Bridget Riley-Inspired Op-Art Drawings

By Sternhagen, Ronda | Arts & Activities, March 2008 | Go to article overview

Bridget Riley-Inspired Op-Art Drawings


Sternhagen, Ronda, Arts & Activities


My high-school fundamentals of art class is an all-encompassing experience in drawing, painting, 3-D, printmaking and more, with most of the projects directly influenced by art history and artist studies. Students are generally attracted to optical illusions and often embark on a quest to conquer the "how to" of creating them. After much trial and error, I have developed a process for students of varying skill levels to be successful creating original Bridget Riley-inspired Op Art drawings.

First we use a "Roundtable" reading strategy to learn more about Bridget Riley: Divide students into pairs and ask them to write everything they already know about Bridget Riley at the top of a piece of paper. They will likely know few facts. Then direct them to draw a horizontal line under the facts they were able to record. Proceed by drawing a vertical line down the rest of the paper so students have two columns on their paper, and have each student write their name at the top of one of the columns.

Put together a narrative about Bridget Riley using Web sites and other resources, and read excerpts aloud, pausing every paragraph or two. Give one minute following each break for either the person in the left or right column (alternately) to write down as many facts they just heard read as possible until the entire reading is complete.

Following the reading, each pair counts the number of items they recalled. As students share their recalled facts, record the facts for all to see until all the facts are shared, and complete an Artist Information Card based on this information.

At this point I share images of Bridget Riley's works. Students are always amazed and intrigued, and believe that they could never do anything like that. Granted, our Op Art drawings are far less sophisticated than the works of Bridget Riley, but they are visually impressive and very rewarding to the students when they realize that they can do it!

Begin by practicing the drawing technique on a 3" x 5" index card. On one 3-inch edge of a card, measure and make very small, light pencil marks every an eighth of an inch. Use another 3" x 5" card, placed horizontally, to draw a horizontal wavy line that has peaks and valleys of varying heights, as well as varying widths. Caution: Make sure the line does not hook back (like an ocean wave). This will cause an undesirable effect. This practice session will help avoid this on the final drawing.

Carefully cut the horizontal wavy line using scissors. A smooth, non-jagged edge will produce a more desirable effect. Place the edge of the cut template even with the edge of the marked card and the top eighth-of-an-inch mark. Gently trace the wavy edge, move the template down to the next eighth-of-an-inch mark, making sure the edges are perfectly even, and trace the wavy edge again. Continue this process until the entire 3" x 5" card is a miniature Op Art drawing. While this is just the practice, sometimes these become spectacular works, too.

To take the project to the next level, use 5"x 10" illustration board (placed horizontally) to draw a horizontal wavy line with pencil in the same manner as in the practice session. Use scissors to cut the wavy line as smoothly as possible and sand any imperfections with fine sandpaper. "Paint" the edge of the template with white correction fluid to seal the edge, making it less absorbent when tracing with a fine-tipped marker. It may be necessary to coat the edge two or three times.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Select one or more colors, if you'd like a pattern, of fine-tipped markers to create your final drawing.

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