One of the distinct advantages with teaching a summer session course is the opportunity to get out of the department's drawing studio. The primary factor in its favor is ideal weather conditions, as one would face an insurrection attempting field sketching excursions at minus forty degrees. But seriously there are many benefits to emerging from the chrysalis of the classroom after an intense period of incubation and preparatory instruction: there comes a time to take it out and begin to integrate art with the real world, move it onto the street and into the woods and fields, at home and at work.
There are so many benefits, not the least of which is getting off the goddamned concrete floors of the institutional setting (murder on the feet after standing around for eight or more hours a day) and stretching the legs along with stretching the creative muscles. It's a chance to apply the basic, core principles that underlie every exercise, assignment and critique, and sketching from life moves the abstract into the realm of the actual, when the noun becomes a verb, when "art" becomes a prefix to "work." There's usually a few folks who, upon unloading from the van when we arrive at our destination, will say "what are we doing?" My stock reply is always the same: since it's ostensibly a drawing class, we will walk around and... draw stuff. Anything and everything. It's about getting The Big Picture - all on a sheet of 9x12" paper. Go!
There's a theory is that part of our job as artists is to literally draw attention to that which we no longer see anymore, having become anesthetized to the little details which are effectively rubbed away from our awareness by the pace of modern life. We are numbed by constant overexposure and as much as a walk in the woods will refresh the spirit and renew the senses, so too can the simple act of drawing be way to refocus and realign our purpose. As with life, it's more often than not the little things: look, and look again at that leaf, and the way it twists and turns, follow the contour line around the edge and see how the light also shapes the space it occupies. look closely, closer still, and really look at it. That blade of grass, and as your pencil connects your hand and eyes with that one little leaf you are connected in turn with the twig, branch and tree - even the roots reach out for you to stand upon with sketchbook in hand it's all connected. Representational art is just that: you re-present, and by the very same token you have to be present.
As our little posse moves throughout the refuge I am struck by the observation we are not unlike the animals that are busy gathering their fodder for the day. As artists we are also on the hunt, foraging for inspiration, gathering reference material to build another nest of sorts - as each drawing will hatch other ideas in turn.
"Are we done yet?" "Is this piece finished?" Class is never over, and you're never done with art.
|That's not sweat blurring your vision - it's creative juice|