Tuesday, May 25, 2010

CCA 1st Semester: Drawing I

This was perhaps the class at CCA I was most nervous about. I've never had formal instruction in drawing, in fact never taken any sort of a drawing class in my life. I imagined art school would be full of the kind of people who can draw amazing pictures seemingly from birth, and that I would clearly be the odd one out.

My initial feedback from the school sort of confirmed this. I was under the impression that prospective students were required to include some drawings in their application portfolios. So, trying to make up for my lack of experience, I decided the best thing would be to practice drawing as much as possible in the months leading up to the application deadline. Back in Maputo, I recruited my friends A. and H. to sit and draw with me. I asked an artist friend to give me some pointers (the most emphatic of which included 1-never use a conventional pencil sharpener when you are making Art, and 2-never, ever draw from a photograph). Over a few months I drew my own hands, a ceramic vase, lots of squiggly technique exercises, a pair of guinea hen statues that sat on our table, and the interior of our friends Z. and K's centuries-old home on Ilha de Moçambique. I thought I was on a roll.

Upon arriving in the US, I thought it would be good to show some diversity in my drawings, so I tackled portraiture. I drew a portrait of my mom, then a self-portrait using a mirror that took me 4 long hours to complete.

I submitted the two portraits and the drawing of the home on Ilha in my application portfolio. The man who reviewed it, after looking at a dozen or so photos of my jewelry, looked at me perplexed when he came across my drawings.

"Your jewelry is really good, but why did you include these? I'd consider removing them before you do the official online submission of your portfolio."

Well, ok. I can respect someone who is honest in their feedback. I'm not a master of drawing, and the reviewer was simply calling a spade a spade. So I took the drawings out of my portfolio and mentally prepared myself for the semester-long struggle that would be Drawing I should I be admitted to CCA.

It's funny how these things happen. Quite surprisingly, Drawing I turned out to be one of the best classroom and learning experiences I've ever had, in any of the (extended) schooling I've done over the years. In large part, this was due to our fabulous teacher, Jean. She is in the fashion department at CCA and is the right balance of warm, tough, funny, down-to-business, encouraging and realistic. She started each class with a meditation period, then proceded to teach us the basic bones of drawing. We learned specific techniques. She coached us along the way. She assigned challenging (but fun) homework and gave concrete, useful feedback during critiques.

I really looked forward to Drawing I each week, but in no way was it an easy class for me. In fact, it was a struggle nearly every step of the way. There was no way to procrastinate my way through the work, and it was hard not to immediately be "good" at new skills. I especially found it challenging to draw the figure, which made for a wholly frustrating 4 weeks or so when we were drawing from live models.

Interestingly, I think a lot of the students had similar experiences, even if they were very proficient at drawing to begin with. Firstly, our teacher was incredibly good at pushing each student according to their own capabilities, and not expecting everyone to be at the same level. Secondly, it seems that everyone has a strength and weakness when it comes to drawing techniques. Someone might be a master at line drawings, but have an insanely hard time seeing shadow and creating mass on the paper. Others are much more comfortable working in 3-D (mass) versus 2-D (line). I'm definitely the latter, my favorite medium being conté crayon.

Then, at the very end of the semester, we got thrown the curve ball that is ink wash. Drawing with wet ink is super different from anything we'd done in class thus far, and to be good at it you basically just need to let go and be very free with your hand. Hard to do after a semester of learning technique and precision!

Without a doubt, my drawing skills improved immensely, but I'll never be a superstar. Still, I learned a lot and can definitely see how being able to draw reasonably well will help my jewelry work as I move forward.

Here are some of my drawings from the semester, in chronological order. I'm still working on my final drawing, even though I've already received a grade on it, and will take a photo once it's finished. I'm drawing the teal cocktail dress I wore for our rehearsal dinner. It's full of ruffles and rutching and is a big challenge to draw!


an ersatz Frenchwoman said...

I think that your drawings are wonderful and I'm excited and happy for you to have had such a great experience in your course.


(I'm usually at ...Spit and Baling Wire... but stopped by here to tidy up.)

Ali la Loca said...

~An Ersatz Frenchwoman - I'd lost track of you with the last blog change! So glad to see this comment. :)

Brandie {Out and About Africa} said...

Wow - I love your drawings! I draw and paint a little on my own at home, but wish I had the structure of a classroom to keep me going. I hope you post more of your work from school!

Stacie said...

WOW...those are really good!!!!! I am super impressed with your drawing as a beginner...very cool!