A view from above of an open sketchbook with two loosely painted peaches. Next to the book is a paint palette and a jar of paint water.

Hello, hello! We’re going to jump right in and use this assignment to warm up, draw every day, try some new media, and get to know each other. Over the next couple weeks, you’ll create several different self-portrait-type images, post written work, make a sketch-a-day in response to our list of prompts, and dive into the world of client interactions with some exercises by Lisa Congdon.  Additionally, you’ll be responding to the work of your peers, both to get to know them and to help them improve their work going forward.


  • to meet your classmates and begin to develop our classroom community and culture
  • to draw something every day to limber up and build momentum
  • to represent yourself visually in a way that is both authentic and professional
  • to learn and/or improve your handling of gouache paint
  • to refresh your skills with our various platforms and applications and, if needed, to make plans to get back up to speed with particular tools (e.g. the scanner, WordPress, slack, InDesign, etc.)
  • to use iterative work and peer feedback to improve future work

What You’ll Create

• Black and white self-portrait, any media, no larger than 4” x 4” at 300 dpi
• Color, gouache self-portrait, no larger than 10” x 10” at 300 dpi (can be digitally edited)
• An “artist at work” photograph, no smaller than 8” x 6” at 72 dpi
• A professional bio in third-person, between 50 – 100 words
• A mock email and two concept sketches to a fictional art director
• An illustration in the style of or inspired by a contemporary illustrator of your choosing
• Final post to class site using one of the images above and explaining who you are as an illustrator
• 20 (or more) daily sketches in response to our prompts (these can be small and/or super loose!) You can post them daily to your #Name-channel or post in batches towards the end. Make this work for you, ok? Ok!


1/24, T – Read through this assignment. Get started.
Watch Beyond Watercolor: Learn to Paint with Gouache,
Illustrate + post: Black and white self-portrait, any media, no larger than 4” x 4” at 300 dpi
Write+Post (to slack): Why this class? What are your strengths as an artist/designer? Where do you hope to grow?
2/26, RRead: AIGA interview with Deanna Donegan. Watch: Illustrating with Ink: Techniques for Brush and Pen, Photograph + post: a pic from the library of an illustration in context that you love, explain the context and what you love about the illustration, Write + post: Who is your ideal client? What is your ideal job? What did you take away from the Donegan interview?

1/31, T – Watch: Professional Practice In Illustration: Following a Creative Brief & Executing An Assignment, Illustrate + post: Color, gouache self-portrait, no larger than 10” x 10” at 300 dpi (can be digitally edited), Write + post: What is Illustration? How does it differ from drawing, painting, and other techniques?
2/2, R – Create + post: “Artist at work” photograph, no smaller than 8” x 6” at 72 dpi, Write + post: a professional bio in third-person, between 50 – 100 words. Answer on slack: How do you approach your “digital identity”?

2/7, T – Write + post: Post bio and artist-at-work photo to our class site (category: artists), Create + post: Two “roughs” for “Three Little Pigs” cover, screenshot of mock email to art director (as described in video). This is a link to the mock creative brief from Lisa Congdon’s skillshare class.
2/9, R – Write + post: an overview of the work of a contemporary illustrator whose work you admire (with link to their website), Create + post: Piece in the style of or inspired by your illustrator, final “3 little pigs piece” based on peer feedback of your roughs.

2/14, TFINAL : : Create + post: Using one of the illustrations from the past three weeks, make a post explaining who you are as an illustrator and where you’re headed. Post answer and image to our domain here and post the link to slack. You’re encouraged, but not required, to post a modified version of this to your own domain. Write + email to me: Please fill out and email me your rubrics. Save the file with your last name in it. Like this: Ries-Rubric.doc. Watch: Illustrating Patterns: Creating Hand-Drawn Wallpaper.

Specifications, Notes and Other Things to Consider:

SkillShare Videos:

Most of the video collections I’d like you to watch are around an hour long. Please do all the exercises. That’s where you’ll really learn. You can watch the videos sped up slightly (1.25 times faster, 1.5x, or even, 2x faster), but don’t miss out on seeing details like how someone handles a brush or the small details they mention in passing. Take notes as you watch, then make the demo work in your sketchbook.

Artist at Work photos:

This photograph should show you and your face. It’s the kind of thing you might use on your portfolio site under “About” or give to someone who will be promoting your workshop/talk/book. You can be silly or dramatic, if that’s important to you and fits within your style of work, but tread carefully. This link has some good examples: https://www.agoodson.com/featured-artists/.

Try this on that page: find someone whose photo appeals to you, click on their image, and then click on the pink button that says “View Portfolio.” Does the work fit with the sense of the person you got from the photo? Do you like the work as well? Consider how your photograph, while not showing your art work, might hint at your style and approach.

Drawing Prompts

These are the prompts we generated together in class:

  1. insomnia
  2. strike
  3. disappointment
  4. growth
  5. dreams
  6. concrete
  7. meme
  8. shatter
  9. burning
  10. void
  11. hollow
  12. isometric
  13. leisure
  14. groundbreaking
  15. bliss
  16. drag
  17. nostalgia
  18. triage
  19. longing
  20. snap
  21. shelled
  22. disenchantment
  23. ratio
  24. face value
  25. pause
  26. sync
  27. twisted
  28. throttle