teaching philosophy

class photograph of design one students

Teaching Foundations is more than teaching a student how to draw a representational image convincingly—though many first year students presume this is what drawing is all about. Some arrive over-confident, because they already possess this skill, while others arrive riddled with fear because they can’t draw something "realistic" yet....

My job is to meet students where they are, ratcheting up the perceptual acuity of those who are perplexed by drawing what is in front of them, and to challenge the sometimes conventional assumptions of the "skilled set." Teaching the whole student is essential to a rewarding and productive Foundations experience. I make a point to find some strength a student possesses, even if it's what I call an "almost" strength–a motivating, kind word can be the difference between keeping a student in the program or losing them, particularly with the challenges many of our students face. I love being in the trenches with beginning students. If foundations is done right, students feel they have a place as they move forward. Having a sense of place provides the right conditions for creative growth and student success. Teaching in the core is a calling.

Though I have a strong belief in mastering the use of materials and observation I am also deeply concerned with my students’ conceptual development and their ability to solve problems in creative and unexpected ways. I make a point to expose them to challenging artworks that are resolved in innovative ways—demonstrating that the interpretation of a given problem is an art form in itself.

My style in the classroom is energetic and positive. I pose questions that may be realized and answered as students engage in the processes of design and drawing. Learning by doing, while also pointing to the larger implications of a given task. Through projects, and design and drawing exercises, I provide opportunities for students to question their assumptions, and to gain perceptual clarity. Even the seemingly mundane task of drawing a cardboard box from observation is turned on its head as we discuss the fact that boxes are everywhere; the drawings will be placed in a box (the flat files), we are drawing from inside a box (the room), which is inside another box (the building), and as the class closes, I show them an image of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in NYC and ask them to take in the impressive scale and beauty of what is essentially, a giant stack of boxes. Drawing has its hand in everything.

My classrooms are not only a place where my students’ artistic dexterity is tested, but also a place where the act of playing is a serious endeavor. Though creating art is a rigorous and often intimidating endeavor, fostering curiosity and play as a serious matter sets an example for a lifelong practice. Group activities that are playful build camaraderie, and set the stage for students to tackle an assignment with openness to possibility. Though the task may seem absurd (doing a Jane Fonda workout video while standing on a large, toned ground paper)——everyone participates. A slightly jarring experience (realizing you won’t be wearing your shoes in class today) is one everyone will be talking about later. Their bodies become the drawing tool, creating an abstraction of a quintessential video trope, but also a residual fact of their experience in the studio that day—in essence a representation. Philosophical propositions abound.

No matter what the daily objective is in the studio, whether it is intense observational drawing, solving a design problem, creative play and experimentation, or critique, my classroom is a cell phone free zone. Unable to scroll, students must engage in a different way of looking. At the close of each class, I project one image on the wall, which I refer to as our "moment of Zen" (a la the Daily Show) and ask the class to sit in silence for one minute. This is an opportunity for students to look, and then look deeper, before being released back into the chaos of daily life. They are learning to see.

It is my goal as a Foundations instructor to help my students develop the ability to articulate their thoughts and desires through visual means. Ultimately, I want to provide students with the knowledge, perspective and drive to move through the art program prepared for their upper level courses, on their way to becoming successful artists and designers, and participating in and adding depth to our culture.

Design 1

Recreating and Altering Master Prints

Students were asked to create a precise copy of a master print in micron and india ink on bristol paper, and then create an abstract composition using elements from the original.

Self Portrait Value Collage

Self Portrait Value Collage. Students were asked to create a collage from hand painted, Acrylic value swatches. Students cut, arranged and glued the value shapes following a gridded black and white selfie. More recent parameters ask students to conceive of a disguise to dawn in their selfies.

Overlapping shapes

Students created a classic Albers illusion in which one shape appears to overlap another with a degree of transparency.

Color and Perspective

Various exercises on linear and atmospheric perspective. Compositions and themes are student-directed.

2D installation

Students partnered up in pairs of two to collaborate on site specific installations in the College of Fine Arts.

4D / Animated Gifs

Students studied influential performance art and photography and created animated GIFs re-creating a specific work, or in response to it. Selections include interpretations of the work of Ana Mendieta, Gregory Crewdson, Yves Klein, Marina Abramovic, John Cage, and Andy Warhol.

Disappearing Cube

Through the process of sighting and color mixing, students made a mat board cube disappear into a corner.

drawing 1

Conceptual City

Following a week of perspective drawing exercises, students created imagined cities in either 1 or 2 point perspective.


Students practice the art of seeing by drawing contours and blind contours of complex organic and biomorphic subjects.

Line sensitivity

Students were asked to draw organic and biomorphic objects from life, paying attention to how line quality can emphasize the appearance of weight, volume and light upon objects. They were asked to interpret textural surfaces through mark-making, hatching or cross hatching. Some selections were the result of a class project to create and draw with Medieval Iron Gall Ink.

linear still life

Complex Linear Still Life. Students use what they have learned about the language of line to accurately represent a complex still life. Emphasis is placed on line weight variation, sighting and describing surface textures.

value shape

To train students to work from general to specific they were asked to draw still life objects along a 3 and 5 step value scale. The simplified shapes of value should render the objects with evident light and volume.

Biomorphic Study

Students were asked to create a value study of a cow skull using reductive and additive drawing techniques.


Students were asked to create value studies of drapery and ribbons using reductive and additive drawing techniques.

complex value still life

Students were asked to close the semester with a complex, value-rendered still life as their final exam.

mixed media photo transfer

Following a demonstration, students were asked to create their own photo transfers (using their own photographs) and to unify the photographic image to the rest of the page through drawing.

drawing 2

Abstract spaces

Students were asked to create an abstract composition that achieves a sense of space.

Oversized Still Life

Students were asked to study a room-sized still life through ink wash. This assignment began the process of expanding perceptual acuity toward the representation of larger spaces.

Interior Spaces

Students were asked to find a compositionally interesting vantage point within the A-State Museum or Library from which to draw a large interior space. The assignment required students to engage with a dramatic shift in scale.

Exterior space

Using charcoal or chalk pastel, students practice sighting and measuring exterior spaces culminating in an ambitious landscape.


Following a week of drawing exercises designed to break down the features of the human head in general to specific terms, students were asked to create a long portrait study of a live model.

drawing 3

skeleton study

Students drew a skeleton from observation as an introduction to the function and proportion of human anatomy.

Skeleton Subverted

Students were asked to create an interpretive piece following an academic rendering of a skeleton. The medium and concept were their choice. Examples include chocolate & fondant, dirt, ink, charcoal, photography, q-tips and colored pencil.

Gesture, Extended Gesture, and Beautiful Scribble

Students engaged in direct observation of a live model. The quick, searching lines of gesture segued into the experimental process of extending the reach of the arm by drawing with charcoal taped to the end of a dowel rod. Loss of control aids proportional accuracy.

straight line construction

Students practiced the general to specific approach of straight line construction to sight the predominant angles of the human figure in a given pose.

mixed media figure study

Students used charcoal, graphite and gesso to create a value study of a live model.

Figure with Still Life Objects (Ink)

Students broaden their study of value by working with wet media.

Self Portrait torso

Self Portrait Torso. Students created a self portrait from observation utilizing a range of value and a reductive process.

value study

Students were asked to use a full range of value in a long drawing of a live model.

figurative abstraction

Students used sessions with a live model to create an abstract composition inspired by the human form.


Images coming soon