Investigation through Drawing on Campus and in France

Over spring break, 22 students in Monica Fogg‘s (Graphic Design) freshman seminar traveled to French sites that inspired Impressionist paintings, drawing and painting at every stop. Impressionism in Paris and Southern France didn’t list extensive drawing experience as a prerequisite, but it does call for an open mind and the willingness to draw and explore and debate ideas.

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Before departing for France, the class studied drawing methods, experimented with materials, and learned many ways to consider their subjects. Through regular exercises, they broke through their own resistance to draw and began to see everyday objects from new perspectives — a process Fogg calls investigation through drawing. “We all know what an onion looks like,” she explained. “We even are usually aware of the symbolism behind the layers, etc. But when a student studies an onion for the sake of drawing, they see it anew. They discover things about the texture, weight, shape, and sometimes memory.”

The students visited Musée Rodin, Montmartre, and other Parisian attractions; the olive grove Van Gogh portrayed in “Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun;” and the Mediterranean Sea. Students recorded every stop in a visual journal, which forced them to look closely and reflect on the sites. “They were more connected,” said Fogg. “Instead of just ‘visiting’ the area, they internalize and carry some of it with them.”

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In addition to drawing and watercolor techniques, the class has been exploring how science and technology were instrumental in the development of French Impressionism; and considering how they continue to inform art and design today. Freshman seminars like Fogg’s give students across the University a
chance to meet and work with others who share their interests regardless
of major. Travel, research, and investigation through drawing are showing these students how their fields relate, one sketch at a time.

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