Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Self-Portraits/Pop Quiz

It's the close of another session and the results are in, they speak for themselves, both good and bad. After such an intense schedule I really think that compressing every single lesson that's normally paced out over an entire semester into five weeks is a logistical impossibility. This means either lessening of expectations or lowering standards, and I don't think individual students are served well by that, nor is the overarching mission fulfilled for the university. But in the after-burnout there's the seed of another outgrowth that will in turn bear fruit for me, at least as far as remarshalling energy and incorporating the lessons that I learned for an even better approach. There were enough successes to merit an honest appraisal: like many of the pieces created, it works, but could always be improved.

While the above montage is not from this particular class, it's approximately the same general level of skill on display for the first little pop-quiz of each semester. Each beginning drawing student is asked to do a quick self-portrait right from the hip on day one, along with contact info and image release - and they learn a bonus lesson to always carry something to draw with wherever they go. The doodle also helps me to ballpark approximate level of ability and is a great benchmark for progress when contrasted against the final critique piece. Granted there's a vast difference in allotted time and scale, but on the other hand, if there isn't much of a difference, then they're I'm the one who fails.
And along with the final, I always like to have 'em jot down a theoretical answer to the most important question of all:

Why Draw?
"To understand & deal with the stress of life."
"A way to meet strange people."
"Because I enjoy it and it relieves my stress and helps me express my creativity."
"Drawing is fun to me and it's a relaxer..."
"I like to draw because it is relaxing."
"Art relaxes me."
"It gives me something to do."
"It is an excellent way to show others what you see or how you feel."
"You can draw however and whatever the hell you want and no-one can say shit."

In retrospect, perhaps given the response of half the class that art is relaxing might be somewhat of an indication that this particular session's truncated schedule and roster of required work wasn't as stressful as I originally thought. And one answer reminds me of an occasional smart-ass response I to the perennial question of "how did you start drawing?" - not too romantic or inspirational to admit that to a very large degree it was sheer boredom. Probably the majority of time spent in grade school for me was spent daydreaming with a pencil in hand, and if nothing else that's a sure path to creativity. That and a wonderful way to avoid doing whatever else it is one is supposed to be focused on. I often take a gentle revenge on all those teachers from my own past by allowing my own current students absolute freedom to indulge in open doodling while I'm lecturing. I know from personal experience that that is quite often a way to paradoxically pay closer attention to things - this very afternoon I was once again keyed in on half a dozen random conversations within earshot while bent over the sketchbook at the cafe. Plus that soft din of backdrop noise provides me with more focus than if I were left alone with the chorus of committees that regularly hold forth in my own head. But I think most folks these days are given drugs for that now anyways.

"People aren't interested in seeing themselves as they really are." - Jim Woodring

At this stage it's open medium, and the opportunity to really apply some aspect of what we've been exploring all along.  Time to, in theory, pull out all the stops and show off to the best of ability what one has learned. Coupled with the content there should be some deeper level of interpretation as opposed to the rote technical considerations that have been a significant criteria up to this point. And so it will go for the rest of their creative lives, both good work and bad.

"Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless. 
When you find something at which you are talented, you do it – whatever it is – 
until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head." - Stephen King 

No comments:

Post a Comment