Life Syllabus

Jamie Bollenbach, Art Faculty, Highline Community College.  Life,Figure Drawing Fall 2007 Syllabus 

 Student Drawing 2005




Representation of the human figure is a practice at least 40,000 years old, and probably far older.  The great bulk of art images throughout this vast history features figures: human, deities, and animals, which connect viewers to a richly observed and heavily symbolic world within artworks of all kinds. Broad social literacy, imaging technology from photography to film to computers, and easy reproduction are features of the last few centuries- Art, and specifically images of the human figure, was a primary means of passing on ideas..

In working  from direct observation of the live model, an artist attempts to master this deep visual language, forming through disciplined study and creative drive a synthetic visual poetry of analysis and expression.  The pencil, brush, lens and software are simply tools that serve the act of seeing – of both the subject and the resulting artwork. 

You can adapt direct observation toward many contemporary and traditional art forms, bringing an ancient human ability into living practice, and changing how you think about what you see.  Here we use traditional materials -paper and pencils and charcoal, but the goal is to master the essential grammar of visual representation, and to use this as a structure for all our visual expectations and experiences, our senses of beauty and ugliness.


Fundamental Drawing Principles


I expect you to learn the following basic drawing principles and vocabulary, primarily through in-class practice, drawing at home, and lecture.  I encourage you to spend some time with the works of artists through history, looking at how they used these principles in their own artwork.


1:1 measurement (Accurate Proportion)

Value (Light and Shadow),

Background, Middlegound and Foreground

Negative And Positive Space


1 and 2 Point Perspective

Atmospheric Perspective

Texture and Line

Abstraction and Realism

Form, Volume and Mass


This is not an ordinary lecture, test and correction class.  It is a studio practice class.  There are no textbooks.  Computer work is minimal.  The class-work is focused on  observation and drawing itself.  I mean to challenge you, to question you, to help you recognize the rich visual life of the world and to give you the tools to observe and understand what you see, and what you create.  I mean to change your thinking, to make your visual awareness active and your drawing choices deliberate.  I can offer you an artist’s toolbox but I cannot make you an artist - only you can provide the self-discipline, intelligence, motivation and imagination to do so..  

The primary learning method is a combination of real-time drawing and extensive instructor feedback.  Note that much of the material can be very difficult to cover on your own if you miss a session covering an essential skill. But extra help is available during office hours –I suggest emailing me to schedule a time to meet, but feel free to ask any question at any time.

This class concentrates on the human figure and, based on long-established methods of instruction, features unclothed models.  If you feel uncomfortable with this circumstance, please come and talk with me as soon as possible so that we can work together to evaluate the appropriateness of the material for you.   



Be certain to come to class with necessary drawing materials. The costs for the materials in this class are  much less than the costs of textbooks for most classes.



Art Gum Eraser, other eraser types. Pencils in a range of hardness

Small Vine (willow) Charcoal sticks, medium hardness.

 18 by 24 Pad of Newsprint

Inexpensive Black Ball Point (not gel or liquid ink) Pen

5 sheets 18” by 24” white Stonehenge heavy duty Drawing Paper

24” Ruler

Masking or Blue Masking Tape

Large Drawing Board with clips (At least 18” by 24”)

Small Sketch Book of your choice, for studies.

 Small sumi brush (about pinky sized) and ink.




See-through plastic ruler

Pencil sharpener (tip: make it a good one)






Homework and studio assignments may vary somewhat depending on class progress and model availability.


Section 1

Introductory Discussion and Topics:

1:1 Proportion

Studio Assignment-

A.      Introduction  

B.     Gesture and Timed Drawings

C.       Rapid Value Drawings  D.     Measurement

Out of Class Assignment (s)  Self-Portrait.  Rapid Value Drawings.


Section 2

Discussion and Topics:.

Studio Assignment-

A.      Still Life Contours.  Outline contour, blind contour, cross-contour

B.      The skeleton/ ball pen, and pencil.  

Out of Class Assignment (s) Master Copy. 


Section 3

Discussion and Topics: Perspective and Proportion

Studio Assignment-

    A.   Still Life: Cube Practices; Solids by Points of Intersection. Introduction of Perspective as applied to the human figure.

            B.  2 1/2 hour full class perspective still life study.

            C. Life Model: Proportion Studies.

Out of Class Assignment (s)  a) Further value studies, in perspective.


 Section 4

Discussion and Topics:  The Complete Drawing - Unifying Drawing Concepts

Studio Assignment-

A.  Life Studies: Figurative Solids: Complete Drawing Full value figurative solids.

Out of Class: TBA


Section 5

Discussion and Topics: Featuring Anatomy 

Studio Assignment-

A.      Life Model: Anatomy .

B.     Skeletal Studies

C.       Anatomy/ Musculoskeletal System

Out of Class Assignment: Copy of Anatomical Models or Sketches: Musculoskeletal system



Section 6

A.      Life Model.  Long Pose.

B.     Life Model   Long Pose

Out of Class Assignment (s)  3-6 hours.  Master Study

Discussion and Topics: Model (Depending on availability)

Studio Assignment-

A.  Life Model. Long Pose.

B.   MID-TERM CRITIQUE.  Special notes:   This will be a review of all your drawings done in the class, and all your at-home drawings. Keep every drawing of at least 5 minutes duration, plus any gestural sketch you like.  You will be expected to describe your own work in some detail, and contribute to the review of other students work. Be specific in your criticism  - all work has some merit, all but the most accomplished work can be improved. 

Out of Class: None


Section 7

Discussion and Topics: Model (Depending on availability)

Studio Assignment-

A.  Life Models: Dual Pose.

            B.  The Pose as Art.  Composition Exercises.

Out of Class Assignment (s)  2nd Copy of a Master Drawing. 3 hours.


Section 8

Discussion and Topics: Model (Depending on availability)

Studio Assignment-

A.  Model.

            B.  Art as Art. Final Project Development./Composition

            C.  Seattle Art Museum Visit. (Times vary).  

Out of Class Assignment (s)  3-6 hours.  Studies for Final project.


Section 9


Discussion and Topics: FINAL PROJECT

Studio Assignment-

            A. Model. Single Pose.  

            B. Final Project development.

            C. Gallery Visit (If time allows).

Out of Class Assignment (s) FINAL Project. Set aside at least 8 clear hours at home over the last two weeks to do preparatory work and make the final project drawing.  


Section 10  FINALS WEEK

FINAL CRITIQUE.  Special notes:   This will be a review of your FINAL PROJECT, all your drawings done in the class, and all your at-home drawings. Keep every drawing of at least 5 minutes duration, plus any gestural sketch or short study you like. You are also free to include any other personal drawings you have done during the class session. You will be expected to describe your own work in some detail, and contribute to the review of other students’ work. Be specific in your criticism  - all work has some merit, all but the most accomplished work can be improved. 



Grading in a studio art class is necessarily subjective, but there are common principles behind any successful creative process.  The grading system used is a traditional system common to the fine arts. There will be extensive informal verbal feedback from the instructor and fellow students towards the homework and studio work in group critique sessions , which will normally occur weekly. 

The instructor will assign decimal grades based on two formal review sessions, the mid-term and final critiques, which are equivalent to major exams.  All of your work during the quarter will be critiqued at that time.  The mid-term counts for 30% of your grade.  The Final critique at the end of the class will be a review of all of your work during the whole quarter, will include your Final Project, and will constitute 70% of your grade.

Specific grading criteria include: 

1.                          Mastery of drawing concepts.  (Your understanding of value, perspective, proportion, and other technical elements of drawing.)

2.                          Overall quality of work. (This is the most subjective quality-)

3.                          Overall quantity of work.  (Students who spend more time and produce more drawings invariably improve the most. )

4.                          Willingness to Experiment.  (Your willingness to go beyond the assignments and explore new artistic problems and questions on your own – a critical part of creativity.)

5.                          Degree of Progress (Your improvement from the beginning.)

Please note that regular attendance is a practical necessity to perform well in the class – known as “experiential” classes, studio arts require extensive time spent in the class working on specific drawing problems.  Because of the missed working time in building your skills, missing more than 5 classes will substantially reduce the quality of your work, and your grade will be affected.

Cheating, plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty are unacceptable at Highline Community College and are subject to disciplinary action. 

Welcome to the class, and I look forward to working with you over the quarter.  


Jamie Bollenbach  



alternate email:


Highline  Community College.  Art 112, 115


(Life Drawing, Item: 5058,  and Figure Drawing, Item 5060)


Office Hours and location Bldg 16-room 170 OR Building 16 Faculty Offices

 4:30 -5PM  T-TH,  6-7PM MW


Useful Links:


Art History Resources


Seattle Art Museum

Frye Art Museum


University of Washington School of Art


UW Student Opportunities Bulletin Board




Utrecht (Seattle)

Daniel Smith (Seattle)

A & C Supply (Seattle)