Thursday, September 04, 2008

Hippies Take Art Classes

I had no idea. Really. I just assumed that I would be surrounded by the usual community college students I have frequently seen rambling around the campus, but as soon as the desks began to fill in my new class (beginning drawing) did I realize that there is this subculture of weirdoes that lurk in the cracks of the school.

Where are these people during the rest of the day when not admiring abstract art? Probably sipping espresso, listening to jazz fusion while reveling in the confidence and wisdom of Jack Keurack.

I was the third one to arrive to the classroom. The teacher was already there, one of those young women with short scattered hair, not married, probably has some cats at her apartment, which would undoubted be littered with random examples of her favorite kinds of art, that which makes you think about what kind of degenerate you really are. A Georgia O’Keefe book sits on the hand-painted coffee table, and she is quite proud of her Native American tribal masks that were made in China.

She passed around the syllabus to us three and to each person as they walked in the room. One of my new school-related pastimes is to observe the hesitation and insecurity of students as they walk into a room full of empty desks. The desks were elevated tables set in a large square with about six or eight desks in the middle of the square. Where do they sit? Invariably, for the men, the urinal rule applies: If someone is using the first urinal, you use the one furthest from him, and you are only allowed to fill in the gaps when space allows. Women, on the other hand, group together… for whatever reason the women don’t like to sit alone. Generally, nobody sits next to anyone, however, until they have to, and when the room filled up so much that some people were forced to either stand along the wall or sit in the middle desks in the middle of the room, I was surprised how many chose to stand. It was as if the game of duck-duck-goose forever scarred us from sitting in the middle of a group of people.

During this, I took a look at the four-page syllabus. It was very specific. You only get two unexcused absences until you are dropped from the class…and excused absences will only be counted if it is a medical problem or a funeral, which seem to go hand-in-hand in my book. The more I read the syllabus, the more I decided that the teacher should have paid a little more attention in English class. It said we shouldn’t turn in artwork with tares on it. What’s a tare? Isn’t it some sort of vine? The dictionary says that it a tare is a vetch, and I just love it when the dictionary defines a word with another word I don’t know. It’s like buying 10 dimes with a dollar. Yes, a vetch is a vine.

I understand that sometimes punctuation is a nuisance and mostly unnecessary, but there are a few little marks that help the reader make sense of what you’re trying to say and to have a college-level syllabus peppered with errors (not just typos) seems a little unprofessional. A complete sentence helps. Oh well, my temptation to take a red pen to the four pages while I was sitting there was checked; I imagine it isn’t a good idea to point out a teacher’s fallacy on the first day of class. Especially if the tone of the syllabus was one of totalitarianism, tyranny and despotism.

The classroom began to fill up. The demographics of the people entering the room was a far cry to the engineering class I had in the Spring; I don’t think I remember the last time I saw so many different hairstyles, tattoos, piercings and strange clothing. One guy looked as though he had touched one of those silver electromagnetic spheres that makes your hair stand completely straight out, liked it so much, and decided to carry one around in his pocket all the time. I don’t think any two hairs on his head were touching each other.

One young kid sat down next to me with a binder-type notebook in front of him, and drawn on it in stick-figure style was what he later referred to as an Asian walrus. When he brought it to the attention to the class and the teacher (she had asked if anyone had any strange animals that they’d like to bring into the class as a subject), everyone thought it to be wildly funny. When did I lose my sense of humor? Oh yes, I remember now, when I moved out of my parents’ house and started to pay a mortgage each month. That’s right.

The teacher, whom we are allowed to call her by her first name, decided to allow everyone who walked into the room to add the class, which pushed us well over our body-to-desk ratio… so if everyone shows up on Monday, someone’s going to have to draw on the floor. Of course, that won’t be me because I’m punctual. Which brings up another thing. It’s the first day of class people! Why are you late? Where have you been that you couldn’t get to class by 6pm? Seriously, there were probably 10 flakes that came in late, fumbled for a syllabus, wrung their hands until they were shown an available desk and then made a bunch of noise. One girl slapped her notebook down on the desk so hard it was as if she was killing a cockroach, and another guy didn’t pick up a metal stool to move it but instead dragged it across the concrete floor with that vibrating, squeaking, scraping noise. Gah!

The class was short. The teacher went over the syllabus, which I was delighted to see that each day of class was outlined with specific tasks that we will accomplish that day. On the back was an impressive list of things we had to buy (with some misspellings) and since there was no required textbook, we should be saving some money buying some supplies that we will undoubtedly use in future arts classes. While she was going over the list, offering some advice, one girl, who looked as though she just walked through her high school commencement and wanted to get a jump on “real life” but her parents demanded that she go to college (read: she doesn’t really want to be there) started spouting off. The teacher said that classroom participation was a plus to our overall grade but I don’t think the spirit of the rule was meant to be taken so far.

The teacher showed us something she kept referring to as a “stomp,” and it even said “stomp” on the syllabus. I have no idea what it is or what it is used for, but apparently a “stomp” is a wooden stick used in adding shadows and blends to charcoal drawings and art made with chalk. It wasn’t until I got to Michaels after class that it is actually called a stump not a stomp, and I would have thought that an art teacher would have known the difference; to give her the benefit of the doubt maybe she’s never seen the word written down and the only person to actually ever say it to her hand some sort of speech impediment and couldn’t pronounce a long o sound.

Anyway, the teacher says that the most difficult thing to find on the list would be this “stomp,” and the girl announced, “I know where you can find them.” That’s it. “I know where you can find them.” There was silence as the teacher looked at her, waiting to finish, waiting to continue…waiting to tell us where we could find them. After about five seconds, during which time the girl never looked up from the syllabus, on which she seemed to be scribbling furiously with her pencil and then erasing just as frantically, the teacher had to end the suspense and ask her where we all could find them. Please, end the mystery. Freakin Michaels. Cripes!

A few minutes later, out of the blue, the same girl asked for a new syllabus, because “I scribbled all over mine.” Artsy people are freaks. On top of which, for one I’m not the oldest person in the class, not by a far shot, as there is a man there that’s got to be double my age, easily, and another woman who probably had grown grandchildren.

So, I don’t know about this class. The other two classes I’ve taken, I’ve had supreme confidence that I would get an A, no problem. However, this one might be a challenge for me because I suck at drawing. I mean, I can draw a building. I know perspective and I have a great eye for space, angles and concepts, but take away my ruler and I got nothing. Everything in this class is going to be freehand. Our first working class (next Monday), we’re drawing fruit. This will be interesting, but I just hope that she grades on attempt rather than skill.

As for my fellow classmates, the whole eclectic gaggle of weirdoes and oddballs, I find it funny how they all collect together in the art class. Wish me luck.


Yard Sale Princess said...

Remember what I told you! When you shade your spheres watch out for what she will refer to as "celulite" or "orange peel". Then she will rip it off the wall and maybe even call it "crap". That is the reason I dropped the major and draw in private!
P.S. Please forgive any grammatical mistakes that you find here. I am sleep deprived and cannot find the dictionary!

Grant's Mom said...

You seem to be quite the Sociologist...evaluating the seating of people in class and social interaction (or lack there of). LOL GOOD LUCK!

Tris Mast said...

Hippies, huh? Some things never change. Although, when I was in art school a quarter century ago, many a cute girl were there, too.
So did your fruit drawing turn out to be peachy or a lemon?

outsidetheberm said...

Damn funny stuff.

Reminds me of my days so long ago at the Laguna School of Art.

But if you want a real treat, try teaching a group like this. You'll have funny fodder to share with us for months.


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