Devaluing the Material, Valuing the Artist

Have you ever been intimidated by a blank white stretched canvas or blank piece of paper?

All that pristine whiteness is just looking at you, waiting for the first mark of pencil or brush. Waiting for you to either create beauty or to spoil its pureness.


In most of my beginning classes we have an exercise that I call “devaluing the material valuing the artist.” We start with construction paper the kind that children use.  You can get a large package of construction paper for very little cost. And we also have a box of crayons, preferably the mixed up box of broken crayons with the paper gone from some and all jumbled up together.

Each person takes several pieces of paper maybe a dozen sheets and moves to the center of the room. Then everyone throws the papers up into the air letting them land on the floor. Then we stomp on them – step and jump and twist and dance and just kick those papers all over the place.

NOW you are ready to start to draw with your broken crayons. Big, bold lines, soft sweeping arches, delicate shading, energetic sprawls. It is totally up to you. Color in the shoe prints. Or outline the creases and folds and wrinkles. What is important is what you bring to the paper. Make your mark on any paper, with any medium. Be the MASTER of the material. Don’t let it bully you around!

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