Sketchbooks: How & Why

Every quarter, my students turn in a sketchbook to me for a major grade (same weight as one of their projects). To be honest, I am really terrible at keeping a sketchbook, but this year I'm doing some of the assignments along with the students to keep myself in the practice of drawing often. 

At first I did this because it was something that was assigned to me in many of my art classes, from middle school to college. It just seemed like a thing I was supposed to do. Of course I was aware of many of the benefits in terms of keeping up with a drawing practice. However, now that I'm on the teaching side, I love it even more. Here's why:

  • Drawing is such an awesome skill to have. It can help you communicate, it can be therapeutic, it can become a part of journaling your life. Best way to get better at drawing? Draw more. 
  • I get to know a little bit more about my students, especially with some of the more interpretative assignments, like "design your own superhero". A lot of my quieter students really respond well to the sketchbook assignments.
  • It can help even out grades a bit. If a student bombs a project, they can still pull through with an awesome sketchbook and turn their average around. 
  • My students always have something to do in my class. This is especially useful when I'm trying out a new project (which last year was ALL of them) and I'm not 100% sure on the timeline of the project. Finished early? Sketchbook. Waiting on your group member to finish doing something so you can do your portion? Sketchbook. Refusing to do anything else? Sketchbook.

I love that this student even wrote a backstory for their superhero.

It's not all 100% awesome though... I am especially having a hard time getting some of my students away from copying stock images, even though I have asked them to draw from life whenever possible. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that they have laptops and phones.  Many of their sketches look like clip art, which makes me crazy. Or, they rely on the connotations of the object itself to fulfill the prompt. For example, if assign "something gooey", I'll get a bunch of drawings of honey, which I only know is honey because it is clearly labeled in a beehive shaped thing. Is honey gooey? Yep. But does their drawing look gooey? No. 

My students are currently wrapping up their first quarter, so I think we'll talk through some of this frustration once we start the second quarter. I'm hoping in the next quarter I'll start seeing some more original ideas. I also want to talk to them about the idea of "if I didn't say you can't, assume you can" to try and cut down on them asking me if they're allowed do (insert something creative)... because the answer is always yes!