Mar 15, 2005

Study in Charcoal

Yesterday, I had my penultimate Basic Drawing class. Almost everyone has improved tremendously. We did charcoal. Charcoal is so dirty and fun to use. You can crumble it and smear it with your hands, or rub it on its side, erase it with the gentle kneaded eraser, or with the harsh whitening rectangular eraser. You feel like you are sculpting the picture instead of drawing it. We drew a cup, a vase, and a small pitcher sitting on a windowsill. The morning light made it look like they were glowing. The sun kept going behind a cloud and muting the effect, though, so we couldn't take the light for granted.

We were quiet, as some of the chattier members of the class were gone. Lisa, a guidance counselor at a Quaker school, who has breast cancer, left for a much-anticipated trip to France with her husband. I don't know where Eleanor was, the retired Quaker school librarian who spins, weaves, makes baskets, and talks a blue streak. Quakers aren't as silent as you would think.

We also have an incredibly well-dressed young woman who teaches at a Christian college nearby. I can't believe she works with charcoal in those clothes. She is one of those people who is careful and neat by nature, so maybe she enjoys the challenge. Her drawing has come a long way, but she still tends to draw the concept of an object instead of the object itself. (And no, I'm not going to put quotation marks around "itself.")

I just turned off a small toy SUV that had been going around our little racetrack on its own for a few minutes, with no one to observe or interfere.


Scrivener said...

"tends to draw the concept of an object instead of the object itself." That's me, right there. I would love to be able to draw, but I can't, at least nothing representational at all. I have come to understand that I am not at all visual--when I'm deciding what to paint, I create a language picture of the thing, not a visual picture. Which makes it very hard to paint or draw it. That's why I only do nonrepresentational work. But I would really like to learn how to paint pictures that actually look a little like things. Maybe soemday.

Lauren said...

Scrivener, drawing is such a wonderful way to get OUT of your head. It has taught me to observe. After several minutes of drawing I feel very calm and centered. I highly recommend it, especially for academics, since we tend to classify, generalize, and judge, when they should just shut up and observe or listen.

Scrivener said...

I know this is one of those times when I should not "classify, generalize, and judge"--it's almost certainly one of those times when I should "just shut up"--but I have to say I like how, in that comment you start ff with "we" academics but quickly move to "they should." It displays a healthy ambivalence.

Yeah, I keep saying I'm going to take some art classes. But there's no time right now--my hobby plate is pretty full just with blogging, and then I try to do some nonnrepresentational painting, and some politicking, and I've got some other irons in the fire here and there. But it's on the list for one of these days. Thanks for encouraging it.

grandma blue said...

Scrivener, there are very good methods for art teachers to use to get students to stop drawing their "concepts of an object". Some of them you can teach yourself. There's a great book to help you with this, "Drawing with the Right Side of Your Brain". Our drawing teacher used those methods when I was a freshman in art school. The difference between the drawings people produced at the beginning of the first semester and the end was astonishing.

I've always believed that a good art teacher could take anyone who thinks he/she can't draw and teach them how. I'm not saying that the person would be a Michelangelo, but you'd be amazed at what a good teacher could show you (a lot of teachers leave you just to founder for yourself -- what a frustrating experience that must be).