Today in class, we spent the entire drawing session on one face. Starring, mark making and drawing lights and darks. The day had been kind of crappy up to this point, but I was already in love with my photograph’s eyes. Those eyes. Eyes! I love eyes.
Charcoal to paper. It felt good. A little light here a a little dark there. And then I got to the nose. My eyes were too close together and so my measurements didn’t translate. Plus either from being worn or the lighting, there wasn’t a lot of great information about the nose. My brain, being ever so thoughtful, decided to jump in to help. But slowly, my brain started reeling between what I could see on the page and what I thought I should be able to see on the page and in between frustration mounted. Mounted and mounted.
And let’s be honest, today wasn’t great anyway. I’m locked into this thinking-about-Mom cycle. The miss has been pretty deep the past few days and it’s in the quiet of drawing where I feel it most often. So to be standing in class, cascades of charcoal billowing around me, a terrible drawing forming before me, I kind of wanted to scream. But I kept working. My new friend in the class, Debbie, clipped her drawing to the wall. It was beautiful. The greys, which I couldn’t seem to handle today were delicate and expressive. The eyes were soulful. The lips were LIPS. She even had rendered the shadows of the glasses beautifully. We’re not suppose to compare but boy, was I now. Everything she had succeeded doing, my drawing lacked.
When Phil our instructor called time, I almost said out loud a loud, “Thank God.”
“Come talk to me if you’re experiencing trauma,” Phil said both jokingly and seriously.
I walked straight to the sinks. There, Debbie asked me how today felt.
“It felt pretty bad,” I said honestly. It felt good spending 90 minutes working on one face but emotionally (ego wise), it felt pretty bad. “Yours looked amazing,”I continued. “You’ve got to feel pretty good about it.”
The slightest of snorts came from my right. I looked over to her.
“Wait,” I said. “You don’t like yours?”
The look on her face said that she hated it. Hated herself. Hated everything about today. It probably looked a lot like my face’s expression.
I started to object but instead I just started to laugh. And she started to laugh. And good God us humans are complicated and learning to draw is hard.
“I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2000-step process.” - Thomas Edison
We’re not suppose to take notes in our drawing class. As a religious note taker I find this frustrating. It would be less frustrating if my drawing teacher didn’t spend basically the two hours saying really interesting things and connecting really interesting ideas none of which have stuck in the surface parts of my brain for easy access. I’m assuming they are sinking deeper in me and well, that’s probably his point of the no note taking rule.
If I stopped taking the class today, I would have gotten my money’s worth. Each day is a slow realization of how screwed up our relationship to drawing is. How screwed up my own relationship to drawing is. Most people (and teachers) approach drawing in an incredibly impatient way. We expect to go from zero to a perfect rendition of an object with minimal effort. We expect that without any muscle memory built or any thinking memory built. Nothing.
One of the last complaints I made to Mom was about how I was hesitant to take another drawing class. My previous two classes had burned me pretty badly. Her simple response in true Mom fashion was, "You’re going to have to get over that.”
In the moment, it stung. And it actually almost put a shadow on what would be my last day with her. (Luckily it did not.) But even in that moment I knew that what she said was true. What she said is even more now true that she is gone. I have to rebuild all that was lost when we lost her. On an emotional level. On an artistic level. On a technical resource level. Any and all of my drawing questions all I had to do was pick up a phone and call her. (Oh how I wish I had her guidance for noses.)
As part of the rebuild, I’m taking a drawing class. This is an 11-week beginner class and it just happened to be starting (and still had spaces) a week after a random internet search lead me to the Portland studio aptly named The Drawing Studio.
I have been around the sun enough times now to know my warning signs for teachers. I cannot handle disorganized teachers especially if they are already non-linear thinkers. If I get even whiff of disorganization, I should quit immediately because the experience will do more damage than it’s worth. The subject matter of the lass is a long second compared to how I prepared I feel the teacher is and so much of that has to do with their teaching style.
Co-owner and instructor Phil sat at the front and explained the cancellation policy. He also explained the reasons he thought we should or should not drop the class. The number #1 reason he said he would wholeheartedly suggest you drop the class is if his teaching style drove you crazy. “I won’t even be offended,” he said.
I kind of wanted to hug him.
This will not be a classic drawing class in many ways. The class focuses mostly on enjoying the process of mark making. That might not be in any of the official literature but I’m guessing it’s at least part of the philosophy behind his approach.
And today was a lot of just putting marks down. Big marks. Small marks. Angry marks. Happy marks. Any and all marks we could think to create between our graphite sticks and our vinyl erasures.
Hands down it was the best, most present moment art making experience I’ve probably ever had in my life. Pure creating no judgements.. And it was in a room filled with people.
And it’s exactly what I needed. My goal for the class will probably be to try and get to a place where the process is enjoyable and still of criticism, and practice staying there. And then once I get back to my own quiet, studio, practice staying in that same mind set for my own work.
One of my goals for 2016 is to get more comfortable with painting acrylic or mixed media florals. Florals and I have a love/hate relationship. As a subject matter, florals seem like they should be pretty straightforward, but once I put hand to paint to paper, I discover something quite different. Also, seasoned artists make painting florals look easy. For example, the daily painting movement has a lot of flowers. Therefor, the thinking goes, I should be able to create a floral in an hour. Not surprising, no.
This is why I’m excited to study modern floral painters like Liz Innvar.
ou know how every once and awhile you just give up and start following every single person Instagram suggests and then months later you realize that you’ll never keep up and you go through and unfollow half as many? It was during one of these waves that I came across Australian artist Brad Robson. Robson paints mainly in acrylics and oils and uses the uncommon tools super familiar to those of us who live in mixed media (squeegees, rollers, etc). He paints large. Something I didn’t fully appreciate until looking into his work. His work goes so large in fact that he’s a muralist. If a wall is your canvas, you win the painting big award.