How to draw systems

YES, man, did that all the time. Also photocopiers don’t pick up yellow post its so you can use them to block off a bunch of sketches on a page when blowing a sketch up off a thumbnail page to render up…

A lot of kids don’t seem to use underlays either, man I’ll overlay a sketch like 20 times before I put any color on it, and I almost never color up an original, I’ll always photocopy it a couple of times in case i mess it up…

i had a hell of a time with perspective at first. i would get so into a drawing that i couldn’t see how off it was untill i had invested too much time into it. it took a teacher who knew what was going on in my head to give the advice i needed.

  1. take a step back from your drawing every couple minutes and check yourself before you wreck yourself.

  2. flip the paper over (or hold sketch to a mirror) and make sure the perpective is good when mirrored. alot of times if it looks just a tad bit off and hard to pinpoint but when you mirror it the error becomes blatant.

more later


I’ve never heard of your point #2 before. I’m going to have to try this one out.


That mirror trick sounds interesting. Yeah, photocopying is a good one too. What else, what else, what else?

Hey cg, what do you mean by “systems”?

A life drawing class I took had a nice approach that could be used for just about anything. Just take 3 colored pencils of varying shades, (yellow, orange, burnt sienna or light blue, medium blue, navy, etc.) start with the lightest to get the jist of what you’re looking at, then use the middle one to bring out more general details, then use the darkest color for the finer details. Blending all three for the final sketch, using line weights and little shading for your work.

It was a helpful exercise that I still apply today, just starting light and working darker. That can be a problem beginning students can face.

For me.

The focus was to much on doing it, making the thing/object/chair/pice of jewelery.
No markers, no presentation drawings.

Had to lern that all the hard way.


in my foundation year i had two very different drawing teachers. the first was very technically oriented, he is actually one of the heads of the ID dept at my school. he taught us great rendering and observation skills, including perspective and sequencing. i loved this class because i figured he was teaching me everything i would need to know for 2nd year and beyond. and it’s true, this knowledge is infinitely useful.

the second teacher i hated for about 1/2 the semester, until i realized just exactly what she was trying to accomplish. she was very ‘arty’ in the way that you can imagine one of the free-form, flowy earth children artists behaves. she had us ‘draw’ with sticks dipped in india ink, and refused to let us use a ruler for a perspective project (i balked at this one!) she ended up giving me a good grade despite the fact that i seemed to have a chip on my shoulder the whole time. lucky for me, about 1/2 way through i finally caught on that she wasn’t trying to deter me from design, but rather was trying to teach me a very important lesson about opening my brain to accept that the world isn’t just straight lines and precise angles.

what i realize from the second teacher in comparison to the first was that she was teaching us to look at the big picture behind every project that we encounter. she made sure that our compositions were as beautiful and attractive as they were technically sound, with or without a ruler.

so lesson #1: when you’re trying to appeal to someone with a great design or a tear sheet, you have to remember to look at the big picture as opposed to focusing in on every minute detail.

while it’s important to ensure that your drafts are technical and precise, you also have to remember that as a designer you are not just an engineer but an artist, too. you wouldn’t be in this position if you didn’t have a good eye to begin with, so don’t lose that. in sketching as well as your design classes you must pay attention to all of the details that compose your product. i hated this second teacher for her over-the-top artyness, but she taught me that even as a designer you need to remember the basics. there is plenty of merit in focusing your energy on specifics and precision, but if your product looks crappy as a whole, it won’t matter that you got all the angles right.

this isn’t to say that you should be drafting with a stick dipped in ink, but there is beauty in unintentional, organic shapes. i wish i’d learned this sooner than later, that composition is important no matter what you’re doing. :]

You guys had drawing classes your sophmore year in ID? We had to teach ourselves.

Hey Skinny, yeah Pratt has a foundation year, then ID specific courses after that.

drawthrough style perspective constructions with sections etc.
-in my classes we learned basic perspective stuff, but when we wanted to construct an organic form in 2 perspective the instructor could easily sketch it himself, but was often unable to explain or teach us how to accurately construct the same shape.

different levels of sketching, and professional examples of each

  1. communicates idea for yourself (get it on paper thinking on paper)
  2. share idea with others
  3. present concept
    -just seeing that the same pros that do awesome / insane rendos often starts with a rough thumbnail just like you, can really help some of the less confident students


Yo: Thank you. Sometimes I feel like a complete klutz for using as many overlays as I do when I want to create a sketch for presentation. It’s like they are a dirty secret no one wants to admit to. Strange.

I agree with vacher in that the students need to learn how to draw before you show them the little tips and tricks that take their drawings to the next level. It reminds me of a story my professor told me. He had a class of students who were bored doing the rudimentary perspective stuff and were complaining how they should be doing something more advanced. So he posted a picture of a Ferrari in the front of the class and said, “render this”. The professor did a fairly decent rendering while the students, of course, realized how much they had to learn.

perspective, perspective and more perspective.

Most importantly, you got to show them how to apply what they’ve learnt onto their practices.

good point cow, show them very directly how the fundamentals and foundation translate to their work, more advanced stuff etc.

also as someone said about all the tips and tricks too early…there’s a page in the front of Rapid Viz where they make of point of not getting overloaded with too many tools. I’ve heard about one instructor who makes his students pick one tool (verithin, ballpoint, etc.) and use it for the entire semester, maybe a bit much, but it’s one way.

i think you’re right,
we had a honda deigner come into our class and render a car. he started from a 2"x3" tumbnail he did on the plane. i was like woah!
i think seeing examples of what a good drawing is (wherther its exploration sketches, explanatory or persuasive) is the one huge helpfull tool…

put it this way. students know when their drawings are garbage. the hard part is to know why and what to do to make it not garbage. if you can teach that you’re gold.