How to Throw Things at Your Students (and Get Away With It!)

throw things
If I ever get fired from my job, it will probably because of this project. It’s far and away my favorite project I teach every year. It’s unique, it’s a LOT of fun, and it develops my students’ drawing skills. It’s our Robert Longo project.

To start, if you’re not familiar with Robert Longo, he’s an American artist who first gained widespread fame with his Men in the Cities series. He’s gone on to do an incredible amount of impressive work, generally large-scale and done in graphite or charcoal. Below are some pictures of his Untitled (Men in the Cities) drawings.


In articles and biographies, there are descriptions of people dancing and dying, people gyrating,write-ups about their general awkwardness, or any number of guesses and explanations about what the subjects are doing.

I prefer, however, the urban legend shared with me by my art history professor in college: Longo would hire models to come to his studio, ask them to dress in formal wear, then do a few inconspicuous figure drawings. After those were finished, Longo would offer the models copious amounts of cash if, you know, he could just throw dangerous objects at them as hard as he could. Look at those drawings again. It makes sense, right?

Is the story true? Evidence tells me it’s not, but I hope I’m wrong. Is it the story we go with when I present this to the class? Absolutely. The idea of throwing stuff at models, particularly after going through a couple weeks of figure drawings, is always appealing.

We pick a day, and everyone shows up in their best clothes, with shirts and ties for the guys (suits if we’re lucky) and nice dresses for the girls. We’ve even had a couple of prom dresses make an appearance. Some of the more ambitious girls will wear heels, and though I get nervous about that when they are jumping and dodging objects, we haven’t had any broken ankles (yet).

From there, it’s just a big game of dodgeball! We line up, nerf balls and stuffed animals in hand, and throw one at a time. The model tries to dodge the throws, over-exaggerating his or her movements for the best poses. We set up multiple cameras, as I’ve found we have a better chance of capturing the best shots when we do so. We never fail to get some great pictures.

And, of course, I need to take my turn on the receiving end of things.
After that, students select the photos they want to draw. We make choices about composition when cropping and arranging photos, then it’s just up to our drawing skills. Some grid, some freehand, but I just try to emphasize detail and shading while keeping a blank background (in the Longo style). I’ve done every size and can’t really recommend one more than another. Huge drawings are always impressive if they are done well, but it’s obviously quite a trade-off with the amount of time involved. Whatever you choose to do, it will be a blast for both you and your kids.



You have at least one student at whom you want to throw things, right? It’s okay to admit it. :)

How do you think your students would feel about this project? How about your administration?

What other “risky” projects do you do in your art room? 


Timothy Bogatz

Tim is a high school teacher from Omaha, NE. His teaching and writing focus on the development of creativity, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills.


  • Claire

    Wow, Tim, this article makes me want to be in your class! It ‘moved’ me! A great step up from the still-life figure drawing. Thanks for sharing.

  • Twana Johnson

    This looks so incredibly fun! For a split second it made me wish I taught the older kids just to try this out…

  • K Hyman

    This sounds fantastic. Makes me want to teach older students so I can throw things at them!! : )

  • I love this idea! We’re so glad to have you, Tim!

  • teebo

    what a fun and energetic project!

  • Wow! What a fun project. And seriously, you have some talented student artists!

  • Thank you, Jennifer! My kids definitely work hard.
    For those that don’t teach high school: When I taught elementary, I used this idea with kids doing “silly” poses–no throwing things–and we drew Keith Haring-style figures. It’s definitely adaptable!

    • Kirsten Lundquist

      Thanks for that…I was just lamenting how my kiddos are too young for much success at the given project. I already do a Haring project…but they just “make up” a movement pose. I am definitely throwing nerf balls at them this year!

  • Sarah C

    This is how awesome an art instructor Tim is: all 4 of my boys have taken as many of his classes as their schedules would allow. My daughter also took some of his community art classes in middle school and loved them. Keep up the fantastic work Mr B!

  • Frank Matas

    Very cool idea and lesson! I am stealing this idea. Thank you for sharing Tim!

  • Mrs. Crenshaw

    You are so clever! I’m in awe of you…

  • Garry

    very creative!

  • Laura

    love this, I’m stealing it for the next time I teach photography!

    • Definitely, Laura! I had a handful of kids use the photos they took during this project for their AP 2D Design Portfolios. Hopefully you can get some great shots!

  • STEALING IT! We’ve done gesture drawing in the past. This would be a great way to take things to the next level. I also dig your comments about adaption. Keep the ideas coming!

  • g bogie

    This looks like so much fun. It explains why so many of your students enjoy you and your classes. You have several great ideas so keep sharing them!

  • kven

    Great way to get students excited. They definitely can’t describe this class as boring.

  • Andrea Slu

    TIM! Great first article! yahoo! I definitely want to try this with my advanced drawing kids this year!!!

    • Thanks, Slu! Let me know if you give it a try–I want to see pictures :)

  • Allison

    Great idea! I love how the striped dress
    accentuated and countered the contours of the body. It was a great juxtaposition!
    I teach 3-D, but have my masters in painting and drawing. I want to work on a
    series like this of my own. You appear to be a great addition to the group.

    • Thanks, Allison. Hopefully you’ll find my ideas worthwhile.
      I use this with my 3-D students as well, actually, creating figure sculptures out of clay. It’s a struggle trying to get the figures to stand permanently when they’re in such odd poses, but it might be worth a try for your kids.

  • Dot

    Great article that reveals pedagogical expertise and a passion for the aesthetic. Wow. Also my six year old was thrilled that it was “our Tim.” Very cool.

  • Susan

    Loved this idea!

  • Stephanie Carlson-Pruch

    incredible drawings!! Throw on!

  • Wendy

    These are beautiful AND fun! Congrats to you!

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  • Ellen K

    I am so doing this right after AP portfolios are turned in and the students are lingering between doldrums and apathy.

  • Melissa Gilbertsen

    I just love your off-the-wall ideas and your point of view. When I am feeling a wee bit fried I look up a couple of your articles and I’m back in business. Thanks so much AND…you better not stop with the being part of AoE – I need you.

  • Jenny Clark

    This looks awesome! Did you just have other students standing in front to take the pictures?

    • Tim Bogatz

      Hey, Jenny! The first couple times I tried it, I did all the pictures myself. But I found it works better to have a lot of kids take pictures. Some bring cameras, others use their cell phones. If you have about 6 students taking pictures, the odds of getting a quality shot are pretty good.

  • Beatrice

    My former student teacher got a great paying job in a good school, did this with their photo class, and was fired for it. Never got another public school teaching job. So.
    They did do it inside, and were also throwing water, but still.