Second Class: Still life with Shadow Box

Here’s an invitation to my upcoming show Friday at Deluge:

Deluge Contemporary Art, Victoria BC. Neil McClelland: Everything is Being Perfected, opening reception Feb 3, 7 PM. Continues to Mar 4, 2017


Instructions for Feb 10 (Fourth Class) student presentations:

What Can Drawing Be?

Prepare a five to ten minute presentation about a contemporary, living artist who uses drawing in some way in their art practice. The goal is for the class to research and share ideas about how artists use drawing today, and how they often push the boundaries of how drawing can be defined.

By Feb 3: Send me an email with the name of your chosen artist along with one or two links to

an article about the artist in an art magazine or newspaper


a page about the artist from a major gallery or art museum


I have chosen the work of Scottish artist Charles Avery. Here are two links, one from an art museum in Rotterdam, and one from the Guardian newspaper:

The presentations will be on February 10th. Come prepared with images or powerpoint on a USB stick. Show how this artist uses drawing in their art practice.

Today’s Class:

In class drawings:

Concepts: Eye-hand coordination (Blind contour). Line Weight. Value.

  1. Drawing one. Pencil and white cartridge paper. Set up your shadow box and light it. Do a blind contour drawing, starting with the outside contours of the entire box, and then every detail of the interior. Imagine the point of a pencil in mid-air touching the edges of all the shapes (including shadow shapes), and match the motion of the imagined pencil point with the actual pencil in your drawing hand. Do not look at your paper or drawing hand. Do not lift the pencil off the paper. Use a variety of line weights by digging in deeper or keeping a light touch. Slower is better. This process should take a long time.
  2. Drawing Two. Pencil and white cartridge paper.On a full sheet of cartridge paper (18″ x 24″) do a modified or semi-blind contour drawing in the same way, but this time you can “cheat”. Look mostly at the subject, but every ten seconds or so look at your drawing and reposition your pencil. Draw everything, including all shadow shapes.
  3. Drawing Three. Vine and compressed charcoal and a full or half sheet (your choice) of Stonehenge paper.If using a half sheet, fold the paper short end to short end, crease and carefully tear along the seam. Focus only on the interior of the box.  Do a value drawing, trying to get a full range of values from bright white to deepest black. Avoid lines or contours. Use erasers a lot as a drawing tool.

Homework: Finish these three drawings. Do a fourth drawing based on your shadow box. Using pencil in your sketchbook, focus in on one or two details and draw in as much detail as you can. Light the box dramatically. Use the side of your pencil to shade in values or use hatching or cross hatching. Do a fifth drawing based your shadow box on a found surface  and do something unusual or unexpected. Bring all your drawings in for next class for a short group critique.

Also bring for next class: An interesting object and materials to disguise your object. Next week we will be disguising an object to look like another object. We will first draw the object, then do a series of 5 or 6 (or more) drawings documenting the transformation into another object. Think about meaning–what does it mean to change an angel into a devil, a hawk into a dove etc? Use one sheet of Stonehenge and divide the surface into 6 sections. Use pencil. Use a combination of contour drawing and shading or hatching. I am open to other ideas if you want to use other materials.


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