100 Drawings Redux

This time of year I look forward to a very particular teaching experience: the developmental bombshell of the 100 figures assignment in my senior illustration course. It's a big job, to be sure, but over the years it has opened the door to new ways of thinking about drawing for many students. This time around I am feeling envious of them; I have had a heavy editorial year–lots of writing and publishing–and am very eager to get back to my studio projects. Rarin’ to go. But for another week or so, I will have to live vicariously. Meanwhile, below is the prompt for the crew:

Dear Students:

You have heard this orally, but let me add a little prose here. I have asked you to produce 100 figurative images at a scale of AT LEAST 11 x 14 inches. Whole people, not just heads, though a few portraits will be fine.

(Keep scrolling down: the text runs along the left column, with images offered as a suggestion of available range distributed across both, with citations in the captions.)

Jessie Gillespie,  As Bad as She's Painted ? detail of illustration for Pictorial Review, January 1922.

Jessie Gillespie, As Bad as She's Painted? detail of illustration for Pictorial Review, January 1922.

Julie Doucet, portrait from Missing, 1992.

I will come in for class on Monday and expect to see a stack of 100 pictures in front of each of you, numbered. I will confirm that they are all there.

Be aware that figures need not be (sharp intake of breath) The Figure, but rather pictures of people.

Petroglyph Group, Fremont culture, Nine Mile Canyon, Utah. Circa 700 to 1300 CE. Photo by Stan Strembicki.

To make an obvious point: this will be a challenging process.  For starters, no matter what you do first, after 10 or 12 images you will have become bored and fatigued. Then it will occur to you that you have another 88 pictures to go--one for every key on a piano. Almost certainly you will spend too much time on some of your early efforts, which will annoy and possibly alarm you. 

A Lego policeman, reminding us the range is broader than we imagine.

David Stone Martin, Jam Session, illustration for record jacket, Mercury Records, circa 1960.

I entreat you to make use of diverse media, from paint to collage to ink to (a few) digital images. As importantly, vary your method. Go outside and draw people playing soccer or walking their dogs. Draw at dinner. Watch a movie and whack out pictures of the characters. Draw people from memory. Invent people. 

Mickey may not be people, strictly speaking, but his gigantic hands and feet are relevant for cartoon personages. From Steamboat Willie, 1928.

Or people among trees. Milton Caniff, the Steve Canyon Sunday strip published on October 14, 1947.

Have a great weekend, everybody! If there are any alums out there, feel free to chime in with a comment of your memories, good and bad, of this experience. Or shoot me an email or DM and I will integrate...


Kismet, a femme fatale in Alex Raymond’s Rip Kirby, the daily strip for February 1, 1955. (Color field added.)

In a weekend languor–ooh, maybe another time–a Robert O. Reid Collier's cover girl, from October 14, 1939. Good luck everybody!










D.B. Dowd, Dee Jay Dude, Music Series 2014.

Clara Elsene Peck, cover illustration Theatre Magazine, March 1922.

Cliff Condak,  New NBA Season special feature , Sports Illustrated, October 28, 1963

Cliff Condak, New NBA Season special feature, Sports Illustrated, October 28, 1963

Ed Benedict (?) Judy Jetson, Astro and Elroy Jetson, Character Designs for the Jetsons, Hanna-Barbera Productions,, circa 1960. The source drawing seems to have been scanned and live-traced, a regrettable choice.

Harry Beckhoff, detail, cover Illustration, The Elks Magazine, April 1950.

Harry Beckhoff, "You must take this thing out of here," MIndy says, "especially as calfs are seldom housebroke." Interior fiction illustration for Collier's, June 12, 1941.

From Harlan Tarbell's Chalk Talk Stunts, Denison and Company, 1926. Recollections of the war in France inform these pictures, which are among the least objectionable in the entire book. (Another time.)

Some different French figures, also rendered in line, printed several hundred years earlier: Death makes new friends, 15th or 16th century. The skeleton with the dark patch on his belly isn't a skeleton, but a dried-out partially decayed corpse, probably washed from an overcrowded (five or six deep) Parisian grave during a storm.

Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I. 1907. Fluctuating between forest and trees.

Richard Scarry, in Cars and Trucks, a Golden Book. 1951. A detail of a bus-boarding process.

Elegance is possible, too. From Gerlach's Allegories, 1900.