Friday, April 01, 2011

Starting My First Art Class

Okay, so I guess I would call myself an artist; I try to do creative things. I've even made money from my art sometimes. But you know what? I've never taken a single art class. Now that has changed; I've always wanted to be able to draw freehand, but have never been able to really do anything I thought was worth looking at. So after procrastinating for years and years, I've finally signed up for a basic drawing class. Brantley is taking it with me, and if we get something out of it, we plan to continue taking classes. Anyhoo, here are my notes on the first class session, which took place Wednesday:

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The teacher seems cool; he brought in some of his artwork. Very cool small watercolours and screenprints and stuff. He also has examples on his website.

So what we did is hear about the teacher's background (lived in Florida, moved to Durham, went to NYC to be a big artist, did some shows, came back here). Then we got out our giganto newsprint pads and our charcoal or conte crayons, and proceeded to get messy. First we just futzed around and squiggled and drew swirls and shapes to loosen up and (in my case anyway) learn what the hell a conte crayon was. We were told to experiment with soft lines and hard lines, using the point and the side of the crayon, and even pressing so hard the crayon exploded (that was fun). Also used the kneadable eraser to blend and smear lines.

Next, he just set a folding chair up in the center of the room and had us draw it, I guess to see how we did. We did a 30 sec version, a minute, etc. Mine were horrendous. Then we tried timed drawings of the teacher sitting there, but the assignment was to keep our eyes on him and draw on the paper without looking at it. I ended up with nothing that looked human, but had some happy accidents that looked interesting. I think part of this was to see what happened when you just let your hand go without worrying about what you've done "wrong", and also about those happy accidents (which is something my friend Jason always tells me is important in art, but has always driven me crazy.)

Then we did some drawing from memory. He set up an object on a stool and we stared at it for two minutes, and then had two minutes to draw it from memory, to test our ability to judge an objects weight, lines, light/darkness, etc. I did okay on the sort of abstract bird sculpture, but couldn't remember diddly about the stage light that was next. It was interesting to see how my memory of things captured some details, but twisted them surrealistically in my head.

Finally, we did a series of exercises where we were asked to draw something (like "something you're going to do this weekend") and then pass your drawing to the person on your left. You then took the page you just received from your neighbour, and drew another thing ("your bedroom from when you were growing up"). This exercise seemed designed to see how you placed things on a page in relationship to other things. I particularly liked when we were asked to draw "a verb", as then I wasn't obsessed with trying to make my drawing look like some specific real-world object, and could just let my hand and mind run free. (I drew "slam" in an abstract fashion.) At several times during the class, we put selected drawings on the wall and people commented on what they saw.

We were also serenaded by a jazz band while we drew. (More accurately, there was a jazz band practicing in the nearby theater. They were playing mostly jazz standards, but also jumped into Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" at one point, which was hilarious.)

Overall, pretty decent. The instructor said this is sort of the pattern of the way the class will work: we'll do some drawing exercises, examine them on the wall, he'll give us pointers, etc. I think it'll be a good start. I think lots of outside practice will help as well--just doing drawing over and over. I plan on starting to bring around a sketchbook with me.

Next week we're supposed to bring in "an object that represents you". I think I'm going with my retro old-timey radio microphone.


Jackson Hall said...

That sounds like a bunch of fun. I too love exploding Conte crayons.

Simon FitzKit said...

This is really interesting, as that's how my Durham Tech art class was run, almost to the exercise. Now I'll need to be careful about spoilers.

Spiral said...

Ted, I'm so happy for you. This sounds like a lot of fun. *Jealous*