Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ouick Sketches

What with such high enrollment, the couple really big drawing classes translates into not much time to sit and sketch something while we have a model. Normally I'm kinda like a classroom shark that circles quietly, waiting to help out with whatever a student may have a problem with. That and not a little bit of art-drill-instructor: "On your feet" (when drawing at an easel and doing figurative work - especially gestures - it's important to draw from the shoulder, using the arm, as opposed to drawing using the wrist and hand, like with pen & ink); "Shift yer grip" (again, instead of holding the pencil as you would if doing pen & ink, try wrapping the hand around it's length so as to better facilitate it becoming an unconscious extension of the hand/arm/vision); "Draw bigger" (increasing the real estate by which to explore the form); "LOOK at what you're drawing" (we are reverting back to the very first, fundamental lessons in the semester, including using the pencil as a measuring device and/or a tool by which to compare relative distances and lengths), etc.
Half the time I feel like I should bring in damn pom-poms because I get so fired up watching everything come together for the students at this juncture of the course. Those are the times I often just murmur kind words of support and encouragement while in passing, pausing to point out particular poses of pure awesome - they really start to produce some seriously amazing pieces, and it's a real creative kick in the pants to witness.
It's also a nice, uh, gesture to send the model home with a sketch or two, as it's a student job and they don't get paid half as much as they should. So oftentimes I'll take the opportunity to do a quick five-minute demo for a few folks, which in turn can be given to the model.


  1. I've thought about taking drawing classes as an adult....sounds like they would test my mettle. It would be a bummer to hear an art teacher ask me "What's yer major malfunction recruit???"

  2. It depends on the instructor to set the tone and pace in the studio, especially when spearheading a formal critique, or even informal feedback on work-in-progress.
    Unfortunately there are the occasional teachers who think it isn’t a good critique unless someone leaves in tears – I tend to suspect that’s instead a symptom of sociopathic behavior, that has no place in a classroom, especially one that’s built on trust and respect. In my experience the latter is always a better environment in which to grow, learn… and teach too.
    And there are those times ("teaching moment") when dealing with sadistic tendencies from one’s own peers – professional, students or the public. Learning how to communicate without being a bully or sanctimonious jerk can be as much of a challenge for some as it is working through the fear of rejection and criticism or stepping out of the comfort zone and putting your work up on the wall.
    I look at my job as cultivating rather than weeding out: an effective instructor’s role and relationship with aspiring talent should be nurturing and supportive, versus caustic and damaging. That said, objective and honest appraisal has its place in certain circumstances, as you aren’t necessarily doing anybody any favors by deceiving someone, especially when it’s painfully obvious they aren’t even putting out any effort, which merits calling out or questioning (for example “Is that the best you can do?” is a fair question to ask).
    In short, being challenged can be a pain sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be - indeed it shouldn’t be - traumatic... and more often than not you come out stronger as a result.

  3. Spot on! Having been through other life experiences and programs (like a clinical residency) I've met those who cultivate and those who would rather cull (or weed out). One's motivation and creativity are definitely affected and a climate and pace is established! Great philosophy of teaching and learning here! I'm reminded of the derivation of the word 'education' which means to bring out or lead out versus to 'cram in'. I'd say your students are fortunate to have an educator in the room!

  4. Thanks - appreciate the comments. Though I must say it's probably better to weed out more than cultivate in a clinical residency, as folks would rather have a cartoonist screw up a drawing than a doctor botch an operation... though the potential material might amusing in either scenario.

    And as far as teaching AND making art I'm now definitely "standing on a higher pile of mistakes" and only can see further + more clearly BECAUSE of all the many years and countless incidences I've made - on BOTH sides of the drawing board.
    It's really humbling to look back at any given point and think, wow, how could I have ever thought THAT was funny/well drawn and/or making boneheaded calls in the classroom too. I suppose it's a characteristic that keeps us all showing up again the next day to try again, or turn the page and start yet another piece.