Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Art Drill

“The difference between a man and a boy is, a boy wants to grow up to be a fireman, but a man wants to grow up to be a giant monster fireman.” - Jack Handy
Occasionally I deviate from the syllabus during the semester (no, really?) and take a break from the routine. It's (almost) spring in this neck of the woods, and in combination with too many quadruple-shot-mochas there's the urge to get outta the drawing room. This was one of those mornings where the concept is introduced that it can be useful in may ways to shift creative gears mid-project. It's almost as important to kick-start the teacher as it is to keep the class engaged and entertained, to not get lulled into habitual academic stultification. Uprooting everyone from the studio/classroom and immersion into a completely new environment is a tool that I employ throughout the semester as a sort of shock therapy to the senses. The beginning drawing students have been diligently obsessed with completing their ongoing three-page pen & ink vignettes in time for the upcoming critique, so this made for a nice diversion.

After an initial discussion of the session assignment and some possible solutions, we wandered over to the UAF campus firehouse for an hour of exploring with sketchbooks. Ideally the goal was to harvest as many different reference sketches of as many different subjects as possible so as to assemble a remixed spot illustration based on our observations. The firehouse is a good opportunity to sample a diverse range of materials and textures. Poking around the equipment reveals countless details from canvas to chrome, and with the added pressure of of the ticking clock, it's a quick test of on-the-spot talent. As with a few other in-class exercises, mulling over the relatively uninspired output afterwards, I can't help but wonder if it's perhaps asking too much from a beginning class to crank out a decent piece in a couple of hours, drawing from a complete blank, as opposed to laboring for hours over several weeks (not a likely scenario anyways). But, as pointed out by another faculty member, the resulting handful of passable efforts really aren't outside the usual odds of above-average success in any class, whether math, geology or physics. And after all, some of my best work has resulted from being pushed out of a comfort level that all too often is by default the creative zone for many artists. One never knows what breakthrough (or conversely, breakdown) will happen unless you give 101%.

The analogy of a firehouse is one that is particularly appropriate to one of my meta-goals in teaching this entire class: the vision of a building staffed by a battalion of highly trained and exceptionally skilled artists all ready to scramble at a moment's notice. We've been mercilessly drilling ourselves to be prepared for almost any artistic eventuality or emergency that may happen, and can meet the challenges of each unique creative situation that could possibly arise. We know the tools and the techniques, by now we know our respective limitations and strengths; and can tackle either individually or as a team any topic, with any technique... any time, any place. 
That and there's the idea that, oh what the hell, drawing cool stuff like firetrucks is just plain fun. No apologies there: better than a bowl of fruit at least.
Now if I only had an some sort of an alarm that could go off every time someone's in desperate need of artistic assistance.

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