Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Multi-point Pespective II

“Draw every day for at least half an hour. If you don't feel like it then draw until you do.” - unknown

Most of today's class time was divided into two 45-minute sessions, one pencil sketch on 18x24” newsprint each in the symphony hall (UAF Davis Concert Hall) and the other in the (UAF Salisbury) theater.
Drawing offers tools by which to solve a visual problem, namely, how the hell do you draw whatever scene or object is before you. The symphony hall is perhaps the single greatest nightmare scenario to try and sketch. Even primed with “perspective-vision” students are confronted with an overwhelming amount of data that at first glance looks well nigh impossible. Time then to open up that mental tool-box of budding skills they are assembling in this class and set about - with basic observation and rough sketching - methodically reducing the elements to their the simplest, most fundamental underlying shapes. Step-by-step, we progress in building up the sketches, layering elements and double-checking angles and relative proportions.

In the meantime, while everyone was busy sketching the in-class assignment, I took the time to “make the rounds”: sit with each individual student and take attendance, plus check in with them to make sure they understand upcoming expectations, have any problems and/or questions, and finally, a quick flip through their sketchbooks to preview their thumbnailed compositions for the upcoming critique piece, offering advice and criticisms where needed. This is a good time to impress upon them the need to stay abreast of assigned work – as mentioned earlier the sketchbook reviews are the best point at which to head off impending disaster or at the least point up strengths & weaknesses. I’d much rather they botch things up on a smaller scale while practicing for the final piece, and there is the added benefit of instilling the habit of at least thinking beforehand about the upcoming drawing. Nothing’s worse or more immediately apparent than when someone tries to sit down and whip out the work hours before it is due (unless yer a professional cartoonist), especially when it has been assigned in most cases weeks before, and there has been more than enough time to spend on getting desired results.

Speaking of, the remainder of today’s class time was devoted to reviewing the first assignment (tabletop + objects in linear perspective) that was due today; so we arranged the chairs in a semi-circle in front of the critique wall, everyone tacked up his or her pieces and we meticulously went over the works. This was pretty much the one time of the semester where I play solo point-man on commenting on each and every piece, which can get tiresome and challenging (especially after the quadruple-shot mocha wears off), but setting the bar high and giving each piece and person their respected due is the bottom line, and this is the morning I really had to be on task. Tricky as one never knows what off-the-cuff comment or perceived slight will assume tragic proportions later on and be taken out of context afterwards, and this sort of public display can be a stressful experience for many students. Fortunately most folks have a sense of humor and by now get the habitual dry wit commentary that goes with these sorts of things.
It’s also fun to poke here at the conventions of psychological profiling based on the respective items each person chose to represent something about themselves. Many students opt for the safe route and just assemble fairly innocuous things, others take it a step farther and show specific book titles, or bottles of booze and favorite foods, toys and trinkets. This begins the insidious creep of injecting content into otherwise standard pieces, which is always encouraged and supported. “But what does it really MEAN?”
(As per Georgia O’Keefe’s rebuttal to Freudian projections – it’s just a flower folks).

Overall they met or exceeded expectations; only a few with problems, aside from the couple who spaced it out entirely. I have found that no matter how many times – usually both at the beginning and the end of the class – I make a point of reminding them of deadlines, and despite having it written down on all handouts, there will always be a couple that don’t stay on top of things. I don’t ever take it personally, and rarely cut anybody slack, but the subtle mental process of disengagement starts as at that point I’ll return the favor and not really take them seriously either.
This “dry-run” is also an opportunity to reiterate some of the more basic aspects like; making sure their names are on the pieces (helps if you want a grade), making sure the marks that are made are dark enough to be seen at a comfortable viewing distance, making extra sure that instructions as far as correct paper and size are met (a real quick way to get a D or F is to turn in something on 8.5 x 11” Xerox paper or newsprint as opposed to the 18 x 24” drawing paper, for example).
*Note: an excellent aide to showing corrections is to tack up a sheet of tracing paper directly over the drawing and illustrate helpful suggestions on possible improvements that way.

The pieces are finally collected and stashed in my drawer for grading before the next class, as I prefer to let a little time pass before looking at them objectively and in private. With more coffee.

“Do not fail, as you go on, to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is, it will be well worth while, and it will do you a world of good.” - Cennino Cennini

1 comment:

  1. The hellish part is seeing great stuff emerge in what began as a rough sketch on less than top-quality materials. I draw constantly. Often I have trouble recapturing the freshness of the crude sketch when I do what passes for a final rendering.

    As for final renderings and style, could one not make the case that any medium or material is legitimate? Only by accident does anything last much beyond its day anyway. For cartoons, the main criterion is that the original be reproducible for distribution in some form.