Each year, I invite at least one com- munity member to speak at our school
about an art-related topic
of general interest. In the
spring of 2010, Dr. Ivor
Kaplan, a plastic surgeon
and artist, captivated my
students with an illustrated
lecture on the connections
between art and medicine.
He specifically spoke to
the relationship between
sculpture and plastic surgery, choosing as a powerful
example the construction of
human ears using cartilage
from patients’ ribs.
The class I teach during the block
when Dr. Kaplan was able to visit is
not a sculpture course, so I originally
considered his presentation an enrichment experience for my students.
However, the more I thought about it,
the more I wanted to devise a way to
relate his presentation to our focus on
drawing, painting, and printmaking.
After much wracking of my brain,
the idea of “ear idioms” popped into
my mind (e.g., “blow it out your ear,”
“in one ear and out the other,” etc.).
The prospect was exciting, but I was
fearful that students would create
cartoons, which is not the direction
I wanted to go. Rather, I hoped to
emphasize strong drawing with beautiful, expressive mark-making and a
wide range of values, along with composition.
As my idea developed, my focus narrowed, meaning that students would
be challenged to interpret their idioms
by relying almost entirely on realistic
ear drawings, the placement of them,
marks, and values. In that way, I felt
the drawings would be more metaphorical and less illustrative.
Having ultimately decided on 8" ( 20
cm) square graphite drawings, I presented the challenge using a sample I
had drawn inspired by the idiom “turn
a deaf ear.” I explained to students
what I wanted them to concentrate on,
very openly sharing my fear that they
would create cartoons. Based on their
results, they clearly heard me.
I passed out a list of ear idioms that
I found online and we discussed any
that were unfamiliar. Students practiced making contour drawings of an
ear followed by a modeled drawing of