Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Some More Critters

"I act as a sponge. I soak it up and squeeze it out in ink every two weeks." - Janet Flanner
Here's a quick sampled handful of some student pen & ink assignments from the drawing class, all based on field sketches while out on our trip to the museum. Nice range of marks and textures conveying depth to the forms - as frustrating as this medium can be to the inexperienced I think it can also be very rewarding to experiment with. Some take to it and others suffer cramped hands (along with a cramping brain) and wistfully look back on charcoal with newfound appreciation and regret. But for every turn-off there's an inky-stained lightbulb going on over somebody's head and another convert finds something that they like working with.

It always reinforces one of the constant topics brought up over and over in class: investing time on a piece really shows up on these spot illustrations in particular. During the review of the works, it's immediately obvious who sat down and diligently, patiently   applied themselves to the task at hand. Hatching, cross-hatching and stippling rewards the methodically disciplined with nice results even if the underlying sketch is somewhat wonky - there's still a practical, aesthetic appreciation for any display of craftsmanship evident in drawings such as these. Plus the bonus application of an immediately useful work in an illustrative sense - these critters can easily find their way into print somewhere for something. Besides here.

"No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination." - James Joyce

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Everyone's A Critic

"The critic's symbol should be the tumble-bug: he deposits his egg in somebody else's dung, otherwise he could not hatch it.” – Mark Twain

Why it's always important to only show copies of your work upon submission

What a better way to round out the day after a good critique in the class than to follow it up with being on the other side of the desk. The monthly pilgrimage downtown to humbly submit another batch of fresh, steaming Nuggets is an excruciatingly agonizing ritual of meekly prostrating myself and offering up the sacrificial work before the cold, hearthumorless and cynically cruel editorial review board.
Far from being rubber-stamped as an entrenched local feature, it ain't like all one has to do is simply make these guys laugh and, ta-daa, your in: there's the host of other factors to consider to like upholding community standards of taste and common decency.
Seriously though, I had the opportunity to link theory with practice today by discussing with my students after their own review how in the "real world" an artist can be called to task and have to explain or justify their works, if not the reason for their very existence. Case in point being the behind-the-scenes groveling that's part of the job description. Even the royal court jesters of old knew they were a hairs-breadth away from summary execution after one bad joke.

An unedited opinion from the Opinion Editor

And it's equally uncompromising in the classroom: being continually subjected to public humiliation and mockery keeps you humble, and more importantly for cartoonists and teachers alike, full of bitter resentments and a long, vengeful memory.
Heh, just kidding.

“Don't pay any attention to the critics - don't even ignore them.” – Samuel Goldwyn

Monday, June 28, 2010

LuLu's Redux

"The bagel, an unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis." - Beatrice & Ira Freeman 

One of the more popular and better logos I'm known for in this town would be the created one for LuLu's Bread & Bagels - one of the two top coffee joints and by far the best bread. The owners recently contacted me about a remixed variation on the theme which will accompany a new line of gear and various accoutrements and ephemera. Once establishing how much of the elements from the "old" version they wanted to carry over, it became a matter of figuring out what form would work best - circle or oval. The core of the design is the juxtaposition of image + text: the original funky doodle was sketched out as an idle aside back when first developing the logo. Since the owners are both big fans of bikes and dogs, and the name of the business was after their one of their pets, it made for a whimsical graphic that portrays the image that the business wants to convey to the public. Plus its fun, very simple, easy to read and eye-catching.
Then it was another couple rounds of editing and tweaking, until a final set dimension arrived and everything gets redone all over again. Sometimes juggling the whims and incorporating last-minute wishes of the client can turn into the freelance Jacob's Ladder - which is a bit more potentially infinite as opposed to the usual domino analogy, but I've been fortunate to work mostly with folks who know what they want and like what I do. 
Ensuring the legibility of the text (especially after reduction to 4" across) was crucial, along with maintaining the "brand-name" feel for the design while dealing with such limited real-estate. It always fascinates me how the balance of individual elements are so interrelated: a relatively minor shift in one part in turn affects the entire layout. When at last the final variation cut is settled on, multiple formats are burned so as to accommodate every conceivable usage in the future. The logo is now ready for reincarnation  on all sorts of things from stickers to tshirts. 

KRAMER: Alright! Toss me an apron, let's bagel! What are those?
MANAGER: Those are raisin bagels.
KRAMER: (Picks one up, he's mesmerized) I never thought I'd live to see that..

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Worst Gag of the Year

 Not quite up to par with the couple nominees from last year, but hey, I'm workin' onnit...  
Another one that's ripped raw right from the sketchbook, used as more of a stop-gap in today's paper since there was a bit of a lull in submissions - and so this is what scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel looks like. Trying as of late to juggle multiple publishing schedules far in advance of some upcoming travel has meant getting several month's work done well ahead but paradoxically losing track of this week. Now I know why many cartoonists rely on syndicates - it'd be so much easier an better to simplify one's life as opposed to the jokes.
Yeah, that's my excuse.

"A pinch of probability is worth a pound of perhaps." – James Thurber

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Xerox Face: Demo

A particularly grotesque demo this semester for the subtractive value study exercise: 18x24" in maybe twenty minutes w/charcoal + white chalk. Debatable whether such imagery is inspirational or not, but should make for a nice Facebook profile pic on Halloween though. Also be a good ad for why some folks really need to lay off so much coffee in the morning.

"I have designed my style pantomimes as white ink drawings on black backgrounds, 
so that man's destiny appears as a thread lost in an endless labyrinth. 
I have tried to shed some gleams of light on the shadow of man startled by his anguish." - Marcel Marceau 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stuffed & Mounted

Somewhat in reference to an attitudinal shift/academic speed-bump that occurred during the week while teaching, also known as a "bad art week." One of the harder aspects of the boot-camp approach with teaching a highly condensed studio course is confronting the reality of having to see really mediocre, if not flat-out bad art, repeatedly, with no improvement, regardless of any high hopes held out until the long, drawn-out ending. Which is an occupational hazard duty, part of the job, and tends to show up with higher than normal frequency when there just simply isn't enough time to crank out decent pieces within the considerable constraints of a summer session class. As I've mentioned before, the official expectation that a student spends three hours on homework for every one hour spent in the classroom translates into the logistical impossibility of twelve hours a day, on drawing. 
While that's a dream scenario for some, life kinda gets in the way for most mortals, especially adding in one or two other courses on top of the load for mine. But one of the fundamental criteria I use when looking a piece is whether there's any evidence of time being spent on it, period. And whenever I think about relaxing requirements or lowering standards, I think about the next art teacher who will inherit the student after this particular class, and how unfair it would be in the long run to set them up for failure by cutting slack at the outset. And lastly, the final proof has always been borne out over the years of countless examples of this approach working: seeing first-hand steady improvement and evidence of success in the form of some truly great pieces produced and the many talented artists created them.

That's conflated with the observation that most beginning students haven't yet had enough practical hands-on experience working with the materials to develop a style that could accommodate working quicker and with more confidence, and plus the simple fact that many folks either can't (or won't) cultivate the requisite discipline needed to demonstrate the basic, fundamental effort one needs to invest in order to get good results. 
Further complications can arise as one runs the very real risk of damaged goods - inadvertently fostering an attitude of self-defeat that undermines future interest in pursuing their respective talents. Balancing what may be ultimately unrealistic expectations in the name of prioritizing and pushing students to strive for more and better work is as frustrating as much as it is rewarding.

 It's interesting to mull over the tendency on the part of many art teachers (that'd be me) to assume the average person is both willing and able to draw for uninterrupted hours. Whereas I have absolutely no problem zoning out and pulling sessions that stretch out for hours and hours of endless entertainment, it's humbling to realize that that's actually kinda weird compared to most people, not to mention an impossibility given their "normal" schedules. It's debatable whether art attracts the already unstable, or if it will drive you slowly insane regardless.

The above demo was mostly done on-site while culling reference sketches (Critter Spot Illustration assignment) on a field trip to the UAF Museum of the North: total time about a few hours of idle scribbling after roughing in shapes and textures with pencil, then trusty Sharpie + ball-point pen, a dash of wash and touch o' post-Photoshop tweaking. Still not through with the image though - it'll get remixed/recycled into another piece simmering away on the mental back-burners (see the posted mock-up next to the alder pile by the smoker outside Sockeyes, of my favorite local BBQ joints). The museum outing always yields interesting results, and is always better than practicing off the usual plushies, plus points up the invaluable edge one gets working directly from a model versus a photograph. Not to mention on-site sketching usually makes for good fodder while striking up conversations with the occasional curious tourist, who, after not taking up the offer to buy anything, eventually edge away after noticing the amazingly loud grunting and farting noises that kept emanating from the complimentary courtesy-chairs offered by the museum.

“The beaver, which has come to represent Canada as the eagle does the United States and the 
lion Britain, is a flat-tailed, slow-witted, toothy rodent known to bite off its own testicles 
or to stand under its own falling trees.” - June Callwood

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Greenhouse Study: Observation on Observations

Student: "Plants are boring"
Teacher: "No, your art is boring" 

Two quick demos, maybe 20-minutes each, both done while out on the semesterly greenhouse expedition: trusty Sharpie & ball-point pen and touch o' wash + tiny post-tweak Photoshop.
Emphasis on contour line in preparation for the upcoming Organic Composition critique: midground is established by the panel border, foreground element created by the breaking of said border with a bit of overlapping foreshortening, and lastly the background plane is enhanced with a contrasting underlays of silhouettes + wash gradation.
After the above exchange from the post's opening quote I had a mini-rant on how quite honestly I personally find the company of plants infinitely more satisfying and rewarding than many a conversation with human beings. Daresay I've learned an awful lot from studying simple, unassuming vegetation - the lesson for today was to slow down and pay attention. Never mind learning to draw - this is an art even further beyond the abilities of most people these days. This isn't anything necessarily meditative, just a possible component in maintaining sanity amidst the often overwhelming demands pushed upon us during the course of any given day.
Learning to look a little at, and linger on, all those overlooked and ignored things that most folks step over or on while en route to their Very Serious and Important Duties. And all too often the impatient expectations of a student will want their image to somehow magically appear completed right before them like downloading an mp3 file or microwaving dinner. Neither can compare to experiencing live music or savoring the self-made meal, and investing time and effort: hence a little observational skill on top of any talent will make for a much more satisfying oasis of introspection.
Case in point: when all is said and more importantly done, given the fact today was a emotional and hectic day, regardless of the relatively unrefined result, I got a chance to demonstrate, to my satisfaction, well, there you go.

Posted above is an Aster + Ficus carica (Chicago Hardy); below is Gelsemium semperviren (Carolina Jasmine).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

BIG Bugs

The inaugural occurrence for Interior Alaska: the first to emerge of the season are the entomological equivalent of Blackhawks - big, lumbering monsters that have somehow managed to survive the winter by freakin' hibernating. Before the swarms of Apaches arrive after the first hatching (quantity versus quality), these mosquitoes can actually be grabbed out of the air mid-flight, when one is, oh say, in the outhouse for example. First draft of the panel included a scan of the original pencil doodle used as the painting pasted on the wall, but it kept getting read visually as another window, so I opted to swipe a favorite oil painting from my g-friend, Diane Hunt's "Cornfields - Iowa" especially since it's literally looks so out of place.

And speaking of BIG - every once in a while it's way cool to open up the Sunday edition and see how much the layout department was hurting for space-filling content. Not having any set parameters as far as panel size is concerned can be a mixed blessing: while the relative freedom to use different formats (ex: horizontal, vertical, multi-panel etc.) is liberating (esp. compared to the horrid syndicated feature real-estate) there's the occasional postal-stamp-sized versions, or the opposite extreme, getting printed actually the same size or slightly larger than the original dimensions, which often tends to pull the drawn elements apart a tad bit too far.
But in all humility, it ain't the size of the panel that counts, it's the size of the laugh.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Alex Rydlinski: "Turbid North"

Special treat here with some absolutely badass art by a former student of mine: Alex Rydlinski was a rock star with pen & ink in drawing, and he doubles as a real one on stage with North Pole's Alaska's Texas' the Lower 48's best damn metal band Turbid North. Pure serendipity that he dropped in on the "intro to inking" day for the current beginning class - talk about one of the all-time best examples of pursuing a vision and pushing oneself to get better. And in this particular case, insanely so. Bonus flog of inspiration whenever you get to hold up a case-in-point and say "THAT'S what I'm TALKING ABOUT." And by that I mean the consummate satisfaction in seeing someone not just making their art - that's the easy part - but also making it connect with everything else in their life and making it work for you.

Epic scenarios rendered in pen and ink with some of the spiffiest stippling (+ light washes) I've seen in quite some time. As someone who, for example, frequently attempts to replicate the aurora borealis, a couple of these drawings made me drool in envy (not to be confused with the normal drooling). Think the demented offspring of Bev Doolittle meets MC Escher gone utterly insane after a long winter alone in tiny cabin above the Arctic Circle with nothing left except lots of time, ink and Bristol. But seriously, many of the tunes on the advance copy of "Orogeny" I've put on heavy rotation at the studio make for an ultimate soundtrack by which to make millions and millions of little damn dots. Or erase lots real fast, or wield an Xacto blade in terrifying new ways. Alex also scored me a set of laser prints, two of which are posted here by permission, that he's using for his design of the band's CD artwork: also shown above is a scan from the mockup of the CD booklet including lyrics, and the cover seen up to the left. 

Stylistically somewhere around the "tech death" subgenre of metal "Orogeny" will be Turbid North's second release, set for July 17th: add it to the list of stuff worth buying, even if this sorta music isn't your thing (warning: no accordion or banjo), then what the hell, pick up a copy just because of the cool art on the cover. 

Check out their website for tour & release dates + samples 
(also on YouTube and Facebook).

Editorial Exposure

Been scoring an unusual amount of coverage locally both on-line + print: folks around town have actually been commenting to me in person on panels that have been running in the papers, which is very cool. Makes for a feeling of connectedness to the community even when relatively isolated out at the cabin - rather like maintaining the blog. Excepting people can actually throw things at you out on the street, whereas here one can just hit delete. 
More vanity: also snapped a bonus shot of a special exhibition up at the UAF Museum of the North while out field-tripping with the drawing class: 
Then & Now: The Changing Arctic Landscape (May - January 8, 2011)
"This exhibition presents compelling, visual evidence of climate change in the North. By comparing early 20th Century photos with contemporary views from the same vantage points, visitors can see for themselves the nature and extent of changes to this remote landscape. Personal narratives complement the photos to help visitors understand what these changes mean for the world in which we live."
 Lots of before & after "duh" shots of the Incredible Shrinking Glacier phenomenon and scientifically depressing but easy-to-understand displays that even the flat-earthers denialists would experience a wee bit of cognitive dissonance over.
In yet another museum-caliber case of comic relief, the "Perspective Inversion" panel makes an appearance, much to the consternation and confusion of the casual observer.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The 3 Seasons of Alaska/"Aspengasm"

Okay - a purely locals-only joke: what with the recent fore fire-play we've had in the Interior threatening another season of smoke-flavored infusion from wildfires, contrasted against a record-breaking flurry of fluff from several billion simultaneous aspengasms (sometimes confused with willowgasms or aldergasms) blanketing everything. Drifting clouds and virtual snowstorms of the stuff transform even a simple drive home in the evening into an absolutely trip. No, really. Dude...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

GBG Study

“Landscape is to American painting what sex and psychoanalysis 
are to the American novel.” – Robert Hughes

This could pretty much be a repost from yesterday: same drill, different location. 
In fact... 

"Went with the drawing class to Creamer's Field Georgeson Botanical Garden on the annual field-trip expedition. Despite overcast conditions and the occasional sprinkle the weather held off (and the wind held off the mosquitoes) long enough to get some reference sketches done on various aspects for the upcoming landscape critique. Me, I always think about how the birds flowers must feel always having to put up with the omnipresent herds of eco-voyeurs tourists monitoring their every move. Remixing compositional elements stuff for the fore/mid/background depth and experimenting with different textures, foreshortening, overlapping etc. Besides a great community resource for local artists gardeners, these outings are a nice break from the routine excuse and a chance to escape the classroom." 

“I want to do drawings which touch people... In figure or landscape I should wish to express, not sentimental melancholy, but serious sorrow.”Vincent van Gogh

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Creamer's Field Study

"Caught Taking a Leak"

“There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.” – Robert Lynd

Went with the drawing class to Creamer's Field on the annual field-trip expedition. Despite overcast conditions and the occasional sprinkle the weather held off (and the wind held off the mosquitoes) long enough to get some reference sketches done on various aspects for the upcoming landscape critique. Me, I always think about how the birds must feel always having to put up with the omnipresent herds of eco-voyeurs monitoring their every move. Remixing compositional elements for the fore/mid/background and experimenting with different textures, foreshortening, overlapping etc. Besides a great community resource for local artists, these outings are a nice break from the routine and a chance to escape the classroom. 

“Landscape painting is the obvious resource of misanthropy.” – William Hazlitt

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"The Alaska Panda"

The inspiration for this piece stems from one of my long-held personal goals to dress up in a panda suit and cavort about the tundra down in Denali, just to mess with the tourists. Since I haven't been able to come up with the funds to acquire such a suit or the motivation to make one, once again my little panels will suffice as stand-ins to express and exorcise those deep, inner demons that plague me so.
(More after the jump) 

Monday, June 14, 2010

I (Heart) Art

Caught sight of this panel in the painting studio last week by local artist/educator Robin Feinman: an absolutely fabulous image to get visually pumped up in the morning and start off week #3 of 5 in the Summer Sessions insanity. She’s one of the local posse that’s teaching the Visual Art Academy in the UAF art department: the hallways are now a riotous cacophony of creativity from youngsters getting infused with inspiration –the energy and enthusiasm makes for an atmosphere somewhat in-between a boot camp and a zoo. Ultimate immersion!
Then there’s me, the resident zombie shuffling around the halls clutching coffee, photocopies, student assignments, coffee, gradebook, comic books and more coffee. The adjunct office has been completely taken over by piles of work, paperwork, demo materials, computer ephemera and empty cups (see pic of desk corner).
Friday’s handouts included a couple inches of collected interviews (ex: Charles Schulz, Michael Jantze, Dan Piraro, Seth, Johnny Hart, Wiley Miller etc. on their respective craft and techniques) – part of the growing pile, which will eventually evolve into their “textbook.” After years of keeping an eye on random articles and hoarding insightful commentary from many of the top creators I’ve amassed quite the repository of information, and even though there are a few exemplary books now published on the genre this approach unearths facets often left behind or overlooked with contemporary collections.
Then I lectured for an hour or so on a basic introduction/overview of strips, stretching out into the realm of sequential art with the incorporation of elements like timing and pacing, and we reviewed syndication packets on their recommendations for submissions. Plus there was some discussion on independent opportunities such as self-syndication and contrasting web-based versus print-based markets and the comparative advantages and shortcomings with each venue.
Lastly the class had their weekly critique (as did the Drawing courses - Fridays I tend to get a little haggard and hoarse) and there were some outstanding efforts from the single-panels (gags + editorials) of which I’ll be posting some samples of here sooner than later.

Soon as I clean off my damn desk.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


In today's issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: The Congressman For All Alaska is spouting away, again, though in all honesty folks should be grateful he does frequently gaping stupidity - the craftier ones are at least smart enough to know when to shut the hell up. One can almost sympathize with the politician's trademark loathing of the media, which, lucky for us, forever enshrines their quips of compassionate conservatism for posterity's sake, if not our cynical amusement.
While the rest of the world obsessively fixated on The Quitter's utterly insane pronouncement that environmentalists are at fault for the Gulf spill, or the BP CEO's continual "I want my life back" display of foot-in-mouth (someone should seriously think about using an insertion tube there); in the meantime we have a sitting Congressman actively engaged in promoting teh batshit crazy while on the job and supposedly representing Alaska. And unfortunately, he does. A slim majority. Still. Maybe.

The first version of this panel just had Young + the verbage, but there was a missing link tying it specifically to the Gulf spill: recent images of the oil-drenched pelicans have been stuck in my mind, flopping around the periphery of awareness (see images by AP Photographer Charlie Riedel). My guess is Don Young wouldn't bat an eye at such pictures: the only practical and aesthetic use he has for wildlife is for something to shoot at and stuff. I also learned a new term: "charasmatic megafauna," which refers to the flagship species used as poster-childs for environmental causes (ex: polar bears, pandas etc.), and that nugget gave me an idea for a future series featuring the alternative non-charasmatic ones that nobody particularly gives a shit about, like those adorable crabs and cute little baby turtles.

Trivia: that portion of the panel penned to a recently acquired mix that's been in heavy rotation as of late - Bruce Cockburn's 2005 "Speechless" instrumental release: specifically the song "The End of All Rivers" which puts me in the right melancholic place. I had a chance to see him play this tune live not that long ago, and it's power to transfix and transcend is incredible. A healthy counterweight to all the sick shit lapping away inside whenever wading into politics.

"Barren lands that once filled a need
Are worthless now, dead without a deed.
Slipping away from an iron grip
Nature’s scales are forced to tip.”
– Megadeth "Foreclosure of a Dream"

Friday, June 11, 2010


A quick post showing a few excellent examples from this summer's Cartoon & Comic Art class: the "Think Before You Ink" exercise is great way to start off the first week by instilling some measure of confidence in the comparatively less confident or experienced drawers in the class. It ain't about meticulous rendering at this stage - its more the case of making marks to visually communicate the concept as quickly and clearly as possible. Come to think of - that never changes whether you have one minute or one day.

The three teams, The Super Explosions, The Lone Wolves and The Anti-Socials each managed to pull off some impressive doodles. Pictured here are the "sexy moose popping out of a cake at a hunting party," "plumber fixing a sink clogged with a walrus" and "beaver construction crew building a dam."

Pretty amazing especially considering the time constraints - coming up with simple symbols that best illustrate a given situation - nothing says plumber like butt-crack.

“Don't think it, ink it.” - Mark Victor Hansen 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beginning Drawing Highlights: OE&I

"Stop trying to impress some art-school teacher with a stick up his butt whose opinions you never respected from the time you entered his class until you left it 10 years ago. Draw like you." – Dave Sim
This past semester's Beginning Drawing class finished up with a few weeks of figure drawing and working with models. I always like to have the very last in-class exercise be the "Observation, Experience & Imagination"  piece, which ostensibly affords a final opportunity to drive home some crucial points one last time. And then it's off to the "real world" and hopes that something will linger from their experiences and carry over into whatever path they will wander down afterwards. There's almost as many different reasons for doing art as there are individual styles, and teaching it means casting a pretty big net to cover as much of the motivations as possible. It's important not to crush aspirations and intimidate anyone into never picking up a pencil again - there's a whole wide demographic that draws for no other reason than self-satisfaction, private pleasure versus profit or public display, without worrying what anybody else thinks of their work. That said, being able to objectively assess their own progress and the pieces of others and stand toe-to-toe with any criticism, warranted or otherwise, is something very useful to have on their palette. They should be able to leave this gateway course empowered to do anything, at the very least take intermediate drawing with confidence.

This exercise is a good on-the-spot "test" to see where they're at when shooting from the hip at a spontaneous assignment. And it hopefully shows the what a bottomless source of unexpectability, the continual amusement, the outright weirdness, and the grand, sweeping power of art and the imagination. Personally it also reinvigorates me: motivational catapults like these are a spiffy springboard into the next crop of aspiring talents that will undergo a similar explorations and evolutions. Cue strings...

"The only way to do it is to do it." - Merce Cunningham 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Beginning Drawing Highlights: Self-Portraits

"If you are looking for something to be brave about consider fine arts." - Robert Frost
As a warm-up for each semester's final critique I've taken to passing out paper and asking for a short answer to the question "Why Draw?" - as in, what's the point of all this? It's sometimes a great opportunity to get anonymous, unvarnished feedback: see what sticks after many months of steady output. Ostensibly we can overlook the obvious answer, which is to satisfy the course requirements so as to earn a passing grade for a 3-credit humanities class towards a degree. But is there anything else?
What follows are excerpts from some random answers to that question juxtaposed against a few of the standout efforts for the self-portrait final critique. 

"Why Draw? Well why do people write, or sing, or perform? It's human expression, a way for people to show who they are and spread ideas and culture throughout the world. Drawing for some is a method of relaxation, a way to escape the pressures of everyday life. For others, it's their career and they draw for their income. But nomatter what it's still a part of human expression."

"Art reminds people that they are human. Art is the last stand for true free thinking. Art is important to keep the world from going to boring..."

"I like it most of the time I would say."

"Why draw? Because it's ... a means of putting your thoughts & feelings into forms."

"A critical, cognitive expression of a sometimes forgotten & ignored hemisphere."

"Art is meant to inflict self-thought & emotion. The ability to imitate a "real" object is meaningless unless it touches/grasps it's viewers."

"I like it because I can do whatever I want and not care when people judge because that's a part of the process."

"I personally draw to pass the time."

"What's art good for? Advertising."

"I like art because I can create and I love to create, to find my style."

"Why draw? Same reason I eat past being full and sleep past eleven."

“What is an artist? For every thousand people there’s nine hundred doing the work, ninety doing well, nine doing good, and one lucky bastard who’s the artist.” - Tom Stoppard 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Beginning Drawing Highlights: Figure Drawing

"Do not fear mistakes, there are none." - Miles Davis

While continually engrossed in teaching an established pattern of foundational exercises and beginning techniques over the course of any given semester, sometimes as a teacher you are rewarded with seeing immediate examples of promising talent emerge amidst the usual efforts. In other words, punctuated equilibrium in action. Occasionally there's a discernible difference in a random class' overall makeup: if you're lucky, and paying attention, one begins to notice better-than-average drawings cropping up. In this particular case, there was an obvious skew towards some pretty damn decent figure drawing compared to the "normal" ratio. Which is odd considering the trepidation many students have at approaching what's rumored to be one of the "hardest" subjects to draw. Or it could be that by this time, after everything we've been through and all that they've done - they are ready and able to tackle just about anything. That and they're simply better after all that constant drawing.

Upping the output by continually cranking out gestures as a warm-up and producing four, six, eight or more completed pieces in one session increases the odds of pulling off a couple keepers. Another factor is the subject matter, there's the connection with the fact one is drawing another person. The focus is shifted into a much more  empathetic awareness which influences the depth of the pieces, so in turn they reflect a sensitivity and responsiveness one just can't get from a bowl of fruit. Then again, this is all precisely the reason many folks are intimidated by drawing the model: confronting real, live human beings more often exposes the observer.

One personal handicap that's been noticeably growing is an attitude of increasing hesitation towards critiquing art. By this I mean I'm not shy about voicing an opinion, it's just that I'm now equally aware of just how much of a difference a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, months and even years can have on the interpretation and consequent understanding of a work. And as with just about everything taught in the classroom, it rebounds and reflects back to the home front art: distance gives an objectivity and perspective I completely overlook in the middle of the creative thicket. There's an irony in how it can be used for either extreme - cutting slack or cracking down. It's never good enough, or hey, don't worry it works.
"Man's naked form belongs to no particular moment in history; it is eternal, and can be looked upon with joy by the people of all ages." - Auguste Rodin