Detail, value, and artisanship are all qualities in art that I set as standards for myself. It was no wonder that once I discovered the world of M. C. Escher, I fell in love with his graphic works. Escher’s Relativity, Ascending and Descending, Reptiles, and Drawing Hands are just a few of his works that are displayed in my middle-school artroom. These prints often lead to discussions with my students; however, it is his Eye print that always receives the most comments.
Inspired by Escher
What began as a drawing of his own eye based on a reflection from a convex mirror became a legendary artwork when Escher drew a human skull in the center of the pupil. The skull, a representation of fate and death, is what intrigues my students. After studying facial proportion with my eighth-graders and all the details that go along with drawing the human eye, it occurred to me that my students could draw stories within the eyeball “as seen through their eyes.”
I asked students to choose a book that they read and enjoyed as inspiration for a drawing. Books such as Doll Bones by Holly Black, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green were among the selected. Students made a list of moments and images that were important to represent the story. Using that as a guide, they each created a rough draft to determine where the images could go within the eyeball.
Value in Graphite
The graphite drawing had to include a detail of the human eye that filled the paper. Images that related to the story were to be positioned within the pupil and around the iris. Students had the option to extend their images to the eyelash area if it enhanced the story, such as flames to represent how the main character Katniss was called the “girl on fire” from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Attention to detail, value, texture, and contrast were essential elements of their drawings.
Through Their Eyes
Using the roundness of the iris, student Kenley Rowse drew trees with spooky faces from A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. Trees encircle the pupil, which contains the images of two children shaded in black with a white outline surrounded by additional black.
For Guitar Notes written by Mary Amato, Savannah Johnson drew the guitar as the iris with the sound hole representing the pupil. She hid music notes within the eyelashes and quotes chosen from the book along the lash line.
Sadiah Reynolds used the profile of a skull with an open mouth as the iris and a cityscape following the lash line to represent Vango, written by Timothée de Fombelle. A blimp floats in the eyebrow with a person climbing down a rope to the corner of the eye.
A few drawings were not as traditional. For The Zombie Chasers written by John Kloepfer, drawn by Carter Cain, reversing the norm was more effective. The pupil was left with a white background as cartoon zombie figures filled it in, while the white of the eye was darkened to depict a street scene. Zombie hands and bones were added as eyelashes with flames in between.
Some students struggled with what images to use and how to place them. Starting with a rough draft aided with these struggles and allowed me to advise them on the size of the images and how to best utilize them within their drawings. It helped that I was familiar with the majority of the books my students selected, and for those with which I was not familiar, I looked up a synopsis of the story.
I was highly impressed with the works of art my students created. Not only did they enjoy creating the works and focusing on books they enjoyed, they have also inspired my younger students on what books they would like to read for the drawing once they get to eighth grade.
Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
Patricia Bryant Weiner is an art teacher at Foley Middle School, Madison County, Kentucky. Patricia.firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with permission from School Arts. Visit their website: www.schoolartsmagazine.com