Draw It With Your Eyes Closed

POSTED ON: April 6, 2012

The New York Times’ book section recently featured Draw it with your Eyes Closed, a book with many contributions from Cooper Union alumni and faculty, past and present.

Edited by the editorial team behind the art journal Paper Monument, Draw it with Your Eyes Closed tackles the topic of art and pedagogy, presenting essays, anecdotes and class assignments that range from practical to literary. Critic Dwight Garner, writing for the Times, celebrated the book’s ambitious horizon as well as its “buzzy and wild” tone by evoking the late Paul Thek (A’54):

When the American painter, sculptor and installation artist Paul Thek (1933-88) taught art classes at Cooper Union in the late 1970s, he wrote and then gave to his students a long, provocative and now famous list of questions and marching orders he titled “Teaching Notes.”

Thek’s sometimes intimate questions included “On what do you sleep?” and “Have you ever been seriously ill?” Among his tantalizing assignments for students were “Add a station to the cross,” “Redesign the human genitals so that they might be more equitable” and “Design an abstract monument to Uncle Tom.” I’d walk a long way to see Richard Serra or Cindy Sherman attempt any of these, especially the middle one.

“Teaching Notes” closed with this statement, which professors (and critics) everywhere should etch onto the bottom rims of their reading glasses, facing outward: “Remember, I’m going to mark you, it’s my great pleasure to reward real effort, it’s my great pleasure to punish stupidity, laziness and insincerity.”

Thek’s list has been passed around by serious art teachers for decades. It is now reprinted in — and its spirit lingers over — a mischievous and nourishing new book called “Draw It With Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment,” compiled by the editors of the art magazine Paper Monument, a sibling publication of the literary magazine n + 1.

Read more…


Recent and current faculty who have contributed to the book include: Colleen Asper, Mary Walling Blackburn, Pam Lins, Cameron Martin, John Menick,  Demetrius Oliver, Paul Thek, Patricia Treib, David True, William Villalongo.

The full review is available here. You can find more information about the book on Paper Monument’s page.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.