Sunday, December 19, 2010

Final: Self-Portraits (Student and Otherwise)

"Every line means something." - Jean Michel Basquiat  

It was with some measure of bittersweet and weary weatherworn bleariness I had my last critique for the foreseeable future. At least in the Fine Art Department at UAF, where I've been an adjunct since 2000, and have taught studio drawing classes for fifteen fall & spring semesters, plus seven summer sessions, including six years of the Cartoon & Comic art course. Of course, I posted some similar sentiments almost a year ago to the day.

Image by Aaron Dotson
Last week I handed in an official letter of resignation, stating that "Regretfully I will not be in Alaska for the summer of 2011, and consequently will be unable to teach the Cartoon & Comic Art course. There are several opportunities I am pursuing in Maine, and will be temporarily relocating there at the end of this year.

My sincerest thanks for the past six years in offering a truly unique and very popular studio class, one that students of all ages and abilities from the Fairbanks community have benefited from and enjoyed."

Teaching this particular class was the high point of my academic and professional career, and I hope to at some point in the future work again with the outstanding faculty and staff at the University of Alaska Fairbanks."

Damn, that was hard. And I meant every word.

So with that in mind, we enacted the ritual review of work, the supposed penultimate culmination of abilities demonstrated and exhibited in this one last masterpiece. No stress though, okay? 

All that being said, please have a gander at a handful of some of the fantastic finals below the fold.

Image (detail) by Natasha Pomeroy

(More after the jump)
Definitely went out with the proverbial bang with this batch of talent - a fitting reminder that the timing of the student art show means it is by no means anywhere near any indication of the best works created in any given semester.
The practical logistics of attending an 8am class amidst some harsh conditions, personal tragedy and overwhelming course loads is commendable unto itself. But the overriding factor of having produced some work that one can be really proud of, and that will stand  apart from anything else done over the course of the semester or year speaks for itself in many of the portfolios I have looked at.

Image by Kelsea Wester

The initial self-portrait doodles (see group-shot posted back up above) done at the start of many a class once again served as an interesting counterpoint for comparison & contrast with the finished final works turned in for the final critique. Sometimes the pressure of on-the-spot "drawn from the hip" is equal to, and in some ways more revealing than a self-consciously in-depth, protracted effort. It's always better to have both, I think.

Image by Ariel Beaty

Win some, lose some, pass some, fail some too. The closing advice I had for the latter cases was from my own hard-won experience: just because you flunk an art class has nothing to do with your art, or even arguably has anything to do with a future career creating artwork. It may have more to do with being an indication of troubles prioritizing, focus and discipline, factors that in turn do weigh greatly on one's relative "success." How well you deal with the pressure is the discerning difference between who makes it, and who it might maybe be a hobby for someday. 
Only one thing is certain, shit will happen the rest of your life, and the enduring talents learn to adapt and evolve with such circumstance and situations regardless. Art is as much an oasis as it is a pain in the ass sometimes, but like getting up in the night when it's fifty-below to use the outhouse, it's just something you gotta do. And there will always be those special interludes of aesthetic appreciation en route, like gosh it sure is quiet out here, and ain't the stars pretty tonight? Oh look... there's a freakin' MOOSE!

Image (study) by Amara Simmons

"A sketch has charm because of its truth – not because it is unfinished." - Charles Hawthorne

My attitude on the last day oscillated between the two extremes of short-timer syndrome leavened with a sense of urgency that this was a sort of a career curtain call. In the end it was as all of the rest: no better, no worse - could always do better, and definitely have done worse. Haggard and eclipsed by external factors and freelance gigs, plus my own personal upheaval in progress, the morning class is and always was a much-needed interlude. Taking the time out to look at other people's art, input, output, taking in turn the time to do it all again myself. 
Image by Amara Simmons

Maybe, hopefully I imparted a few "words of wisdom" - thinking back does anybody really remember what the hell some teacher said in some class twenty years on, but if they ever do recall anything my hopes are that they can resurrect and re-employ it all over. "Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla" (*Note: that's my secret code for all blog posts in draft, used as temporary filler between uploaded images: just thought it was appropriate here)

Image by Kayla Bishop

My deepest regards to all the other teachers I've worked with, and to all the amazing, incredible students who made it all worth-while: to you I give the greatest thanks. Same with everything else in life, it's been crazy, it's been fun...

"And now for something completely different"

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