Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Paper, Pencils, and Markers - Oh My!

I have been drawing since I was a young child. First it was stick figures, of course and then, I think because of curiosity, I started drawing the human figure.

I colored with crayons as we all did in school but felt it was clumsy and never really got in the corners the way I would have liked. Then the introduction to the skinnier crayon made coloring so much nicer, yet there were those pesky skipped spots that wax just does. Still, it was all I knew.

Later, I learned of colored pencils. We had to use them for coloring maps. I didn't like these. The texture was limited and it took so much time to do such a large body of work. It just didn't have the range that the crayon, even with its own limitations. However, once out of grade school, I relaxed those artistic talents. Boys seemed more interesting.

In High School, I finished a large portion of my curriculum earlier than I expected and was looking for something interesting to enhance that learning experience before embarking into college. I saw the art classes seemingly for the first time and decided - why not?

I don't know what I expected being the first time in an art class and in my senior year. Should there have been those who really liked art and could pose a challenge to me? Or maybe some that just needed a free period and found art to be relaxing? I was intrigued. I found the class of approximately 25 students and out of those there were two that were looking for opponents, I suppose just like I was. We squared off each session making one portrait after the other. It was all graphite and I thought I had found my niche.

In my first year of college, I took still life and life drawing. My first assignment was a crumpled bag. The class was to draw our own crumbled brown paper bag in graphite. Initially, I thought the assignment was stupid until I tried to unfold the bag and saw what the teacher was expecting. It was very different and I could not contend with it. It was much too hard to do. I watched an architect major run his pencil over the drawing paper as if he had been there before - maybe a tracing. That would best explain and settle in my mind how his finished work looked much like a photograph. I had no niche.

Somehow I actually passed that class with a decent grade. I don't recall how as my work consisted of watching that architect student finish piece after piece that should have hung in a gallery rather than smashed in his make shift art carrier. I knew after that class I was going to draw better than I had ever before.

The following semester, I had the second course to Still Life. The instructor created a display and had the class draw it. I took my time, remembering the architect last semester. I didn't finish the whole piece (which was a Grecian bust, dust brush, a challis, a folded cloth, and some sort of background). I took so much time on the dust brush but lined out all of the other pieces. The instructor stood next to me. I suppose she was looking at what technique I was using. I had no technique... not that I knew of. After some time she made the comment, "you did so well on that brush. It looks like you could just lift it off of the paper." I found my niche again.

What I realized was even without having a specific technique, i did pick up some things from that architect student that I did not learn in high school or in that first semester in college. It was the different softness of graphite lead. Why didn't the teachers mention that? I couldn't tell you, but in studying that student, I learned more then I had in all of the years I have been taking and enjoying art.