Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Project 1: System Portrait

Project Description:

This is to be a portrait of a person you select, either real or fictional. You are to develop some type of drawing system for the execution of this drawing. This can be many things. Chuck Close’s grid-based system is a prime example. Seurat’s pointillism can also be seen as a system. The goal of the project is to choose a system and materials that relate in some way to the subject. For instance, the architect Buckminster Fuller was known for his geodesic structures, which were comprised of triangular forms. For this project you might devise a system for creating triangles that you could use to create a drawing of him. Or perhaps you could capture the grungy, dour characteristics of Kurt Kobain by throwing charcoal dust onto paper, tearing it to pieces, and reassembling them into collage. It is to be an ambitious drawing.

The system can be many things, and is entirely up to you. Will you use only straight lines? Will they be hand-drawn or will you use a straight-edge? Does randomness play a role in your system? Will it be more mathematical? Will you listen to a symphony while drawing and only make a stroke when you hear the bassoon? Whatever it is, be consistent. Most systems have built-in limitations. The trick is to embrace them. For instance, if your system involves dipping a ping-pong ball in ink, then bouncing it off a tabletop and onto a sheet of paper, you will have to give up a certain amount of control. You will not be able to achieve the same results as a portrait rendered in graphite.


Many materials are welcome. Consider the possibilities of NON TRADITIONAL materials (hair, sand, thread, etc.) Color may be used.


The image of the head should dominate the page, so think relatively close up. There is no size limitation, but use scale to enhance the conceptual possibilities of your image. Use good paper. There must be a minimum of a one inch border.


The method is entirely up to your own creativity. Photographic references may be used. Be aware that not all photographs translate well into drawing, and avoid strictly copying photographs.


  • Plan out and practice your system in advance of the actual execution of your finish.
  • Use materials wisely, and think creatively. Food products are not usually a good choice (spoilage, bugs, etc.)
Whatever your system, BE CONSISTENT! Don’t change midstream.

Please post ideas, examples, questions, and feedback.

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