Thursday, October 1, 2009

Subtractive Value Studies

"The most important thing in art is the frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively - because, without this humble appliance, you can't know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a "box" around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?" - Frank Zappa

Today's session was spent on two in-class exercises, both focusing on the use of charcoal (including subtractive technique), using a full range of value and smooth gradations from darks to lights, and a re-emphasis on designing a drawing by deliberate manipulation of compositional elements. Whatever that means.
First portion (approx. 45 minutes) was spent using the viewfinder to crop out a selected portion of the assembled still-life. Yet another edifice was erected at 7am, testament to the uplifting inspiration behind, uh, white sheets and rolls of paper towels + toilet paper under spotlights. Lesser confident students were advised to simplify their compositions, perhaps limit their piece to a few folds. More experienced students could zoom out and attempt to capture the more of the scenario and render complex areas.

Incidentally this was also a first opportunity to experiment with evolving into upright bipedals and stand at an easel, rather than using the desks. What with our real-estate issues over population numbers, even with several students being absent there was just barely enough easels to go around. Once again reiterating the "first-come/first serve" principle - or at the very least, don't be late. And another reminder as the harbinger of doom that woe betide anyone missing the precious and few excused absences - staring straight down the barrel of another long, hard, cold Alaskan winter one knows the inevitability of wishing one could just stay home when it bottoms out at -50.

Another crucial aspect of today's lesson was the stressing how important it is to not expect instant results: this piece in particular requires investing time to work, rework, push values down, pull highlights back and have faith in the process. Eventually, slowly, the finished piece will get teased out of the sluce-box, form will arise out of nothingness.

Coaxing reluctant students to use unorthodox methods can be equal to the task of inspiring them to do good work, or at least when cajoling them at 8am to plaster their faces onto a xerox machine. Given the logistics of so many people in the class, I had to squirrel groups of five at a time away from their easels during the first value study exercise and run them down the hall to the department office.
After all was said & done, this was one of those days where I swear I felt so absolutely jazzed at how well just about every student's did. It ranked as one of those great, coveted "makes it all worthwhile" classes. Many of 'em made some fantastic pieces, at least interesting Facebook profile pics and/or spiffy posters for Halloween. Yeah, they totally rocked.

“To the artist there is never anything ugly in nature.” - Auguste Rodin

“No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.” - Oscar Wilde