Stepping up to the plate, or easel as it were, and shifting gears into a "performing" artist, as in doing a drawing in public under the scrutinizing eyes of students always serves to remind me that one never really gets over stage fright. at least to a matter of degrees so that it's just simple, basic apprehension and you try to master your anxieties enough to do a live demo. For me at least there's always been a little voice, the inner critic ("oh I suck" "this doesn't look right" etc.), that eventually you learn to just ignore and override.
Overcoming or dealing with fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of criticism, of not being good enough, of looking stupid in front of other people etc. is one of those aspects of creating that I think a Beginning Drawing class addresses on a psychological level that can really be a help in many other aspects of daily life - one of the multitude of incidental benefits to taking an art course that can ripple out into other areas (ie not just in the classroom but also at home and at work).
Right after this in-class exercise I went on to a local high school and gave a short demo to an art class on inking techniques, which meant again drawing while surrounded by a couple dozen people all scrutinizing every mark. Add to that my handicap of never quite seeming to be able to handle drawing while talking at the same time - sometimes with very amusing results. And I think that's also an important opportunity for a meta-lesson in not being afraid to screw up in front of people. It's important for especially students to know - and personally witness - how horribly wrong work can go sometimes, how that's part of the creative process. They need to know that even professionals botch things up, and that reworking and resurrecting is actually how one arrives at a finished product or piece. It doesn't just magically materialize out of thin air onto a piece of paper: that's why it's called artwork.
Demos like this always harken back to my waiter days: having the confidence (or simply just not caring anymore) waltzing up to a table full of complete strangers and doing the song + dance routine.
Many an artist I'm sure isn't naturally uninhibited - probably quite the opposite in fact, a bit more ingrown than normal, so the public persona when presenting is probably more of an overcompensation - a sort of managed panic.
One hopes it's inspiring to lead by example (good or bad), and if it's one thing I aim to overcome in both myself and others is to simply get over it - "it" being all these hangups mentioned earlier, abandon any pretext of pride or humility. Just do it, it is what it is. It can always be better, and sure as hell it can always be worse - believe me.
For the in-class exercise, after the demo, students take turns with 5-minute rotations using newsprint on an easel: the first minute is a light sketch in pencil of what the other person "really" looks like, then the second minute we start to work out and exaggerate the simple, basic underlying shapes, push by expansion and/or contraction the relationships between those shapes: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hair, accouterments and attributes of personality. The third minute we pick up a stump of charcoal and, using the preliminary pencil sketch as a jumping-off point, further warp, mold and morph the features. We use a 3/4 profile, as a straight profile and head-on view might be simpler to work from, it's more revealing of subtle characteristics to shift the angle of the head slightly to one side or another. Plus this brings up another key element which I suggest they incorporate into their upcoming final piece for the class (a self-portrait, one option of which can be to do a caricature): really pushing the piece is what will distinguish it from a formal portrait. And there's no better way to literally illustrate personality than by making faces: faces are elastic, plastic - most portraits are so fixed and static... we are ALIVE. Lastly there is the omnipresent timer, which in this instance and with this particular exercise puts to point how speed, working FAST, is a method of bypassing the bullshit, circumventing that inner critic. This of course presents a mixed message coming off of the meticulously detailed pen + ink pieces we've been focusing on for the prior month (and the constant admonishments to "take the time to make your marks as it it will show").
Oh, and over the course of this session, much hilarity results... one additional, bonus meta-lesson in that it's always important to loosen up and have some fun (previous posts on this topic here and here). Something that's useful to always have in the back of one's mind when tackling the next few weeks of formal figure drawing using a model.
|Student sample (revenge is sweet)|