Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Line It Out

"Definition of a College professor: someone who talks in other people’s sleep." - W. H. Auden

Today's class was the official kickstart into line, in anticipation of the upcoming pen & ink portion of the semester. Again, I like to use the doors out in the Great Hall as a novel introduction to contour line, plus reinforcement of foreshortening and overlapping elements. The custodial staff must love me, and it probably weirds out people who visit the building.

En-route to the doors we also got in a little bonus pit-stop at the gallery, where the first ever Bachelor of Arts student show had just opened up. This was hopefully an inspirational exhibit for my aspiring talents to see, and some impressive works were on display. It included some drawings by a few previous students of my own, which needless to say made my morning. Especially after a heavy schedule over the past few weeks indoctrinating both teachers, interns and high school students on the relevancy and revelations of art - here was a perfect case-in-point/cause & effect display that IT WORKS. It's always important to remember after years of jaded experience what a thrill (and big ball of stress) having one's works up on the wall in a real gallery can be, and the two-part harmony of doing good works and showing them well. So well-earned congratulations especially to Sam Lawson, Liz King and Tiffany Stappler.

Afterwards I resurrected an old, quick exercise in blind contour drawing (demo piece above), which is excellent for training hand-to-eye coordination so that the pencil becomes a reflexive extension of the hand, and by extension again ones vision. Probably isn't more of a frustrating thing to do, but it serves to really bring home the point of how important ceaseless practice is. The seamless flow of action demonstrated by an experienced artist while sketching is instructional to observe: the analogy of an archer who doesn't worry about watching the arrow but instead focusing on the target and letting years of accumulated rehearsal take over (see the brain/muscle memory theory in this gesture drawing post).

But man did I ever hate drawing blind contour, and what a sublime pleasure it is to pass on the fine tradition to another generation of aspiring talent! Actually, given the volume of laughter in the class while doing this it's a refreshing little break in the routine.
And speaking of routine; in the background of these snapshots up on the screen can be seen the examples of Critique #3 that was assigned today as well. Also visible is another patented white-trash special impromptu still-life which brought out the inner juvenile delinquent in me. Did the job, which was something that contained a lot of material for contours and negative space. Throw in a little linear perspective, add a touch of value, toss well with composition for 45 minutes ... ta-daa.

After most in-class exercises I have the students spin their easels around 180 so we can do a quick review.

"Have no fear of perfection ... you'll never reach it." - Salvador Dali


  1. That first quote is great! And I'm a big fan of blind contour drawings; not to brag, but I totally nailed mine this semester ;-)

  2. It's particularly appropriate for an 8am class.
    And I felt a bit smug about my demo looking at least somewhat human especially after not having done one for many years. At least it'll make for a spiffy PSA illustration on the dangers of binge drinking...