Monday, October 14, 2013

Draw a Potato

A bunch of years ago I used to teach drawing workshops for teachers.  One of the best exercises was a potato drawing activity.  The point was to demonstrate that drawing teaches you to really look and see and make increasingly subtle choices.  I don't know who made this exercise up, but it always worked.  I would bring a bushel basket of potatoes into the room and ask everyone to grab a potato.  All the potatoes were roughly the same size, certainly the same color, and had the same gouges and eyes.  Everyone then had 30 minutes to make a careful drawing of his or her potato.  After the usual protestations of "I can't draw" and "I can't possibly draw a potato for that long" they would all settle in to look and draw. 

After the time was up I would tell them to put their potatoes back in the basket.  I would collect their drawings and then dump the potatoes into the middle of the room.  The next step was to go and find your potato.  And the enormous surprise was that everyone was able to do this every time.  Occasionally someone would confuse his or her potato with someone else's, but in that case they would both refer to their drawings, and that process always allowed them to prove which was which.

So tonight as I got some potatoes out to cut up and cook,  I did the old Draw a Potato exercise.  It's amazing how much there is to see in a potato when you really start looking.  I had only four potatoes and didn't want to stop with drawing #699, so I drew a little pearl onion to bring the grand total up to 700.


  1. Amazing what drawing on the right side of the brain will teach us.

  2. Hi Gwen, you are quite right, we are rarely in the moment enough to really see a potato or anything for that matter. I have found that photography makes you more aware as well. Thanks for this, so interesting, and I happen to love potatoes!

  3. i'm reminded of frank brannon's fascination (in letterpress) with potatoes, and a friend who has an elementary school activity called camouflage potatoes. your drawing activity is very good!