Edna Lawrence's students' work


"In 1916 a young girl began a 60-year association with Rhode Island School of Design. During that time, her teaching and influence have extended to over three generations and literally thousands of RISD students. How many alumni still have butterfly drawings locked away somewhere? Or marigolds? Or daffodils? Or perhaps a dragonfly with an iridescent spectrum on its wings?"Alumni News, 1976

During a time of reflection on the past year of learning and teaching here on campus, the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab is pleased to share a selection of images from a historical archive of student work from classes Edna herself taught. The artworks range from the year 1942 to 1970, and showcase the breadth of interaction Edna had with students on campus.

The abstract patterns created in the courses Edna taught encouraged a deeper look at naturally occurring patterns around students; Edna always emphasized a slowing down and deep care and attention to the natural world. Assignments range from the colorful cross section of a pepper to an abstract design that incorporates the colors of a butterfly. Many of these intricate patterns would look right at home on a contemporary textile.

Fauna studies Edna encouraged include multiple views of birds like the Blue-winged Teal and the Hooded Merganser, as well as talon drawings and sketches of bird tracks. Many of these portraits share an expressiveness of their facial features, with vivid and engaging emotion.

These works also showcase Edna's encouragement of playfulness and experimentation with color and materials; media range from watercolor to charcoal to colored pencil.

Most importantly, the care her students demonstrate in their completion of these pieces emphasize the commitment to learning and love of making art that Edna instilled.

"She was just a very caring, dedicated good teacher, who was able to teach students some important things... things that a lot of us were able to keep for the rest of [our] lives. Very few of us are able to bring that to our students."Merlin Szosz in Jackleen de La Harpe's Providence Journal article, 1986.

This historical archive of student work has recently been digitized since its collection over many decades, and is now an inspiration and asset to students studying the same principles through microscopy and other modern equipment.


C. Harris abstract design
Chicken sketches by Robert Britt.
Brenda Lesure abstract design.
Dolores Gaucher duck sketches.
Chicken foot, B.J. Kressman.
Kathie Stackpole abstract design.
Whiting abstract design.
Nature drawing in Edna's class, 1962.
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