Freehand Skool: Sketchbook as Document & Impetus - Lesson 3

Let's start this lesson with a quick warm-up to get our minds and hands limber. I often like to start my days work with a quick problem like this to get past that desire to make something great. It helps me focus on what is.

Visual Simile

Objects often share a shape or chemical or physical substance with dissimilar objects. When we think of objects specifically as what they are (how they look and what they are made of, what their function is) as opposed to labeling them, we can more effectively make jumps from object to object which share similar visual characteristics or physical characteristics.

Prompt #1
  • List five objects you use on a daily basis.
  • Draw each object as best as you can from memory.
  • Look at your drawings carefully. Attempt to recall shapes within those objects which are indicative of different objects.
  • Draw another, completely different object, which correlates in shape or make-up to those first five objects.
  • Attempt to do two more rounds of this activity.

Did you arrive at some shapes or visual similes that kind of surprised you? What stretches were you able to make in your thinking?


Consider how your daily life is different from your ancestors (where they lived, what they did for employment, what their financial situation was, the size of their family). How is your life similar and how is different? What aspects of your life can you attribute to your ancestry and what previews do you have for your posterity?

Prompt #2

Part I -Envision
Did any of your relatives live through the Great Depression? What was it like? How did they make it? Write a short “diary entry” for February 20, 1933.

Part II – Commonality -
Despite the difference in economic pressure, there were most likely similarities between your day and the days of your relatives. Make a list of the common threads in your days. For some of you this may be about broader issues and for some it may be as simple as a list of chores that were similar.

Part III – Projection
Think about your children, if you have any, nieces or nephews if you don't, & imagine their adult lives dealing with college debt, new insurance laws and a hand me down economy that is less than desirable. Write a short diary entry for the winter of 2020 from their perspective.

#The Cut-Up & the Fold-In

The cut-up is a method of writing that is often attributed to William S. Burroughs via the painter Brion Gysin and Tristan Tzara of the Dada movement. The cut-up technique as defined by the all mighty and wondrous Wikipedia is, “an aleatory literary technique in which a text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text.” The cut-up consists of cutting single words or phrases out and combining them into new sentences or poems. Tzara used a hat to pull words at random and increase the ideas of chance. The fold-in method involves folding two texts with the same line-height and placing or pasting them next to each other so that you are forced to read across two different texts.

Prompt # 3

Part I
Using magazines or newspapers, cut out words and phrases and place them into the hat or a cup.

Part II
Pull the words out of you vessel one at a time writing out the word as you read it off.

Part III
Attempt to now illustrate the nonsensical sentence that you have created at random.

Prompt # 4

Part I
Create a fold-in using two disparate articles, sources, or types of medium. Just line up one block of text with a block of text from a different source. This should create a text with a strange and awkward flow, that creates sometimes nonsensical and sometimes beautifully lucid word turns.

Part II
Read through your new text. What does it make you think of? Can you work one of the lines into a new drawing in your book? Can you illustrate the text? Give it a shot.

Prompt # 5

Part I
In a two inch column of your sketchbook, draw a rudimentary “list” of clothing necessary on a cold winter day.

Part II
From the fold-in text you have created in the previous prompt, match the the items of clothing with the phrase or words that seem to make the strongest connection to you.

This may seem nonsensical depending on what your text ended up reading as. However, we are looking for chance connections which make us think outside of our own shells, so that is okay.

Make note of these connections using connecting lines or notes.

Thanks for stopping by and working with us today. Be sure to check back on Wednesday for Lesson 4 of Freehand Skool: Sketchbook as Document & Impetus. And remember you can see work from my sketchbooks and final pieces on my instagram and my blog.