Friday, September 18, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

Talent and all that are really for the most part just baloney. Any schoolboy with a little aptitude can perhaps draw better than I; but what he lacks in most cases is that tenacious desire to make it reality, that obstinate gnashing of teeth and saying, "Although I know it can't be done, I want to do it anyway". - M.C. Escher

Day four of the Beginning Drawing class, and a little sortie over to the Wood Center. First day was a primer on one-point linear perspective; lecture + demo + accompanying in-class exercises (department hallways & bowling alley); second day was spent split between a symphony hall and a theatre practicing multipoint perspective + primer on basic sketching techniques, along with reviewing sketchbook thumbnails of their upcoming first assignment piece; third day was the first assignment due for posting and review (also doubling as an informal warm-up to the first critique). Today's in-class exercise was to do a rough sketch on newsprint first, and with my vaunted oversight and approval, a completed drawing done with graphite on good paper.

Given the wonky and intimidating architecture of the Wood Center this can be quite an overwhelming undertaking, but the majority of the class rose to the challenge. Bottom line is creating that convincing illusion of a 3-dimensional space on a 2-dimensional sheet of paper, regardless of individual style (ie: rigid, ruled lines vs gestural, organic ones). Observing and analyzing a given scenario, stripping away all extraneous details to get at the underlying shapes and distilling them into simple geometric forms, all the while struggling to stay conscious while reclining on a couch is the goal.

   Amazing how nineteen students is a whole different ballgame than the supposed class limit of fifteen for studio courses. Not whining, as I personally know many grade-school art teachers that would absolutely kill for a student/teacher ratio like this, but the simple logistics of making the rounds and making sure everyone's respective needs are met is a juggling act. Accommodating the extreme range of diverse talents and abilities takes careful assessment and attention. Some mornings are just bad art days, an I have to allow for that in both students as well as my own personal artistic life. Nice thing about drawings as opposed to most of the other disaters in life, it's easy to just start over.

   On a related side-note, I sent off a letter + package of memorabilia to a former long-time instructor who was my adviser (for eight freaking years) while I muddled through my undergrad degree. There's a fairly-well documented psychological phenomenon common to middle-aged men where one slowly realizes with mounting horror that you've morphed into your own father: last year it dawned on me that I'd turned into my old art teacher. His enduring legacy is assured; as I had a smoke and a cup of coffee outside while my beginning students labored away inside the Wood Center mastering linear perspective - I could feel the love. Seriously though, the perspective mulled over in hindsight of how much I've done and how much I've grown as an artist since flailing around so long ago under his tutelage was a trip. I rarely stop and look over old works, as the "this is the greatest thing I've ever done" schtick wears thin, plus there aren't any laurels for me to rest upon at any rate. Still, putting together an assortment of efforts accumulated over the years to send to someone who at one time had my artistic and academic career by the proverbial short hairs was an introspective moment. At the least, I know his sense of humor is on par with my own, in that it's probably gotten better, as opposed to maturing, so he'll no doubt have a good laugh. Even at my expense, that's ok.

Afterwards, in the final fifteen minutes left of class, we held an impromptu review of the works done in class, a bit of comparison & contrast and an opportunity to point up various strengths and weaknesses to the many different approaches and styles on display within this one class. Even a week ago they wouldn't have had the gumption to tackle such an assignment from a dead run, so nomatter any relative individual shortcomings, as a group they've already begun to excell. Ramping up the inexorable march to our first critique...

Lastly, for a few students that are still somewhat behind, there's always an open-ended offer to get some one-on-one time. So I did another demo using the drawing studio as a stand-in for the interior space assignment (two walls + ceiling + floor), walking and talking them through the methodical process of breaking a basic drawing down. It's common to become confused at the interplay of abstract theory and the application of such concepts to an actual drawing, and even if I personally find it fascinating to explore, one has to keep in mind that for others it amounts to needless information and actually might undermine their efforts at understanding how to draw better what they see. Some folks respond better to this method of instruction, others do well enough being left more or less alone, and then there are those who benefit from seeing firsthand examples of how it's done. At this particular stage we're all still learning from each other.

"The rule in carving holds good as to criticism; never cut with a knife what you can cut with a spoon." - Charles Buxton

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