Saturday, 14 January 2012

It's Friday, so it's Drawing Class

I'm finding Drawing class really hard work. 

I can get on quite well with the imaginative drawing techniques, where we are using different media and style to create a class drawing.  Michael wants us to free up and make different marks.  Each class member made a different mark on a collaborative piece, and the tutor observed that everyone was very "polite" about how they made their mark in relation to everyone else. No mark was made with frenzy, or scribbled over anything else.  So on the second piece, I went first, and crumpled the sheet of paper and made a lovely textured mark with charcoal.  Other people, threw the charcoal, stood in broken charcoal, made footprints etc and general made a much more energetic piece.  The last person to contribute tore a section out of the paper.  This was much more what was required.  This exercise went well.

However, then we were asked to draw a still life of various fabrics and string draped or tied around a metal engineering frame.  I found this incredible difficult. I selected a section of frame with dense red fabric, and white polyester organza.   My drawing style is free and not particlarly accurate.   Michael wanted me to feel the different structures made from the organza - how soft and voluminous some knots were, and how hard and tight others were.  My first drawing attempt was not accurate enough and I found it difficult to portray the puff of some knots compared to the tightness of others.  Part of my issue is that I know the materiality of polyester organza - it is not a very pleasant fabric.  Hard and strong, although translucent.   I have used it with transfer dye and it colours very well, and I've also burned it and folded and heat pressed it.  It is a hard fabric with permanent crease qualities.   I found it difficult to carry out free mark making exercises, then be told to draw soft folds in fabric accurately. 

I struggle to understand the application of the exercises to what we were doing. I quite often struggle like this at the beginning of the class, so this is part of my learning style, although this knowledge does not make it any more comfortable.   I don't understand the purpose of what we were doing.   In the first class we were told: be accepting of what you are; be distinctive; let the drawing experience affect you and respond to it; forget concept - focus on the experience of what you are going; your biggest hurdle is your eye and judgement; experience physicality and rawness.  Yet now I feel what is wanted is a tight accurate drawing.

We were also told that none of us had done enough homework after the first class - no set of work looked as if it had taken 6 hours.  While my work on display may not have looked as if it took 6 hours, I certainly spent 6 hours working - I thought about it, wrote and reflected about it.  Michael observed that we had done various mark making exercises in the first class, but when we went home we all returned to familiar drawing techniques.  Which most of us had.  But this comes back to what I wrote earlier - we have done interesting exercises, but none of us appear to know how to apply them to something. 

Coming back to the concept of honouring and respecting the materials, and politeness.  Michael was keen for us to honour and respect the materials.  I think many people have a strong association between honour and respect, and politeness.  Whereas I think what Michael means by honouring and respecting the materials is that we need to understand the materiality - to have used them sufficiently in a variety of styles to understand what they do or won't do.  So with charcoal what mark does it  make when held like a pen, or on its side; when rolled; stood on; lightly touched, scrubbed until it breaks; blended; rubbed with sponge, towelling, paper stump, varied touch within one movement etc.  And all these things don't fit with most people's concept of honouring the material.  Likewise crumpling a sheet of heavy A1 paper until it feels like tissue, does not fit with most people's concept of respecting the material, until you realise this is a quality of the medium that gives a particular effect.   I can honour the medium of the paper, but I have a particular aversion from the A paper sizes (a hangover from too much time spent working with A4 office paper).  So I'm quite often tearing it to make a different size and shape, but this is not what most people identify as honouring the medium.  Maybe more explanation of the terminology would have helped.

I was absolutely spent by the time I got home at 5.30.  I was mentally exhausted and my legs ached because of standing all day, and the heat (35.9 degrees!).  I showered and made tea.  At 8pm Jim noticed me curled up asleep in the chair, so sent me to bed where I slept for 10 hours.  Who says an art degree is an easy option?!

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